Cayman Cookout weekend to highlight local cuisine

Chef Sandy Tuason, far right, and his team from the Westin were always favourites of Anthony Bourdain. - Photo: Rebecca Davidson

One of the most anticipated culinary festivals on the annual calendar, Cayman Cookout, is celebrating all things local in 2021.

Featured events usually include presentations by world-renowned international and local chefs and mixologists, but due to COVID restrictions, organisers are keeping things closer to home this time around.

Not a problem. Cayman isn’t dubbed the ‘Culinary Capital of the Caribbean’ for nothing.
From 15-17 Jan., foodies can sign up to attend individual events and even take advantage of special room rates for the full bed-to-brunch experience, as it were.

Whether you are a perennial attendee or this is your first chance to sample the delights of Cayman Cookout, prepared to immerse yourself in a world of flavours and textures for a full weekend at The Ritz-Carlton.

Barefoot BBQ
Friday, 15 Jan.
The Ritz-Carlton Beach
US$225/CI$180 plus online booking fee
Previously held on the beach at Royal Palms, this event is moving back to where it all began – the beach of The Ritz-Carlton.

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The Barefoot BBQ, one of the signature evenings on the festival’s calendar, will be held on the beach of The Ritz-Carlton this year. – Photo: Rebecca Davidson

The name says it all. No need to don restrictive black tie outfits; shorts, linen trousers and similar are welcome. You can also leave your shoes at the provided valet station ‘cos you won’t be needing them.

This night is always one of the most popular of the Cookout, as it allows guests to graze at multiple food stations while stargazing.

Live music, handcrafted cocktails and the soft sand betwixt your toes are where it’s at.
Local celebrity chefs onsite will be: George Fowler – Calypso Grill; Dylan Benoit – Carnivore and Prime Group Cayman; Massimo De Francesca – Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa; Joao B. Fernandes – Kirk Market; Jolene Nelson – Nyamaste; Camila Testa & Frederic Morineau – The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman; Britta Bush – Saucha Conscious Living; Thomas Tennant – Tomfoodery; Sandy Tuason – The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa; and Christian Reiter – The Wharf Restaurant & Bar.

Mixologists Unite
Friday, 15 Jan.
Silver Palm Lounge
No entry fee
When things cool down on the beach, they start to heat up at Silver Palm Lounge, where beverage artisans (yes, that’s the term) are waiting with their crafty cocktail creations.

A DJ will be spinning the hits like bartenders manipulate a mixing spoon, encouraging everyone to hit the ‘dance floor’ for the rest of the evening. It’s a great way to finish off the first night with a bang.

Food & Wine Pairing Masterclass
Saturday, 16 Jan.
Taikun Restaurant
US$250/CI$200 plus online booking fee
Prepare to clear your palate in a big way for this unbelievable 10-course pairing experience, presented by Wineschool3. Global cuisine, practical tips on wine tasting and pairing, and a host of other surprises included in this event make it a must for anyone keen on learning more about the magical and mysterious grape.

No previous experience is required and you don’t have to be a certified sommelier (although they are very welcome). Just bring an appreciation of great food and how it can be enhanced by wine and you’ll be grand.

Rum and Robusto
Saturday, 16 Jan.
Harbour Club Pool
US$135/CI$108 plus online booking fee
Slight twist here, for those who attend Cayman Cookout each year. The location remains the same, but instead of being held on Sunday, Rum and Robusto has been moved to the Saturday.

Jerome Begot of Cayman Helicopters makes a fashion statement at the 2018 Rum & Robusto event. – Photo: Rebecca Davidson

Take a moment to breathe, then read on.

Always considered a very social gathering, the Rum and Robusto event is a sunny affair with food and cocktail stations situated around the Harbour Club Pool. The faint scent of rich cigars wafts through the air, courtesy of Cayman Cigar Company, while friends mix and mingle.

Culinary offerings will be provided by: Charith Samaradiwakara – Abacus;
Artemio Lopez – The Brasserie; Federico Quiroga – XQ’s Bar and Grill; Steve Griffon – Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort; and Thushara Siriwaradana – Grand Old House.

It’s All About Truffle
Saturday, 16 Jan.
Blue by Eric Ripert
US$450/CI$360 plus online booking fee
An immersive truffle experience awaits those who book a seat for this particular event. Considered one of nature’s true delicacies, the noble truffle will be celebrated by the executive chef of Blue by Eric Ripert, Thomas Seifried. Wine pairings, a dessert lounge and silent auction are just a few of the indulgences awaiting ticketholders. (The dessert lounge/silent auction, starting at 9:30pm, is available as a separate event for those not attending the truffle dinner, at US$50/CI$40 per ticket plus fee.)

Bon Vivant Brunch
Sunday, 17 Jan.
The Royal Cayman Islands Ballroom
US$281.25/CI$225 plus online booking fee
This signature brunch is a lively affair, with the Champagne flowing and food stations galore. Usually the culmination of amateur chef cookoff competition heats, with two finalists and their sous chefs going head-to-head on the main stage, this year there is a bit of a shakeup. None other than Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee and Kathy Gardner-Nicholson of the Community Kitchen will be cooking up a storm, creating dishes to present to the judges. The winner will receive a donation in their name to the Cayman Food Bank, the chosen charity of the Cayman Cookout this year.

The Bon Vivant Brunch pits chefs against each other in competition on the main stage in The Ritz-Carlton ballroom.

Local chefs featuring their cuisine will be: Maureen Cubbon – BestLife Culinary; Shetty Vidyadhara – Blue Cilantro; John Dunne – The Kitchen; Camilla Testa – The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman; Britta Bush – Saucha Conscious Living; Keith Griffin – Seaside Ocean Grille & Sushi Bar; Sara Mair Doak – Smokies; Jonathan Rivard – Steak Social; and Carlos Contreras – Sphera Hospitality Group.

Petanque & Rosé
Sunday, 17 Jan.
Andiamo Beach
US$100/CI$80 plus online booking fee
Kinda like bocce, but with a different technique, petanque is a sport that falls under the category of ‘boules’. Do you fancy yourself a bit of a player? If so, sign up and join one of the teams for some spirited competition. May the best team win!

Marc Langevin demonstrates his particular style of playing Petanque. – Photo: Rebecca Davidson

Bon Vivant Brunch Competitors

Dr. John Lee
Lee is a familiar face to anyone who watched the COVID briefings over the past year. When he isn’t trying to keep a pandemic from infiltrating Cayman’s borders, Lee really enjoys spending time in the kitchen. He said he was influenced by his aunt, who taught him how to chop ingredients and make simple dishes at a relatively young age. His father is also passionate about cooking.

Dr. John Lee preparing a dish in his kitchen.

He focusses on eating healthy food, and is planning to create a relatively easy dish for the brunch, reminiscent of the flavours of Malaysia but with easy-to-obtain ingredients from local purveyors.

Chefs who inspire him are his aunt, the Malay chef at the Datai Hotel in Pulau Langkawi, and those who cook in “all the great kitchens in Singapore”.

Kathy Gardner-Nicholson
Originally from Jamaica, Gardner-Nicholson grew up eating a fusion of Indian and traditional Jamaican food. Ingredients were fresh, thanks to a local market and seafood caught by her grandfather.

Katherine Gardner-Nicholson with her husband, Raul Nicholson-Coe.

She has a son and daughter, and often has “friendly cooking competitions” with her son. The chicken soup recipe she will be cooking up at the brunch is one her children have eaten since they were kids.

“My passion for cooking is simply because I like good food, but more importantly, I love sharing it with others,” Gardner-Nicholson said. “This is part of the reason why I started the Community Kitchen.”

For more information and to book tickets for all Cayman Cookout events, visit

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