The 11th Annual Cayman Cookout
Once again I was given the opportunity to work alongside media to enjoy, photograph and film my experience of this year’s Cayman Cookout. This four day weekend of gluttony is hosted by Chef Eric Ripert, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. This year’s headline chefs included José Andrés, Andrew Zimmern, Emeril Lagasse, Dominique Crenn, Nancy Silverton, Emma Bengtsson and Amanda Cohen. Each year Cayman Cookout raises the bar with the caliber of chefs that they bring down and this year was no exception as they were all recognisable due to their cookbooks, television series, James Beard awards, Michelin stars and even a Noble Peace prize nod. Equally as talented beverage experts, consisting of mixologists, winemakers and distillers, were flown in to add to the weekend through educational tastings, creative concoctions and lovely meal pairings with their products. With talent like this who wouldn’t be excited for what was to come! I’ll give you the rundown on some of my favourite memories from Cayman Cookout 2019, from chef demonstrations to signature events, and how I almost beat Chef Ripert in Pétanque. Check it out!
Chef Nancy Silverton’s Culinary Demo:
I was wary about chef demos even up to last year, but I have to admit I am now a convert. I absolutely adored watching Chef Nancy Silverton in her culinary demo because she created a meal that was true to her style of cooking - fresh, uncomplicated, Italian comfort food. As she stood on stage, with a glass of red wine, she showed us how make a variety of antipastis to go along with crusty garlic bread and a ball of mozzarella. This is a rare occurrence because most of these demos I wouldn’t even dream of trying at home, but I was completely inspired to make my own pesto, romesco, olive tapenade and caper berry relish. Not only was she charming, witty and responsive to questions, but her love for using her hands when cooking was clear. So clear, in fact, that she told me to throw out the new food processor I bought to make pesto and advised that I use a morter and pestel instead. Watch her episode on Netflix’s Chef's Table (season 3, episode 3) to understand what I’m talking about - it’s one of my favourite of the series.
“Olé José'“ with Chef José Andrés:
Olé José with Chef José Andrés is known among Cayman Cookout alum as the most popular culinary demo, so it was no surprise when it sold out within two days. Chef Andrés is known for his boisterous, ridiculous and adventurous entrances each year, and 2019 was no different. Instead of jumping out of a helicopter into the sea like in 2018, he went with something more unassuming. Everyone looked in all directions to see where he would come out from, but it was only as The Beatle’s “Yellow Submaine” crescendoed in the background that we paid attention to the toy-like submarine drifting towards us. It appeared to be large enough for a small child, and only when it started to drive (yes, drive!) onto the beach did we see the vehicle in its entirety. His entrance would not be complete without a fizzed up bottle of Moët and Chandon aimed at the onlooking crowd. What followed was an hour of entertaining preparation of his signature paella, love and remembrance for the late ‘Tony’ Bourdain, mention of his charitable work with World Central Kitchen and a lot of belly laughs.
Unique Culinary Events:
Flavours of Cayman
A new approach to the late Anthony Bourdain’s event Around The World, was taken on by “Bizarre Foods” host and chef, Andrew Zimmern, in the form of Flavours of Cayman. If you hoped for a steak or chicken dish then this event was not for you as it stayed true to Chef Zimmern’s love of exotic and culturally unique ingredients. Some of Cayman’s favourites showed up, including turtle stew from Cayman Cabana and local lionfish from Kaibo, whilst other local chefs showcased goat, sisig, beef tongue and rabbit. One of the most talked about dishes came from Tomfoodery Kitchen who served a green iguana rillette. Green iguana is an invasive species to Cayman and along with the culling efforts of the government some chefs have tried to get diners on board. For local and international guests at the event it was a chance to challenge themselves and try something new. Chef Zimmern visited each of the chefs to discuss their dish before ending the afternoon with an on-stage Q&A session for fans.
Lionfish Culling with Chef José Andrés, Chef Thomas Tennant and Jason Washington of Ambassador Divers is one of the most interesting events because it combines two of Cayman’s tourism products - scuba diving and foodie tourism. Home to some of the most beautiful reefs in the Caribbean it’s no wonder that scuba divers attending Cayman Cookout flock to this event. With only one dive boat fitting just over a dozen guests this event sold out on the first day! Following the two-tank dive where we culled 10 lionfish, guests were greeted on-shore with a picnic that could only be done by the likes of the Ritz-Carlton; lobster claws, Mediterranean vegetables, steak, fruit platters, cheeses and more. Whilst consuming some much needed food and sipping on local 1981 brews, guests watched on as Chef Andrés, Chef Tennant and Mr. Washington filmed an educational culinary demo on the invasive lionfish. Not only can you find this invasive delicacy on menus across Cayman, but Chef Andrés continues to be a huge advocate of the “eat ‘em to beat' ‘em” movement and serves lionfish in his restaurants in Miami and the Bahamas.
The Signature Events:
You have two ways to get to Rum Point for the signature Beach Bash, a Red Sail Sports catamaran ride with a stop at Stingray City or taking the scenic drive up. This daytime event is a favourite for many, not only for the flowing Moët Ice Imperial, creative cocktails by mixologist Charles Joly, and stalls helmed by visiting celebrity chefs, but it’s one-of-a-kind location. It is one of the few events that leave the Seven Mile Beach and Ritz-Carlton area making it extra special. With seaside stalls set up for each celebrity chef, guests were able to easily interact and taste a selection of flavourful bites that were perfect for a day at the beach. Personally, this was a great opportunity for me to have lengthy conversations with Chef Emeril Lagasse and Chef Bernard Guillas about their careers, Chef Nancy Silverton about her love for Italy and red wine, Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman’s Executive Chef Frederic Morineau and GM Marc Langevin in how they pull off this magic each year, and to watch my mom fangirl over The Today Show’s Al Roker who hosted the event. I’d honestly say that this is one of the best events of the entire weekend and should not be missed.
In a way the Barefoot BBQ is the night-time version of Beach Bash, but less chill and more lit! Royal Palms Beach Club was taken over by hundreds of guests looking for some fired up plates from celebrity chefs and local restaurants alike. Shoes are kicked off as everyone takes the event quite literally and enjoys walking barefoot with the cool sand between their toes. With chefs like Eric Ripert, Tony Biggs, Bernard Guillas, José Andrés and more there was a lot to sample. This is a busy event so queues tend to form giving you a limited amount of time to chat or snap a photo with the chefs, but they are still willing to do so. There may have been a rain shower this year, but that didn’t get anyone down as they threw on some ponchos and kept eating and drinking. The music this year was incredible, especially near the end of the night when Chef José Andrés took over the mic to hype up the crowd.
Bon Vivant Amateur Chef Competition Brunch
The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman hosts an epic brunch where you can expect unlimited Moët & Chandon along with a decadent spread of caviar, shrimp, sushi, charcuterie, cheeses, smoked salmon, desserts and more. Visiting and local chefs also add to the meal by serving up their own unique brunch creations. Chef Jordan Barnett had an avocado & lobster tartine with a poached egg, champagne sabayon and black truffle, whilst Chef Bernard Guillas set up in his ice castle with an array of raw delicacies including ceviche, crab salad and poached shrimp. Halfway through the event the amateur chef competition kicked off and Bon Vivant’s Cynthia Hew emceed as the two local chefs went head-to-head. This year the competitors were judged by chefs Andrew Zimmern, Emeril Lagasse, Eric Ripert, and the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman’s Frederic Morineau and Rainer Zinngrebe. With only thirty minutes to prepare a signature dish using local ingredients, the pressure was on! Surprisingly this year ended in a tie with both chefs winning the prize, which included flights to New York, dinner at La Bernadin and tickets to the New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF).
World Class Takeover
World Class mixologists took over the Silver Palm lounge to end Friday & Saturday night with a bang! With free entrance and drink purchases available it was the perfect place to run into visiting beverage experts and chefs looking to have a good time. As the DJ pumped out the tunes, a selection of cocktails were created by World Class Cayman winners Amba Lamb (2017) and Federico Johnson (2018) alongside visiting World Class Global winners Charles Joly (2014) and Kaitlyn Stewart (2017). Whether you boogied on the dance floor or lingered near the bar to grab your next drink, a good time was guaranteed.
Rum & Robusto
This is a favourite among Cayman’s residents because of it’s affordability and the opportunity to celebrate the final day of Cayman Cookout. Both local and international mixologists and rum distributors were stationed around the Harbour Club pool to ensure that you tried one of their rum libations. This year local artists and vendors, including Peripheral Life & Style, were there to sell to the masses. A popular stop for many was to grab a handrolled cigar to complement their drinks as they meandered around the event.
Ripert, Ricard & Pétanque
One of my favourite ways to end Cayman Cookout each year is watching the chefs compete in Pétanque. This is the only time that you really see the chefs bring out their competitive spirit in a non-culinary setting. This year I got to participate on my husband Chef Thomas Tennant’s team along with Hermes from the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. With team-based hats and shirts at the ready we started practicing on an empty court to prove that two Argentians and a Caymanian could compete against the French in one of their own game. Lo and behold, our first game was against none other than Chef Eric Ripert and I have to tell you that we almost had him. We were actually ahead by a few points for a while, but after a risky throw of the jack (aka cochonnet) by Tommy near the backboard and our team just could not slow our balls down enough to avoid hitting it. This is where the skill of Team Ripert came through and took the win out from under us. I want to make it clear that as scared as I was that we could potentially take out the host of Cayman Cookout we really tried our best and I have already begun training for next year’s rematch.
So there you have it! A summary of some of Cayman Cookout 2019’s most memorable events. I hope that you’ll join us next year and use this as a guide when planning your trip in 2020!