Pethen is crowned queen of fishcakes
The woman crowned Bermuda's queen of fishcakes said she was shocked by her win.
Valerie Pethen explained: “I consider myself a hit-and-miss cook at everything.
“Fishcakes are one of the few things that I do, and I enjoy doing.”
The 72-year-old Paget resident claimed the title for best fishcakes from a female competitor at the annual Bermuda National Fishcake Competition held at the Leopards Club on Thursday night.
Mujib Swan took the title for best entry by a male participant.
Ms Pethen said she only cooked the island favourite once a year and that she never followed a recipe.
She added: “I'm not one of these people who just get a charge out of cooking. I cook minimally.”
Ms Pethen revealed her secret ingredient was sweet potatoes.
She said: “It's just ironic that in today's paper there were two articles extolling the virtues of sweet potatoes.”
She added the idea for the starch substitute was inspired by a friend more than two decades ago as they both began diets based on their blood types.
Ms Pethen said: “One Good Friday she called and said ‘Val — we can make our fishcakes with sweet potatoes'.”
She added: “I just hope I have started a trend for people to at least try it. The taste is different, but it is so lovely.”
Ms Pethen added that almost everything in her fishcakes was Bermudian.
She said the sweet potatoes were bought at the farmers market at Botanical Gardens. The parsley, thyme and onion came from her garden and lemon juice came from the tree in her yard.
Ms Pethen added: “It's not Bermuda fish, but it's in a package called Bermuda's best.”
Nasturtiums from behind her garden and a friend's loquat chutney were used as part of her plate presentation.
Ms Pethen said she was inspired to enter this year's competition after a chance meeting with Rodney Smith, one of the competition's organisers, last week.
Mr Smith was handing out fishcakes in the Court Street area to promote the competition.
She said she admired both Mr Smith and Dale Butler for “trying to keep the tradition alive”.
Ms Pethen said she decided to enter “to support the effort, but I never expected to win”.
Mr Butler, the founder of the competition, described this year's event as a smash.
He added: “It was very well attended. I would say it was a successful evening.”
Mr Butler said there were about a dozen entries in this year's running.
All entries were assessed on criteria including colour, taste and presentation by a panel of five judges.
Mr Butler said that crowning two new champions this year was “very important” for the competition.
He explained: “We want the legacy to continue.”
Mr Butler and Mr Smith had won the National Fishcake Competition since it began in 1992, but both decided to step back from this year's battle.
Mr Butler explained: “If you don't pass on an opportunity to others, they'll lose interest.”
He said that the island favourite food was something that had “removed barriers” and united the community.
Mr Butler added: “If you want to get a group of people together, say you're having a fishcake party and everyone comes.”