Cayman: are you the next top chef?


One of the most anticipated aspects of the Cayman Cookout is the 2012 Bon Vivant Cook-Off Series competition, which pits two finalists against each other from the ever-verdant pool of Caymanian culinary talent. 

The event consists of three phases and entry is still open for non-professional chefs so get those applications ready to rock before 31st October.
The submissions phase requires entrants to submit an entree recipe for four portions, including a picture. A local panel of chefs and restaurateurs will select eight amateurs to participate in a live cookoff, which will be announced on Thursday, 10 November. 

The preliminary competition’s elimination challenge will be held at Bon Vivant to determine the two finalists. The dates are Tuesday, 28 and Wednesday, 29th November from 4pm to 7.30pm, with two heats on each day. 

“With the ever-increasing popularity of Food Network and the Cooking Channel more and more people are inspired to come out of their comfort zone and prepare new things in the kitchen,” says Cynthia Hew, owner of Bon Vivant. 

“This Amateur Chef competition is just the right platform for anyone in Cayman who wants to put their skills to the test. We are looking for someone that is passionate about food and loves to create something delicious out of a few select ingredients.” 

Round two then takes place on Wednesday, 7th December and Thursday, 8th December from 6pm, each day to determine who the two finalists will be. 

This talented pair will compete in front of a panel of celebrity judges during the 2012 Cayman Cookout Bon Vivant Champagne Brunch on Saturday, 15 January, from noon to 3pm to determine the winner of the Cayman Cookout 2012 Bon Vivant Cookout Series. 


Lucky luminaries 

In previous years such luminaries as Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, Jose Andres and even the Cayman Islands Governor have been those lucky enough to taste the food – and unlucky enough to have to choose between the ultimate in Cayman’s upcoming culinary talent. 

Eric tells us that the cookoff has grown in stature to become a central element in the shindig. 

“The Bon Vivant Cook-Off has grown into one of the cornerstones of Cayman Cookout,” he says. 

“The festival is about celebrating food and wine in the beauty of the Cayman Islands and that celebration includes its best home cooks. The other guest chefs and I truly enjoy judging the competition; it’s a highlight of the weekend for us.” 

And if the kudos of winning such a prestigious competition wasn’t enough, the grand prize is quite spectacular too. The winner receives a trip for two to the Food & Wine Best New Chef event in New York City, airfare provided by Cayman Airways, hotel by Ritz-Carlton and lunch at Eric’s prestigious restaurant, Le Bernardin. 

Previous winners include Jolene Nelson, who since her victory has enjoyed embarking on a culinary career. Indeed, Jolene is now employed by the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman – there can be no better indication of the quality of the contestants on offer and the future possibilities it engenders. So go forth and cook, friends – Weekender has seen the future and the future is delicious. Avanti! 


Competition guidelines 

Submissions must include an entree recipe based on four portions. The dish must contain some local/Caribbean ingredient and a picture of the proposed recipe fully cooked and plated must also be included. 

Submissions will be judged upon recipe originality, use of local ingredients and plate presentation. 

Contestants selected will be required to participate in an elimination-style cookoff at Bon Vivant for the first round on 28 or 29 November and then the semi-final elimination on 7 and 8 December. During the cook-off, contestants will need to produce four portions of the submitted recipe. One non-professional assistant can be brought to help with minor tasks and preparations only. The contestant must purchase all food aside from some basics, which will be available in the Bon Vivant kitchen. Basic stocks are allowed to be prepared in advance. 

Bon Vivant will supply basic utensils and equipment but contestants can bring additional plates, utensils and equipment as needed. There will be a 15 minute preparation and organisation time then 45 minutes to execute or cook the dish. All preparation and cooking must be completed during this 60 minutes. 

Each cookoff will feature two contestants cooking at the same time in front of a live audience and panel of four judges. 

Of the four submitted plates, two will be used for tasting by the judges and two for presentation to the judges and audience. 

The judges will score each contestant and their dish on Originality, Presentation, Showmanship and Skill, Taste. These categories have a maximum score of 10 points each and 10 points will also be automatically awarded for timely execution of the dish. For every one minute over the 60 allowed, one point will be deducted. Contestants going 15 minutes over the allotted time will be disqualified. 


Submit your recipes to
 [email protected] or in person at the store by Monday, 31 October at 5pm. 

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