The winners of the 2016 Taste of Cayman food festival culinary competitions were announced Saturday, with The Bistro, The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman’s Seven/Andiamo restaurants and Jacques Scott earning the top awards.
The Ritz-Carlton restaurants won the People’s Choice award as Cayman’s favorite restaurant for the gnocchi poutine savory dish and the sticky toffee pudding with butter pecan ice cream dessert. The more than 4,000 attendees of the event at Camana Bay’s Festival Green each received a wooden token with which to vote by placing the token in a bucket at their favorite restaurant’s booth.
The sticky toffee pudding also won first place for the best dessert in the Best of Competition segment of the competition, which was judged secretly by five individuals who have experience as chefs, food lovers, food critics and wine connoisseurs.
“We are very excited to receive this amazing news and proud to hold the title of Cayman’s Favorite Restaurant for 2016,” said Kapil Sharma, hotel manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. “We appreciate all the votes from the guests, the public and our supporters.”
The judges awarded first place for the best food to The Bistro, which served braised short rib with onion soubise and port reduction. Second place went to Ortanique, which served shredded mojo-brined pork with crisp yuca tostones, while the judges awarded Seven/Andiamo third place for its gnocchi poutine.
In the best dessert category, the judges awarded second place to Anchor and Den from the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort for its salted caramel ice cream, and third place to Ortanique for its peanut butter bomb parfait.
Best drink as deemed by the judges went to Jacques Scott for its Zacapa Manhattan, with the Wreck Bar mudslide placing second and Premier Wine and Spirits’ white wine sangria finishing third.
Jacques Scott also won first place in the best booth category for its Zacapa Room. Coming in second place for best booth was Anchor and Den, while Cimboco/Chicken! Chicken! took third place.
In addition to the participant-wide competitions, Taste of Cayman also had a mixology competition and a cook-off competition.
The mixology competition, which was sponsored by Cayman’s Seven Fathoms Rum, featured nine local bartenders who had to create a signature cocktail using Governor’s Reserve, a Cayman Spirits Company product. Their concoctions were judged on name, simplicity, taste, presentation and performance. Three semifinalists were tasked with creating a second cocktail on the spot using scotch bonnet pepper, the mystery ingredient that was revealed at the start of the finals. The winner of the competition was Dan Hollis of Margaritaville, with Valeria Balignasay of Barolo Lounge finishing second and Ensory Usseffa of Aqua coming in third.
The Bon Vivant and Best Dressed Chicken Chef Cook-Off pitted Maureen Cubbon and Jolene Nelson – The Girls – against Neville Hicks and Michael Treacy – The Boys – in a head-to-head competition. The teams each had 20 minutes to create an original recipe using Best Dressed Chicken and other ingredients. The men produced a chicken and pumpkin dish with a creamy garlic, mushroom and tarragon sauce, while the ladies created a Caribbean chicken “faux bruschetta” served on fried plantain instead of bread. Judges Joey Hew, Keith Griffin and Avadaugn Sinclair gave a narrow one-point victory to the Girls, who received a basket of spices courtesy of McCormick.
Heavy cake and entertainment
The heavy cake competition featured six bakers and was judged by Tunisia Barnes and Kyle McLean from the Department of Tourism, and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson. First-time participant Krysta Parchman earned first place and $300 and 2015 champion Renda Cornwall’s take on the traditional Caymanian dish earned her a second place finish and $150. 2015 runner-up Phenicia Bodden-Fraser won third place and a prize of $50 for her contribution. Patrons were able to sample the cakes after the judging concluded.
In addition to the food and drink elements, the Taste of Cayman featured musical entertainment, provided by local artists HEAT and Shameka Clarke, and tribute acts that performed songs of Rod Stewart, Elton John and Tina Turner.