How one association jump-started a culinary journey

Hotel and tourism associations in the Caribbean handle a myriad of issues relating to tourism, from visitor arrivals to worker training. And occasionally, these associations have an opportunity to step out of the box and up to the plate to lend support in special circumstances.

Take, for example, the Antigua Barbuda Hotels & Tourism Association and 17-year-old Hughon David, who is pursuing his dream to study culinary arts despite personal obstacles and challenges.

David remembers moments from his childhood when his mom was teaching him how to cook, a skill that grew during the formative years spent with his father after his mother emigrated. The first dish he created, with a little help from YouTube, was curried lobster, which he called a “masterpiece.”

But in March, David’s father, a police officer in the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, died from complications of Covid-19. The loss happened before David was set to face his final secondary school exams.

He was encouraged to take a year off, but he pressed on, knowing his dad would have wanted that. He passed his exams and knew what he wanted to study. But he was unsure of his next step.

He recalled his recent journey. 

“A few months ago I visited the clinic to get my Covid-19 shot after the Pfizer vaccine became available. It was a difficult conversation, because I was 17 and had no parental consent,” he said.

“I explained that my dad had passed and my mom had migrated. Through a caring conversation with Senator Shenella Govia I not only got the vaccine but I also learned of scholarships offered by the Antigua Barbuda Hotel & Tourism Association to attend the Antigua Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute,” he said.

David did not qualify because there was no scholarship available at that time to study culinary arts. However, he plunged ahead, submitting an application and essay. 

A tourism association spokesperson explained that because of his “special circumstances,” and a request from Govia, the board agreed to fund his studies, which was in addition to the three scholarships it offers yearly to the management courses at the institute.

Today, David is a student at the institute pursuing a two-year course in culinary arts, thanks to a contribution from the Tourism Development Fund, to which resorts contribute to improve the islands’ tourism product, as well as specific contributions from resorts like Curtain Bluff, Hermitage Bay, Galley Bay Resort and Spa, Sugar Ridge, Jumby Bay Island and Blue Waters Resort & Spa. 

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