Two veteran participants of the Bon Vivant Cook-off Series are set to battle it out in front of a large audience and a panel of celebrity judges for the title of best amateur chef of the year.
Canadians Marty Tammemagi and Maureen Cubbon both won difficult quarterfinal and semifinal cook-offs the first two weeks of December at Bon Vivant in Camana Bay to make it to the final, which will take place in the Grand Ballroom at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman during the Cayman Cookout Bon Vivant Taittinger Champagne Brunch on 20 January.
The final will be a match-off of a semifinal cook-off in the 2011/12 Cook-off Series, which Ms Cubbon won.
Not only will bragging rights be at stake in the final, but a trip for two to New York City to attend Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef event and to have lunch at Eric Ripert’s iconic restaurant, Le Bernardin, often referred to as “The Temple of Seafood”.
Mr. Tammemagi, who was competing in his second Bon Vivant Cook-off Series after making it to the semifinals last year, earned a spot in the finals this year by winning a narrow victory over Cody Bush during the quarterfinals with pan-seared mahi mahi served with homemade gnocchi in a coconut sauce.
Although his semifinal “cheftestant” opponent Jacqueline Hastings did well with her homemade tostadas with wahoo and scallop ceviche, Mr. Tammemagi, cooking with sous chef Sabha Utarid, did even better with seasoned pork tenderloin served with homemade pumpkin cappelletti and a brown butter sauce.
In the second semifinal, Ms Cubbon, competing in her fourth Cayman Cook-off Series, bested first-time participant Michael Treacy in a brutally tough competition.
Ms Cubbon, who made it all the way to the finals last year, impressed the judges with her surf and turf dish made with local beef tenderloin and local lobster, the latter being the dish that put her over the top. Mr. Treacy also impressed the judges with his duo of local pumpkin consisting of soup and pumpkin cappelletti.
Helping Ms Cubbon as her sous chef was 11-year-old Justin Derrick, whom she first met when instructing a children’s cooking camp last summer.
Le Bernardin’s Chef Eric Ripert, who was in Cayman for the reopening of his Cayman restaurant, Blue by Eric Ripert at The Ritz-Carlton, stopped by Bon Vivant for both of the semifinal cook-offs and chatted with the participants and audience, and posed for photographs with whoever asked.
Although he wasn’t a judge in the earlier rounds, during the brunch final Mr. Ripert will sit on a panel of celebrity judges that also includes chefs José Andrés and Anthony Bourdain, along with Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor. Tickets for that event are on sale through the Cayman Cookout website.