This past weekend marked the 8th annual Cayman Cookout hosted by Eric Ripert, a four day food and wine festival packed with luxurious dinners, outdoor tastings and live cooking demonstrations. Each year a stellar lineup of celebrity chefs make their way down to the small island of Grand Cayman in the western Caribbean to celebrate all that is food, both local and international. The tickets for this weekend are ludicrously expensive and each event is separately priced, ranging from a couple hundred dollars to $777 for Sunday nights' Gala Dinner. A meager 9 course tasting menu at Blue wherein each of the guest chefs prepares and presents a course, paired with wine. Excessive? Yes. Once in a lifetime? Absolutely. Worth it? I don’t know, I couldn't afford a ticket...
I did however have the pleasure of working a couple of the events through my restaurant Craft Food & Beverage Co. as well as the honor of doing an Instagram Takeover for Certified Angus Beef, working side by side with their chef Tony Biggs and his incredible team Maggie and Tara, showcasing this fantastic event through the eyes of a local chef.
The weekend began for me on Friday morning with the Rundown event, hosted by the legendary Anthony Bourdain. We set up a Craft F&B Co. booth and served Korean marinated wild boar ribs with sesame & sambal slaw to a crowd of 250 hungry guests out on the great lawn at the Ritz Carlton. Anthony himself stopped by for a bite and a quick discussion on wild boar.
After that I headed upstairs to meet with the Certified Angus Beef team at Chef Tony’s lunch event where I had the pleasure of dining and chatting with an intimate group of guests and chefs including Cindy Hudson of Ortanique.
Later that evening I reconvened with Chef Biggs on the beach at Royal Palms for the Barefoot Beach Barbeque where he had an incredible set up of beef ribs roasting on four foot swords over an open flame. The smell was divine and the visuals stimulating to say the least. We basted the ribs with local Caybrew beer and a huge bunch of rosemary, drawing in every passer by for a look at the Francis Mallmann setup.
Sunday morning was the closing brunch in the Ritz ballroom and many of the local and international chefs were preparing incredible dishes inside the hall and outside on the veranda.
During the brunch, the Bon Vivant Amateur Chef Cookoff was taking place in the middle of the dining room between Josh Wludyka and Travis Rich. Josh and his sous chef Ashley came out victorious serving up their rendition of jerk chicken with Caribbean dukkah, breadfruit tostones, and house cured wahoo botarga. They are now headed to New York all expenses paid to stay at the Ritz Carlton, eat at Eric Ripert's restaurant Le Bernardin and attend the Food & Wine Best New Chefs event.
After brunch many people meandered downstairs to the pool for the Rum and Robusto event featuring rum cocktail tastings and a live cigar 'tocidor' hand rolling cigars for the guests.
We sipped and chatted the afternoon away tasting various rum concoctions from local and international distilleries until the sun dipped below the trees.
Cayman Cookout is an incredible weekend with many spectacular events and an incomparable roster of food and beverage talent from all over the globe. The dates for the 2017 festival are Jan 12-15th, so I suggest you start saving your money now!