Many celebrity chefs, winemakers and tourists visiting the Cayman Islands for the Cayman Cookout vowed to return after enjoying the experience of the four-day culinary festival this past weekend.
Television star, author and chef Anthony Bourdain, who has appeared at the Cayman Cookout before, said it was an event he looks forward to all year long.
“This is a big, big deal for me and my family,” said the chef, who was in Cayman with his wife and young daughter.
Spanish chef Jose Andres, who has also come for the Cayman Cookout before, attended events like the Starfish Point Picnic when not appearing himself. The larger-than-life chef obviously had fun in Cayman and was often seen interacting and laughing with festival attendees. He playfully teased the other celebrity chefs, calling host Eric Ripert’s French accent “fake” during the Brunch Cook-off and displaying a small sign stating “Bourdain is a vegetarian” during the Gala Dinner.
Legendary Napa winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett, who came to Cayman with her daughter Remi, said she worked very hard while here but enjoyed taking a couple of dives. Although this was her first Cayman Cookout appearance, Ms Barrett said she had been to the Cayman Islands twice before on diving vacations, once on Grand Cayman and once on Little Cayman.
Ms Barrett said she was happy with her appearance at the Cookout, saying her La Sirena wines showed very well during the event.
Winemaker Dennis Cakebread of Cakebread Cellars also said he very much enjoyed his trip to Cayman, and he praised the Cayman Cookout event.
“I like it because it’s not too big,” he said. “There’s not too many wineries here.”
Mr. Cakebread said he was no stranger to the culinary festivals.
“I used to go to Aspen, but it got very grabby,” he said, referring to the large number of people who would vie for his attention at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, something that didn’t happen to him in Cayman.
In addition to hosting a wine tasting, Cakebread wines were exclusively served at the dinner at Brasserie on Saturday night and were among other wines served at the Gala Dinner on Sunday night. The winemaker said he found the Brasserie dinner “amazing” and was very pleased at how well his wines showed with the meal.
“Lots of very happy people,” he said.
Although most of the tourists who came for the Cookout stayed at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, where most of the Cookout events took place, some stayed in other hotels on island.
Broadway, film and television actor Ron McClary, who just graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York, said he was attending the Cayman Cookout – and staying at the Grand Cayman Beach Suites – as a graduation gift to himself.
“I’m blown away,” he said of the Cookout. “Everything that inspires me about cooking is here in these chefs.”
Although he attended multiple Cookout events, McClary said two highlights were the Dean Max garden tour and culinary demonstration at the Brasserie restaurant and seeing Eric Ripert grilling fresh tuna in the water at the Starfish Point Picnic.
“I still don’t believe it,” he said at Starfish Point. “I feel like I’m in a dream right now. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up and find out I was in a coma for a week.”
Mr. McClary said that this was not only his first trip to the Cayman Islands, but also his first trip to the Caribbean.
“I’m impressed by Cayman’s sophistication. I’m happily surprised to see the appreciation for food and dining here. I’m thrilled about it; it’s great,” he said, adding that he would recommend the Cayman Cookout to friends.
Tourist Bruce Ambrose said he had visited Grand Cayman once before, 12 years ago.
“I’ve travelled a lot in the Caribbean, and what I remember is that this was one of the only places in the Caribbean where you could get good food,” he said.
Although Mr. Ambrose and his companion Kathy Wilson described themselves as “foodies”, the Cayman Cookout was their first food festival.
“A big draw for us was who was here,” said Ms Wilson, noting that they planned to attend one Cookout event each day and spend the rest of the time on the beach.
Don and Lisa Crawford of Livonia, Michigan, have been to the Cayman Islands multiple times.
“We come every year but planned this year’s trip around the Cookout,” he said, adding that he and his wife were staying at the Marriott Beach Resort.
Robert and Shelley Beall of Colleyville, Texas, came to the Cayman Islands for the first time after learning about the Cookout in Food & Wine magazine.
“We usually go to Mexico every year, but this year we decided to come here,” he said,
At the end of the event, Mr. Beall said he and his wife would like to return in the future and would recommend the Cayman Cookout to friends.
Like many visitors, the Bealls attended several Cookout events each day, a list that included the wine auction/dinner, the SURF & SANDcastles event, the dinner at Luca and the Gala Dinner.
“It’s hard to choose between some of the things,” he said. “We have to decide between the Anthony Bourdain lunch and Gail Simmons lunch; it’s tough.”