A quarter century of deliciousness

A wise man once said that every long journey starts with a single step. Another wise man said that the best way to eat an Elephant was one mouthful at a time. A third wise man said that many a mickle makes a muckle, which goes to show that even wise men have their off moments.

You would, however, be rather unwise not to head to Taste of Cayman 2013 because not only does it bring the best of Cayman’s restaurants and beverage suppliers together, there’s all sorts of excellent entertainment and most of all, a whole lot of history to draw upon in this auspicious, 25th year of the event.

Jane van der Bol is the current executive director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, which runs the annual event as its biggest fundraiser of the year.

“25 years is a significant milestone for any event, especially a culinary event,” Jane rightly notes.

“The Taste of Cayman has had a strong following year after year as locals and travelers who are food and wine enthusiasts indulge in the many tantalizing tastes, smells, sounds and sips. Every year the Taste of Cayman event educate and inspire food and wine enthusiasts to explore new restaurants, taste new wines and experience local foods.

“The Taste of Cayman gives the food and wine enthusiast a range of activities related to cooking, food sampling, food trends, wine sips, local brews, creative chefs and local food tastings. It’s truly a night of exploration of the palate and the soul.”
First steps

In fact, the event itself was first introduced by the Cayman Restaurant Association, a forerunner to the tourism association itself. Suzy Soto was heavily involved with that first event.

“[The original idea was] to get residents out to taste the food at our various restaurants and to hopefully bring in tourism with tourists mixing with the locals,” she notes.

“[It was] a lot of very hard work as we were not many at that time. Mike Flowers had also been involved with the one in Texas, as I remember and thought to bring the idea here. He was a very hard worker. Cissy Delapino, Clemens Guitler and myself were the ones who were running the Restaurant Association then and we all worked hard to bring it about.

“I remember the first one, Mike and I had forgotten to make arrangements for the garbage and the two of us ended up picking up garbage all night, we never forgot it again!”

Mike Flowers adds that as well as promoting the restaurants, Taste was also set up to help the Lighthouse School.

“In the beginning it took Suzy Soto putting a fire under everybody and me doing the physical work. We got the builders to loan us scaffolding to use,” he recalls.

“[A memorable moment was] the one we held on the beach at the Holiday Inn. My wife and I were working to sell Glo Ropes on the Fourth of July together (we sold 1500 and had about 1200 one dollar bills in our pockets) during the Taste. We were engaged on the 5th.”

Suzy Soto rates the camaraderie between the restaurants as a constant high point but also has one particular time that stands out.

“One of my favourite times was when I was Chairman and got Sara Multon, then on Good Morning America for food segments and also an editor of Gourmet Magazine to come and be our guest speaker for our awards ceremony for the Restaurant Association!

“She was charming and one of the chefs did scotch bonnet ice cream!!! People are still talking about that one… It was all rewarding, pioneering this amazing industry.”

Over the years, adds the tourism legend, Taste of Cayman has ‘bounded and grown.’

“We have gotten some excellent professionals who have given generously,” she says, sagely.

Mike Flowers echoes the sentiment.

“We cooked it in a field and now it has grown into a world class event,” he concludes.

“We were shooting for hundreds and now the future is unlimited.”
Somewhat unwisely, we asked Suzy Soto what she is looking forward to most about 2013’s event, and we got the answer we pretty much deserved.

“Ha, the food! Of Course!”
Wise words.

At the 2012 Taste, Best Food was awarded to Periwinkle at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman for their calabaza pumpkin ravioli with brown butter pecan brioche. This time around, Seven takes centre stage and we grabbed Chef Jordan Barnett, Chef de Cuisine, for some thoughts.

What are the advantages of participating in Taste of Cayman?

Participating in Taste of Cayman gives us chefs a chance to step out of our kitchens and meet people face to face. It’s an opportunity to build camaraderie among fellow chefs and to showcase our talent. With such an abundance of great restaurants on the island, Taste of Cayman is a time to remind people that we truly are the culinary capital of the Caribbean.

How did it feel to win?

It felt fantastic winning Best Food at Cayman’s largest food festival. It reaffirmed that the long hours and hard work that go into preparing for the event was worth it. I was proud and happy for the entire Ritz-Carlton team.

What tips do you have for first-time attendees?

For first time attendees I would suggest that you purchase some extra tickets to ensure that you can try more food. Be adventurous and visit those restaurants that you have yet to experience. You may be pleasantly surprised.

What feedback did you get from people attending?

People really enjoyed the event and especially enjoyed the food we were offering last year. The crowd seemed to appreciate our interactive ravioli making demonstration.

And what do you have planned for 2013?

For 2013 Seven at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman is going to play a little with my country Canada’s pride and joy, maple syrup, and put a Caribbean twist on it; and for those of you who enjoy pork belly, let the salivating begin!