Better set aside those plans for New Year’s diets and dry January: Cayman Cookout is back. What’s more, this year’s program pulls out all the stops in honor of the event’s 10th anniversary.
Celebrity chefs from as far afield as France and California will gather at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman from Jan. 10-14 for the annual culinary extravaganza, with a selection of events hosted at other local venues such as Royal Palms, Pedro St. James and Luca.
Acclaimed Chef Eric Ripert will return as host and welcome fellow Cookout stalwarts Anthony Bourdain, Emeril Lagasse and José Andrés, while new names on the elite roster include Chefs Dominique Crenn and Yannick Alléno, who boast two and three Michelin stars respectively. A bevy of wine and spirit experts will also be entertaining and educating the crowds through five days of demonstrations, tastings, tours, dinners and workshops – all set against the icing sugar sands of Seven Mile Beach.
Many Cookout events sold out lightning-fast, such as the Jacques Scott Whisky Lab, Craggy Range’s high-altitude wine tasting on a private jet, the World Class Sunset bar and an exclusive dinner at Pedro St. James Castle.
That’s not to say it’s too late to get a slice of the action; far from it. Tickets are still available for dozens of delectable Cayman Cookout events, at time of press. These include long-standing favorites such as the Barefoot Barbecue at Royal Palms on Friday evening; Essential BAM with Emeril Lagasse, in which the flamboyant American chef showcases his mastery of Creole and Cajun cuisine; and the Ultimate Wine Fair and Auction in aid of The Cayman Islands Cancer Society and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Culinary Arts Scholarship.
Another unmissable highlight is Around the World with Anthony Bourdain. This sees a pop-up food market taking over The Ritz-Carlton’s Great Lawn, with stalls by Cayman’s leading restaurants showcasing the incredible diversity of cuisine available on-island. Bourdain – the world-renowned chef, bestselling author and Emmy-winning television personality – leads an entertaining tour around the various stands, sampling and discussing these international and local flavors. Last year, the offerings ranged from Peruvian octopus and Philippine whole roast pig, to Italian buckwheat pasta and Indian lamb chapati.
On Sunday afternoon, the Bon Vivant Amateur Chef Competition Brunch will take over The Ritz-Carlton’s ballroom. The island’s most ambitious amateur chefs duel in a live cook-off to impress the panel of celebrity chefs, while guests tuck into a lavish brunch and endless Moët & Chandon Champagne.
As for Cookout veterans seeking something a little different, there are plenty of new additions to the program for 2018.
Top Chef Master Rick Bayliss promises to take his audience’s taste buds on a journey to the vibrant streets of Mexico, while The Brasserie’s Chef Dean Max keeps it closer to home by focusing on sustainable local seafood at his event, Life by the Sea.
A Culinary Demo by Dominique Crenn gives a rare opportunity to see the Best Female Chef of 2016 in action and learn why her San Francisco restaurant is deemed one of America’s finest.
Nor are guests likely to be going thirsty; whatever your preferred tipple, there is sure to be something to delight with many of the world’s leading beverage brands participating.
Moët & Chandon will present its “Grand Vintage” collection of single vintage champagnes dating back to the 1980s. Alternatively, get to grips with all things agave at award-winning mixologist Bob Peters’ Decoding Tequila event, learn the science of sake at Taikun restaurant, or join Seven Fathoms Rum on a scuba diving excursion to the secret underwater site where its spirits are laid to age in American white oak bourbon casks, enjoying consistent temperatures like nowhere on land.
Those who buy a ticket for the Journey of the Senses can task German mixologist Arnd Heissen with blending them a personalized cocktail using fresh Caribbean ingredients – you can even share your favorite perfume and he will create a drink that encapsulates the scent, in what he likens to “an aromatherapy horoscope.”
As the Cookout marks its first decade with this stellar line up, this foodie festival is clearly going from strength to strength and underscores why Cayman deserves the moniker “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.”