'Around The Table': Fundraiser for the Cayman Youth Culinary Programme
Coming together in the name of great food and charity will always pique my interest. Assembling some of Cayman's best restaurants to raise funds for our island's young aspiring chefs had me saying, "where do I sign up!" Chef Frederic Morineau of the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman was able to do just that by asking his friends in the industry to contribute to a family-style meal in support of the Youth Culinary Team's trip to CARIFESTA in Barbados this summer. Last year, the team placed second in the region and the hope of raising $20,000 will keep the dream of winning gold a reality.
The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman's Harbour Club pool area hosted this event and guests were welcomed by an Aperol spritz and a variety of light canapes. Once the formal introductions and official welcoming speeches from Chef Frederic, Youth Services Coordinator, James Myles, and the Hon. Juliana O'Connor-Conolly concluded, we were all told to grab a seat at one of the two fifty foot tables lining the pool. The dishes started to come out almost immediately and began with Chef Gilbert Cavallero of Cracked Conch's chilled tomato consommé with tomato jelly and tomato foam.
The three remaining appetisers soon arrived for us to share and our family-style dining experience began. Chef George Fowler of Calypso Grill served his famous crab cakes with a tangy caper sauce and lemons; owners Luigi & Christina Moxam of Cayman Cabana stayed true to their farm-to-table roots with a locally driven salad served with a seasoning pepper balsamic vinaigrette and smoky coconut bacon; lastly, Chef Sean Collins of Mise en Place served a citrusy ceviche with passionfruit and leche de tigre.
We were already off to an incredible start - where I definitely went in for seconds - so I eagerly awaited our main course. The platters carrying the mains and sides soon came around for me to dive right in (after snapping some pictures of course!) The proteins were created by Chef Shetty Vidyadhara of Blue Cilantro who served a spice rub prime rib with a red wine jus; Chef Massimo Defrancesca of the Kimpton Seafire lined up snapper fillets with a guava glaze and crab-pepper vinaigrette; and Chef Christian Reiter of The Wharf/Grand Old House presented an apple and local pumpkin stuffed chicken breast. One may think that the side dishes would have been an afterthought, but not with this group of chefs! The three sides included Chef Sandy Tuason of The Westin's local vegetables (long beans, tomatoes and seasoning peppers) tossed with a Greek vinaigrette, Chef Roman Kleinrath of LUCA's callaloo ricotta ravioli with a local tomato sauce and the Ritz-Carlton's tropical root gratin. My obsession for having seconds was clear and I wondered how I was going to manage the dessert stations at this point.
After taking a breather between courses I knew I needed to push through, so I waddled over to the dessert stations. Luckily, I was met halfway by Chef Sara Mair-Doak of Smokies who handed me one of her chocolate covered bacon skewers. This was motivation enough to help me finish the night right and try the remaining desserts. Chef Melissa Logan of the Ritz-Carlton served up a bourbon sauced sticky toffee pudding and her famous Fire & Ice S'mores ice cream popsicle topped with a marshmallow meringue and set ablaze. Fittingly, the Youth Culinary Programme's Chef Brittany Bodden and her teammates showed off their skills with the creation of cassava cupcakes topped with berries and crème anglaise. I have to emphasise here that Caymanians are obsessed with the "corner" part of cassava cake, so this cupcake version made my local girl dreams come true!
Not only was the Around the Table dinner an opportunity to raise money that will genuinely further the creativity, experience and confidence of Cayman's aspiring chefs, but it was a chance for diners to interact with new people. I've always found family-style meals do an incredible job of breaking down our modern day social isolation barriers as you are forced to interact with your neighbours simply by passing plates, serving one another and finally conversing with them. This was an incredibly successful evening for both of these reasons with some incredible food to boot, and I am so honoured to have been a part of it!
I have to say a huge thank you to all of the chefs, restaurants, distributors and event planners that took the time to support the Youth Culinary Programme with this event: