Despite the weather that threatened to overshadow the outdoor events of Cayman Cookout 2014, the food and wine festival went ahead with only minor changes to the schedule, such as moving the Burgers in Paradise event from Rum Point to the beach of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
The plan had been to ferry guests to Rum Point via catamarans, but as the seas were choppy in the North Sound and the rain was unpredictable, the decision was made to move the event closer to home.
The first item on the Cayman Cookout schedule was the Wine Fair & Auction on Thursday, presented by Jacques Scott and the chefs of The Ritz-Carlton.
Award-winning U.S. singer Nicole Henry performed two sets with her band, and Howard Schwartz, a visiting auctioneer from the U.S., conducted the live auction. Funds raised were to benefit Cayman HospiceCare and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Culinary Arts Scholarship.
One of the most popular events, certainly for local fans, was the Bon Vivant Champagne Brunch Cook-Off, held in The Ritz-Carlton’s ballroom Sunday. Amateur chefs went head-to-head in a double kitchen on the main stage, vying for the prize of a trip to New York with two nights’ stay at The Ritz-Carlton, and lunch at Le Bernadin, Chef Eric Ripert’s signature restaurant.
The judges’ panel included celebrity chefs Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain, and the event was hosted by Cynthia Hew, owner of Bon Vivant, and Blake Rogers. Michael Treacy and his sous chef Neville Hicks competed against Gina Connolly and her sous chef Phil Cassingham. After an hour of intense competition, Ms Connolly and Mr. Cassingham were announced the winners to much applause from the almost capacity audience.
“It was a fantastic atmosphere,” says Ms Hew. “The cook-off competition is always a terrific event, particularly as local amateur chefs are involved. Every year, Bon Vivant hosts the preliminary competitions at the store, and to see two teams make it this far and cook in front of a room of hundreds of people, including some of the most recognized chefs in the world, is just a fabulous experience.”
Celebrity chef José Andrés was originally scheduled to be a judge at the competition, as he has been in previous years, but he was called to attend Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday party at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
He flew back to Grand Cayman the following day, in time to participate in the final event, the Cayman Cookout Gala Dinner, which had been sold out for weeks prior to the festival.