Cayman Cookout puts islands on culinary map

| 18/01/2009

(CNS): Although the official impact on visitor arrivals has yet to be calculated, anecdotal evidence suggests that Cayman Cookout, the islands’ first official culinary tourism event, has been a considerable success. A partnership event between the Ritz-Carlton and the Department of Tourism, the gastronomic long weekend offered ‘foodies’ the chance to experience some of Cayman’s culinary pleasures. (Left -Anthony Bourdain tries Hot Pepper Jelly).

With culinary tourism playing an ever more significant economic role in the industry, Cayman has taken the opportunity toshow off its wining and dining experiences and its leading chefs. Hosted by Eric Ripert, the Executive Head Chef at the Ritz Carlton’s five star restaurant Blue, the weekend also featured a line-up of international celebrity chefs and sommeliers. Most of the major events were sold out and have reportedly attracted a wide cross-section of visitors to Cayman — some for the first time.

However, the event was not confined to the extravagant fine dining on offer at the Ritz-Carlton; Cayman’s own traditional cooking took centre stage at a special event on Sunday afternoon in conjunction with Market at the Grounds at Pedro’s St. James. The event saw guests from all over the world enjoying turtle stew, rundown and fish tea, among many other local delights, in the beautiful grounds of the historic building.

A cook’s tour of Cayman was hosted by TV Chef Anthony Bourdain, veteran New York chef who is currently the executive chef of Brasserie Les Halles as well as an author and TV host. Bourdain took his food fans on a guided tour of Cayman’s local delicacies. From Carol Hay’s ‘infamous’ scotch bonnet Hot Pepper Jelly to stewed agouti (aka Cayman rabbit), visitors got the chance to taste treats they were unlikely to find on the menu at the Ritz.

The National Trust offered delicious lemon grass tea and Chef Bergman Ebanks offered turtle stew the way it is meant to be served. There was curried goat, some incredible local jerk sauces and condiments and even jerk sausages. Cassava cakes, local juices, candies and hand churned ice cream gave guests a taste of Cayman’s sweeter treats, all of which was topped off with local music, arts, crafts and dancing.

A cultural as well as a gastronomic experience, it was a great showcase for traditional Cayman cooking within a long weekend that had focused on Cayman’s more international and high end gastronomic offerings. Bourdain was very complimentary about the food he tried and paid tribute to the skills required to cook some of the food on offer.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Kudos to the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism for a brilliant job of marketing and executing the Cayman Cookout event.

    The jewel in the crown of the weekend was the ‘Cooks Tour with Anthony Bourdain’ in the grounds of Pedro St. James. This sold out event, interestingly less than half the price of the Ritz Carlton events was terrific. The tour contained indigenous foods and drinks of the Cayman Islands, truly Caymanian arts and crafts, local music by the talented Cayman band ‘Swanky’ and local quadrille dancers. The chefs were on hand to talk to patrons about their dishes from a truly local perspective. Antony Bourdain even proclaimed some the samples to be ‘not just great, but really great’. An honour he rarely bestows upon dishes.

    The DOT team who produced an event of this quality should be commended. DOT’s local staff had so much knowledge to impart, and as a foreigner I always love to hear accents that are genuinely warm and friendly! The Ritz Carlton could learn much from them. For instance I was surprized to see the Ritz Carlton theme their events ‘Cuban’, why market another destination, are not the Cayman Islands working to present and promote their own culture? Bringing in a Cuban band from New York seems excessive, especially as Cayman has a plethora of indigenous local musical talent?

    Branding is very important, obviously the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism appears accutely aware of these considerations. In this highly competitive marketplace of the hospitality industry it is these very items that will make you stand out from the herd, that and excellent customer service.

    Well done to all and sundry who helped, attended, promoted and supported the ‘Cayman Cookout’!

    I think  Anthony Bourdain said it best  "I’m coming back".

  2. Anonymous says:

    The weekend was a great success and I attended most of the events, including the Cayman Cook’s Tour at Pedro St. James.

    Kudos to the DOT for their efforts, but they are still not yet on par with the Ritz’s saavy staff and planning.  I polled some of the friendly international visitors and they were dissapointed that their was a CASH BAR at the Pedro event *the only event that did not have the tasty Caybrew or Tortuga Rum running freely.  It was more a matter of not carrying cash  and al the other events included nice wines, free cold water, etc…so unless they wanted tiny cups of soursop juices or sugary punch, the tourists went thirsty.  This was an oversight or a favour to the local cash bar vendor? It came off as a bit tacky. 

    The DOT workers were not mingling with tourists and just eating the entire time (as usual) why did the entire department get this perk to attend?  They should act as ambassadors.

    The rest ofthe weekend was a HUGE success.  Next year, let the local distillers pour freely.  Heck, we all took the bus so no one was on the roads who should have not been.

    For all the effort and expense (for a sold-out limited group) I would have thought that small gift bags would have been a nice touch.  The music and entertainment were great.  The grounds looked very good.  Well done to the Pedro Managmement Team.

    Keep trying DOT….