Cayman Cookout 2017: A Foodie's Weekend in Paradise
Cayman Cookout is definitely my favourite culinary weekend in the Cayman Islands; it's basically my Christmas. I'm excited to say that this is their ninth year and boy did they bring quite the line up of chefs. This year included Emeril Lagasse, probably the first famous chef I watched growing up on TV with his 'bam' personality & Southern cuisine; Daniel Humm, who always seems to be winning awards for the incredible 'Eleven Madison Park' in NYC; and Roland Passot, who is known for the legendary 'La Folie'. Other headline chefs included Terrance Brennan, owner of 'Picholine' and 'Artisanal', Dean Max, executive chef of our own 'The Brasserie', Tim Love, owner of 'Lonesome Dove' & Christina Tosi, owner of 'Milk Bar' and a US Masterchef judge. And we can't forget the incredible hosts (dubbed the 'three amigos') Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain & José Andrés.
This was the busiest Cayman Cookout I had ever been too as I attended a number of events, but it was so worth having a weekend filled with incredible food, great company and making new friends in the industry.
Around the world with Anthony Bourdain - US $180 + grats
This event was new for me, but I decided that since I had taken the day off I may as well do an event last minute. This one drew me in since approximately 15 of Cayman's best restaurants and chefs chose a country to represent and made a dish in honour of them. It's a buzzing atmosphere with groups of people following Bourdain to each station and they watch him taste and banter with the chefs. This is a great event to attend if you want to try different foods while getting up close with Bourdain, not only by following him around, but also because of the Q & A that occurs near the end of the event with Bourdain on stage. Personally I'm not a Bourdain groupie, so my focus was eating at all the stations that I could before the event ended.
2016 UK Chef of the Year, Robin Gill at The Brasserie - US$188
Every year The Brasserie brings down their own celebrity chef to cook a fantastic meal for Cayman Cookout. This year was particularly exciting as the most recent winner of UK Chef of the Year, Robin Gill, was the guest chef along with his Caymanian sous chef Jack Barwick. Gill decided to challenge himself by using local products in creating his dishes; think canapes of deep fried sprat heads, conch salad and lobster (obviously not items freshly found in the UK). The mains were just as impressive and delicious with a Cayman Brac goat, local pig, silk snapper and beet tartare. They used a family style concept when plating these meals, which I always enjoy as it breaks boundaries and allows a lot of interaction with your table of friends or people you just met.
Bon Vivant Amateur Chef Competition Brunch- US$275 + grats
I went to this brunch last year for the first time and absolutely loved it! Compared to another popular (standing and outdoor) event, the Barefoot BBQ, the brunch was definitely more my scene; being seated at a table, getting served unlimited Moët & Chandon champagne and having an expansive brunch prepared by the Ritz Carlton & the visiting celebrity chefs. What makes this brunch even better is the Bon Vivant amateur chef finals going on around you, where both teams have their food critiqued by Jose Andres, Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain & Emeril Lagasse. I have seriously considered entering this competition one year as the winning team gets a flight to New York, stay at the Ritz Carlton in NYC, lunch at Ripert's famous Le Bernardin and attend Food & Wine's Best New Chef event in NYC. In my opinion, this is the must-do event of Cayman Cookout if you feel like splurging on one event.
Pétanque, Patis & Friends - US$ 100 + grats
This is the first year that they have done this event as a VIP branch off of Rum & Robusto, which is a hit in itself for only being in its second year. This was the perfect event to play a social game, have some (more) drinks and be put on a team with a celebrity chef. This is a great atmosphere to get to know your chef teammate as you cheer one another one. I am so happy I trained for this event so that I didn't look like a complete failure in front of my celebrity chef (even though we lost 1 match). I got paired with Chef Philippe Haddad who is the executive chef of Cape Dutch restaurant in Atlanta, GA. My dad and I could not have been paired with a more fun guy, and we really started to develop a relationship with him. My past experiences with Cayman Cookout is that not all of the chefs are the friendliest (calling no names), but it was refreshing that Chef Philippe was having honest and interesting conversation with us the entire time. This event will definitely continue to be a hit going forward, especially since the price tag is only $25 more than the regular Rum & Robusto ticket.
Seven to Savour Gala Dinner >US $850
I have always wanted to attend this dinner, but the price tag is soooo steep. So when I was given two complimentary tickets by a friend at the Pétanque event, I just couldn't say no. So I rushed home to get glam and head to the sold out final event of Cayman Cookout. This dinner was an opportunity to eat from the majority of the headline chefs, so I was beyond excited. The service was impeccable, the wine pairings were delectable and the food was incredible. To make the meal more interactive they have multiple screens around the room to watch the chefs preparing each course and this year José Andrés insisted we do a mannequin challenge at our tables.
Unfortunately the food frenzy has to end at some point, but this truly was an unforgettable Cayman Cookout. It allowed me to strengthen old relationships and develop new friendships over a weekend filled with some of the best food the island offers all year round. I cannot wait to see what the 10 year anniversary in January 2018 brings, can you?