An Introduction to the Cayman Islands, Culinary Capital of the Caribbean
There is not a doubt in my mind that the Cayman Islands is the 'Culinary Capital of the Caribbean'. As a young(-ish) Caymanian I feel that I can identify fully with Cayman's culinary scene. In comparison to other Caribbean destinations, Cayman continues to excel when it comes to culinary prowess because we have set the bar so high. Most of this is because there are very talented chefs showcasing what Cayman has to offer and also the fact that living in a small country means word of mouth can make or break a business. This means that every restaurant from jerk stands to pubs to high end dining always strive for great service, high quality ingredients and, of course, consistently delicious food.
One of the islands' main industries is tourism and the Department of Tourism has been successful in promoting Cayman in all the major hubs. They have reminded the world that even though Cayman is a small country there are some incredible offerings like our beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, 'Caymankind' people and a food industry to match. Cayman has recognised, ahead of many other Caribbean destinations, that 'foodie travel' is becoming another category of tourism. We know that tourists in this day and age are a mix of those who want to know more about a country's culture, by visiting beaches, museums and towns, and those who want to experience something outside the norm like scuba diving, swimming with stingrays, climbing the bluff or eating a local delicacy. Since Cayman's tourism caters to both groups of tourists this makes it more appealing to visit us.
Dominant Caribbean nations like Trinidad and Jamaica are known globally for specific aspects of their food staples, like curry and jerk respectively. This can mean that other islands are stereotyped and feel obligated to serve this style of food to visitors, but Cayman has decided to be more unique and open minded. Like every Caribbean island, Cayman has a proud food heritage and this includes, but is not limited to, dishes like turtle stew and conch stew. Having over 142 different nationalities make up Cayman's population allows residents access to authentic cuisines coming from Thailand to Mexico to France. Having a diverse community positively challenges our residents and visitors because it means more food choices than the typical 'Caribbean fare' and we are unapologetic for it.
If that doesn’t convince you that Cayman is a culinary force to be reckoned with then it is important to point out how food focused we truly are with our farm-to-table movement and culinary events. Residents have become passionate about eating local in recent years so hubs like The Grounds in Bodden Town or the farmer's markets located in George Town or Camana Bay allow direct access to the farmers. Local farmers have even adapted their trade to meet the demand and grow international produce like Japanese eggplants, Meyer lemons and figs. Restaurants are also celebrating the farm-to-table movement by showing guests how locally grown produce can be prepared in creative ways instead of the traditional method. Two such restaurants are Cayman Cabana with their incredible weekly Farm-To-Table dinner and The Brasserie who have their own garden, beehive and two fishing boats. This even extends to Cayman Brac where their farm-to-table resort, Le Soleil D'or, was recently awarded second place in Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards category of "Top resorts in the Caribbean". The locavore phenomenon has taken over Cayman and gets better and better every season.
The Cayman Islands can boast about their multitude of annual culinary events, such as Taste of Cayman, Cayman Cookout, Pirate's Week heritage days and Slow Food Day. Some of these events are supported and promoted by the Cayman Culinary Society who even host their own annual 'Out of the Kitchen and Ark of Taste' dinner. This event allows foodies the chance to have a one-of-a-kind meal from their beloved restaurant chefs, while also raising money to provide two scholarships to Caymanians interested in working in the food industry. Another favourite is Cayman Cookout which has put Cayman on the map as being one of the top foodie events to visit, because who wouldn't want to visit the Caribbean, have amazing food and mingle with some of the top names in the industry. The calibre of chefs coming to this small island speaks volumes to what this event has developed into. Some of the most respected chefs in the food industry are Eric Ripert, José Andrés and Anthony Bourdain, and the 'three amigos' continue to host this exciting culinary weekend. It is clear that Cayman is at the top of their food game, especially in the Caribbean, and they have no intention of slowing down anytime soon.