The cooking has begun.
The 2011/12 Cayman Cook-off series cheftestants have been chosen.
Eight local amateur chefs have begun to show off their cooking skills against each other and will continue to in a competition that began Monday, 21 November, and will end during the 2012 Cayman Cookout Champagne Brunch on 15 January, 2012.
In addition bragging rights for the year, the winner of the competition will get a trip for two on Cayman Airways to New York to attend the FOOD & WINE Best New Chef event and to have lunch at Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin restaurant, all while staying at the Ritz-Carlton.
A reception party was held at Bon Vivant – where the quarterfinals and semifinals of the Cook-off series will be held – on Wednesday, 9 November, during which the initial cheftestant match-ups were chosen.
Bon Vivant’s Cynthia Hew said she decided to choose the match-ups a little differently this year.
“In the past, we just drew the names and let them know by email,” she said. “But this year we came up with a new way of doing it. Since we become kind of a family over the course of the Cook-off, we thought ‘why not have a little event so everyone can meet the rest of the cheftestants’.”
Also on hand were employees of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman including executive chef Frederic Morineau who gave some helpful advice to the cheftestants, saying more than anything, they should concentrate on the taste of their food.
Bon Vivant provided wine and nibbles during the hour-long event that culminated with the drawings of the quarterfinal match-ups.
The first cook-off, which took place Monday between 4pm and 5.30pm, pitted Maureen Cubbon – who is returning for her third crack at a Cook-off title – against Shaun Green. Ms Cubbon prepared roasted rack of lamb with a duo of sauces – fenugreek cream and mint mange chutney – and okra, eggplant and sweet potato hot fry. Mr. Green counter with Caribbean conch cakes served with plantain and spicy mayo.
On Monday, 28 November, at the kitchen at Blue by Eric Ripert at the Ritz-Carlton, three more quarterfinal cook-offs occur, the first one from 4pm to 5.30 pitting Cody Bush – preparing conch with white wine mushroom sauce – against Eric St.-Cyr – making Canaman shrimps.
At 6.30 that same evening, Marty Tammemagi will put his mille feuille of herb-crusted pork tenderloin and pan-fried breadfruit against Eric Vangiez’s duck margret with pan-fried mangoes and tempura calaloo.
Rounding out the quarterfinals is a match-up from 8pm until 9.30pm with Jaqueline Hastings preparing pan-fried Caribbean snapper and dirty mashed potatoes with vegetables and scotch bonnet coconut curry sauce and Alisa Bowen making mermaid chicken.
Chefs will have 15 minutes to prepare and organise their cooking areas and then 45 minutes to cook four plates of their dish in front of a live audience and a panel of four judges. Each dish can earn up to 50 points, with 10 points possible in the each of four categories, including originality of recipe, showmanship and skill, presentation, and taste. Each dish will also get 10 points if it was made within the time allotted, with one point deducted for every minute past the time limit.
The semifinals will take place on 7 and 8 December at the new Bon Vivant location at Camana Bay.