Serving up the Cayman Cookout

Those hungry for the culinary experience of a lifetime have a treat in store when celebrity chefs visit the Cayman Islands in January for a food and wine festival like no other.

The Cayman Cookout, which is being hailed as the Caribbean’s Premier Epicurean Event, consists of four decadent days with world-renowned chefs such as Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain.

Taking place from 16 to 19 January, the event is being organised by the Department of Tourism partnering with the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and Food and Wine Magazine, while Cayman Free Press is one of the sponsors.

The premium event, which aims to attract both residents and visitors, will be intimate, elegant and laid back, with many of the events taking place outdoors.

‘It will attract ‘Foodies’ from overseas and anyone with an interest in food and wine who is looking for that in an elegant setting,’ said The Department of Tourism’s Acting PR Manager Jo Gammage.

The festival offers an array of events, demonstrations, tastings and wine seminars with host Eric Ripert (creator of Blue at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman) and other talented celebrity chefs and sommeliers.

The chefs include: Anthony Bourdain, best selling author and host of Travel Channel series No Reservations; Laurent Tourondel, of BLT restaurants; Dean Fearing, of Fearing’s Restaurant; Michel Richard of Citronelle; Laurent Manrique of Aqua; and Ingrid Hoffman, the host of Food Network series ‘Simply Delicioso’.

Sommeliers include Anthony Giglio, journalist and author; Ray Isle, Senior Writer Food and Wine; Joy Spence, Master Rum Blender, Appleton; and Joshua Wesson, Co-Ed and Wine Director of Best Cellars, Inc.

‘I don’t think anyone who’s interested in great food and wine would ever find this collection of accomplished chefs in the same location because we’re drawing from so many different areas,’ said Communications Director with the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Melissa Ladley. ‘There’s three chefs well known in their own right, Eric Ripert, Dean Fearing and Laurent Tourondel, and each of whom has partnered with the Ritz Carlton to open a restaurant. Eric Ripert has one here, Dean Fearing in Dallas and Laurent Tourondel in New York.

‘Anthony Bourdain has made a name for himself as a chef who travels the world looking for the most unique, most different and sometimes the most gross [foods], with a huge cult following for ‘No Reservations’,’ she said.

Speaking about the timing of the event, Ms Ladley said, ‘It’s very deliberate to do it in January when so many of the city centres [in the US] are at their coldest. This isn’t a low season festival designed to get visitors here. This is a premium event.

‘The weekend that was chosen is a bank holiday weekend in the US, so it might help people to take a long weekend here at a time when they wouldn’t have considered coming to the Cayman Islands, so it could be a builder for us.’

Any food and wine event in any destination is generally held on the same weekend each year to build up a following, said Ms Ladley.

‘We did a lot of research on regional offerings and international offerings to see where some gaps in the calendar might be, because in this niche market they [the customers] know where all these festivals are.’

While tickets are available singly for events, visitors can also opt for a package that includes accommodation at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

‘We have been selling the packages and the people who plan their travel around these things and who are so passionate about it, they’ll really look at it as a once in a lifetime experience,’ said Ms Ladley.

Indeed, the hotel has exceeded its target on guest room packages at this point, said Ms Ladley, and separately, the festival tickets are selling well also.

But tickets are limited as the festival is going to be small and intimate above all else.

‘It’s definitely not a mass market food festival. That said, we really do want a lot of local participation, that’s going to make it fun,’ said Ms Ladley.

Most of the chefs are bringing their families along and using this as an opportunity to experience the Cayman Islands.

‘These are the types of visitors that will go out and have such giant spheres of influence to tell people what a great destination it is,’ said Ms Ladley.

Ms Gammage noted that there has been a huge buzz about the event internationally already.

‘We had a Cayman Cookout preview event at Le Bernardin back in October and it was very successful. We had media clamouring at the door. It was a very select gathering and we had a great selection of media like lifestyle, epicurean, travel media, and they’re all dying to come down [to Cayman].’

The event will have plenty of opportunities to get the guests out into the environment and to experience some of the local offerings, and Caymanian culture.

‘The Pedro event is a great opportunity to showcase local Caymanian culture and we will have a local chef who will be going around with Anthony Bourdain making sure he knows what he’s eating and giving the background on local food,’ said Ms Gammage.

Tickets should be purchased early to avoid disappointment.

‘The one thing people have suggested is that they’re buying Cayman Cookout tickets as holiday gifts,’ said Ms Ladley

One of the highlights of the event will be a trip to Stingray City with Chef Eric Ripert, in which he will prepare a boat deck ceviche using the bounty of Cayman’s waters.

Another exciting feature will be the Rum Point Cookout featuring Dan Fearing. Guests will be taken on a boat across the North Sound to Rum Point where cocktails, music, grilled delicacies and an atmosphere of Cuban exuberance will await.

A Cook’s Tour of Cayman with Anthony Bourdain will be hosted at Pedro St. James and it’s an experience of homegrown delicacies, local music, artisan crafts and products.

Also, there will be many other culinary demonstrations, a tasting pavilion, wine tastings, rum tastings and social events.

The grand highlight however, will be the Chefs’ Gala Dinner at Blue. This will be a seven course dinner prepared by seven of the celebrity chefs with wines prepared by three of the sommeliers.

To purchase tickets go to