Editorial for January 21: Culinary perfect niche market

 Judging by the comments from the tourists who came to attend the Cayman Cookout culinary festival last weekend, the event was a delicious success.
Hotels were full at a time in January usually known for the post-holiday doldrums.
Although the prices might have seemed expensive by local standards, foodies are used to paying top dollar for high-end culinary experiences, something the Cookout does extremely well.
Going to similar festivals in South Beach or Aspen might cost slightly less in the long run, but then they’re not the welcome warm winter respite of the Caribbean in January. Those other events also bring large crowds, security around the celebrity chefs and not nearly as many fine dining events.
The more intimate Cayman Cookout on the other hand offers attendees a chance not only to attend the same kinds of seminars offered elsewhere, but also a chance to actually meet and talk to some of the biggest names in food and wine – and to taste food prepared by them.
Cayman has long desired to attract high-end tourism and with the Cookout it does exactly that. And because the experience of the event allows visitors to witness the high quality of Cayman’s culinary scene, it will bring tourists back for repeat visits.
Events like Eric Ripert’s Starfish Point picnic show Cayman at its best, highlighting everything we want to show tourists – sun, sea, sand, smiling Caymanian faces, culture and great food all in a festival setting that can’t be found anywhere else.
It is largely due to Chef Eric’s influence in the culinary world that draws the talent, but it is the folks at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman that really make the event possible.
Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain said he looked forward to coming to Cayman for the Cookout all year long and that it was a “very, very big deal” for him and his family. It should equally be a very, very big deal for the Department of Tourism and the Cayman Islands Government. This is exactly the kind of niche tourism Cayman wants and Chef Eric and The Ritz-Carlton deserve lots of support for this wonderful event.