A sitting with Eric Ripert

Read the article in Flava Magazine.

Flava: What are your favourite ingredients Cayman can offer?

It’s an island so the first thing is seafood all around. You have people who go and catch the fish. Blue was a pioneer in Cayman and in fact most of the Caribbean in saying that we had a restaurant and could get local fish very often so we should prioritise the relationship with local fishermen. Let’s get as much seafood as we can from the island and our menu will be inspired with what we find.

Flava: What about things grown on island?

Things like local vegetables and herbs, fruit were limited; credit to the chefs here for creating relationships with local growers. We are big here in terms of volume so sometimes we tell them we would like a certain herb or salad so they grow a patch just for us. Also in the back of the restaurant we have a mini garden maintained by farmer Stephen Herron, the pea shoot (micro-vegetables) guy, for when we just need a little bit.

Flava: And then there are the mangoes…

Of course. And right now is a great season for the squash, which is different from that in the US, different shape and flavor, which is very ripe, mature, intense and flavourful. We use it because it is special; then there is callaloo which is a Caribbean watercress, essentially. Because the season is mostly the same we get whatever we want, if we want peashoots all year round. In the winter we get tomatoes! It sounds crazy but they are great. Most of the herbs we need and a variety of salad plus the root vegetables.

Flava: So how does Cayman match up?
 

St. Barts has very good food but Cayman is smaller in size and the concentration of good restaurants is pretty unique for the Caribbean.

Flava: What could Cayman do to develop more and become the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean?

It is all connected; you need the right flights, the right infrastructure to host people, which seems to be pretty good and then you need the restaurants. That could be Caymanians who discover local hospitality and decide to invest in restaurants. The model has to be sustainable financially. Although Cayman is fairly seasonal, because of the banking industry on the island you have a local market which can sustain good restaurants and then the tourists spend say seven days here and choose seven different restaurants. Cayman can grow more in terms of restaurants and the more competition the better because it is not a threat, it makes everybody better. Competition makes you excited to match or better your competitor. New York is a very competitive market and it keeps all of us ultra-creative, ultra-inspired, and that is what I now am starting to see in Cayman. 

Eric Ripert

Chef Ripert

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