A chat with chef Frederic Morineau

Chef Frederic Morineau shares a laugh with chefs Eric Ripert, Rainer Zinngrebe, the late Anthony Bourdain and José Andrés at the 2015 Cayman Cookout. Photo: Stephen Clarke

From his home city of Angers, in the French Loire Valley, to the soft white sands of Cayman, chef Frederic Morineau’s culinary talent has transported him halfway across the world, with stops at many world-class restaurants along the way.

The chef, whose talented creations are exceeded only by his vivacious personality, has previously been awarded the J. Willard Marriott Award of Excellence, the ACE Culinary Award for the CALA region (Caribbean and South America region) and was inducted into the prestigious ‘Maîtres Cuisiniers de France’ association in 2014.

Living caught up with chef Frederic to find out about his journey to executive chef of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and his passion for the Cayman Cookout.

When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?
It is a family tradition that runs in my blood. My great-grandfather was a pastry chef, my grandfather was a chef, my uncle was the private chef of General de Gaulle, and my cousin is a celebrity chef at Manu in Australia. My mother almost became a chef but a female chef in 1960s France was unheard of, so instead she married my father and cooked a four-course fine dining meal for him every weekend.

Tell us about your journey to The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman?
After graduating from the local culinary school, my father sent me to England to learn English. I worked for two years at the Café Royal in London before moving back to France to attend mandatory military service. I mostly cooked for the officers instead of being on the front lines of war. Later, I worked for several famous French hotels in France – The Carlton in Cannes, L’Habitation de Lonvilliers in Saint Martin, Hotel Hélianthal in Saint-Jean-de-Luz and the Campo Dell’Oro in Ajaccio, Corsica.

In 1992, I moved to the US to work in Snowmass ski resort, Colorado, but on my first day off I decided to have a drink at a new hotel called The Ritz-Carlton, Aspen. I literally fell in love with the place and I told myself, “This is where I belong!” It took me two years to get in. Then, in 1996, I was hired as a restaurant chef for The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead in Atlanta.
Twenty-three years and several other Ritz-Carltons later, I have now been at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman for 10 years, still passionate about the brand, their philosophy and the legendary service.

Are there any other chefs who inspire you?
There is a reason why some of the chefs we received at the Cayman Cookout have been famous for a long time, chefs like Éric Ripert, Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, José Andrés, among others. I see now how they are professional, focussed [and] detail-oriented, but at the same time very approachable and humble. One of my mottos is: ‘Work seriously but do not take yourself seriously’.

You organise Cayman Cookout – what do you enjoy most about this event?
Organising Cayman Cookout takes about 50% of my annual working time; as soon as the event is over, we start the planning for the following year. It truly has become a passion of mine.

To be able to meet celebrity chefs and create a working relationship with them is amazing, not only for me but also for my team. It pushes us to always innovate and be always relevant.

One of my favourite moments of Cayman Cookout is on Sunday night. The celebrity chefs are cooking in Blue restaurant for the final gala dinner, while at Andiamo, you can see a long table with teenagers having dinner together. These are the sons and daughters of our celebrity chefs, including my two boys. It is a great picture to see. Eleven years ago, they were kids, and they have grown with Cayman Cookout. That is a proud moment of mine at the culmination of the event every year.

Through your organisation of Cayman Cookout do you see a lot of local culinary talent?
Absolutely! One of the event’s focusses is to showcase the amazing diversity and quality of culinary talent that we have in Cayman. A particular event used to be called Around the World where we had 10 stations run by local chefs/restaurateurs, hosted by the late Anthony Bourdain. I know this was his favourite event by far. We are now continuing with the traditional event Flavours of Cayman which is hosted by Andrew Zimmern and he does a wonderful job. For our Barefoot BBQ and Sunday Brunch event, we also collaborate with the Grand Cayman Marriott, The Westin Grand Cayman, The Kimpton Seafire and the Cayman Culinary Society.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love spending time with my wife Veronica and my two boys, Henri (17) and Paul (12). I swim every day to keep me in somewhat shape and I love going to the movies, boating and, most of all, travelling the world.

What is your favourite cuisine to cook?
At home I cook mostly traditional French cuisine; steak-frites, tarragon roasted chicken, blood sausage and apple, beef tartare. As you get older you usually want to go back to your roots.

What has been your favourite restaurant experience outside of Cayman?
I had one of the best meals I’ve had in quite a while at Saison in San Francisco.

Also, if you are in New York, you absolutely must have dinner at Le Bernardin, where Éric Ripert is the chef/owner.

I recently visited two restaurants which were on my ever-increasing bucket list – Benoit, in New York, which does great traditional French cuisine, and Toque in Montreal. Toque is must-visit restaurant, with very imaginative cuisine, using amazing local Canadian ingredients.

QUICK BITS

What items can you not leave the house without?
My headphones; I love music.

If you could invite anyone to a dinner party who would it be?
My father. He passed away six years ago and I would love for him to see his grandsons now all grown up and the improvement we have made at the hotel since then. He loved Cayman and loved food, too.

What book are you reading right now, or which TV series are you enjoying?
I am not much of reader, but I just finished watching the HBO series ‘Chernobyl’ and am an unconditional lover of ‘Homeland’.

Favourite song, style of music or era of music?
I love any kind of music; it all depends of my mood. KAABOO was amazing – Zedd and The Chainsmokers were astounding.

What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Beluga caviar, Krug Champagne, watching the sunset on Seven Mile Beach with friends and family.

Fancy yourself a whiz in the kitchen? Try this recipe by chef Frederic.

Cayman crab cake eggs Benedict
Makes 6-8 crab cakes

Crab cakes
Ingredients:
1 pound crab meat (local land crab is best, otherwise Pacific crab)
¼ red onion
½ yellow pepper
½ orange pepper
½ red pepper
2 tablespoons sriracha
½ bunch cilantro
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon panko breadcrumbs
2 lemons

Method:
Finely dice the onions and peppers and sauté till translucent. Cool the vegetables and zest lemon. Mix all ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside for one hour. Shape, bread and fry.

Braised callaloo
Ingredients:
1 pound callaloo
½ yellow onion
5 seasoning peppers
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1 tablespoon garlic
Optional scotch bonnet to taste

Method:
Roughly chop the callaloo. Small dice the onion, pepper and garlic. Sauté the aromatics until translucent and add the callaloo. Add coconut milk when callaloo starts to wilt. Cook until the leaves are tender.
Seasoning pepper hollandaise
Ingredients:
2 seasoning peppers
2 shallots
1 clove garlic
Juice of one lime
4 egg yolks
8 ounces clarified butter

Method:
Sauté minced onion, garlic and seasoning pepper, deglaze with vinegar. Place a bowl over a double boiler. Add egg yolk and cook till ribbon consistency is achieved. Drizzle in the butter slowly while whisking the eggs to form an emulsion. Season the sauce and the vinegar reduction.

Putting it all together
Split the braised callaloo over 6-8 plates and create a bed of it in the centre of each plate. Place a crab cake on top. Add one poached egg atop each crab cake. Spoon hollandaise sauce over the top.

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