Chef Trotter wows the crowd

He’s written 14 cookbooks. His Chicago restaurant is the most famous in the city and always on top restaurant lists. Last Saturday, chef Charlie Trotter brought his “evolutionary creativity” in cooking to the beaches of Grand Cayman.

The Then and Now with Charlie Trotter event was held at the Beach Pavilion at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, and was part of the annual Cayman Cookout, which took place from 13 to 16 January.

The cooking demonstration he conducted in a tent on the beach was a look at a scallop recipe from 20 years ago, and a brand-new scallop recipe using the same ingredients but presented in a different and unique way.

“It’s not about having a eureka moment and saying we must do this dish,” he said. “It’s about taking a dish and having it move and move and move and evolve and evolve and evolve.”

He likened his cooking style to the great jazz improviser Miles Davis.

“He never really did the same thing twice,” he said.

He considers his food a “vegetable-driven cuisine,” light food that is also healthy.

“We really de-emphasize the use of cream and butter,” he said, adding that he prefers to use a grape seed oil because it’s neutrally flavoured.

Mr. Trotter cooked a sea scallop recipe with braised turnips, watercress, preserved ginger and beet juice that he paired with a 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay.

He handed out his cookbooks to participating audience members, and all guests were treated to a taste of the dish — all local flavours.

Mr. Trotter’s chef de cuisine Michael Rotondo helped prepare the dishes for the crowd of 100-plus.

“I love any kind of local market to see what drives the cuisine in that spot,” he said. “I get inspired by what I see and what I smell and how I feel, and that’s how I cook.”

Rochelle Trotter, Mr. Trotter’s wife, first came down as one of Chef Eric Ripert’s guests in the inaugural year of the Cayman Cookout.

“I love the evolution of the culinary talent that I’ve seen here versus the first year,” she said. “And they’re all friends.”

Mr. Trotter said he enjoyed his time with all the great chefs at the weekend events. He even had a couple minutes off to enjoy himself -before the demonstration, he took a quick dip in the ocean.

But this weekend was about the food.

“Cooking is craft first, and then creativity to me is almost like the easy part. You can always come up with stuff, but things still have to make sense,” he said.

“Things are ultimately successful that make sense for both the very sophisticated diner and for the uninitiated diner alike.”