Despite the unexpected absence of host, chef Eric Ripert, Cayman Cookout 2020 displayed no lack of attendance at events, nor muted enthusiasm among guests.
In fact, life-sized cardboard cutouts of Ripert were found popping up everywhere, keeping him there in spirit.
Thanks to particularly strong breezes, many of the outdoor events were pleasant and cool, enhancing visitors’ experiences.
Islanders mingled with tourists at the Jacques Scott Wine Fair and Auction, held in The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s ballroom in the evening. The foyer was filled with silent auction items, from autographed pictures of famous film stars to designer handbags and unique travel experiences.
Inside the ballroom, guests sampled dishes created by visiting chefs from The Ritz-Carlton’s overseas properties, as well as Grand Cayman staff.
The Goodnight Hannah band with lead singer DannyLoops entertained the bustling crowd, which was also taking advantage of the wine stations in the centre of the room, provided by Jacques Scott.
Funds raised were split between the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and The Ritz-Carlton’s Culinary Scholarship Fund.
Celebrity chef José Andrés, known for his splashy, unique and unexpected entrances to his signature event on the beach each year, turned the tables on guests eagerly awaiting his arrival on Friday morning. As the theme from ‘Mad Max’ drummed through the tent, Andrés seemed to be approaching on a Raptor ATV along the beach, flanked by characters dressed in the style of the futuristic film.
As he dismounted the transport and made his way into the tent, photographers snapped away, with the curious crowd enthusiastically following him in. After a few waves to his audience, his disembodied voice announced that he would remove his mask. The person revealed beneath was, in fact, the owner of the ATV – Nicholas Bodden. Andrés had slipped in via the back of the tent and through the crowd.
The switcharoo was greeted with laughter and applause, and soon after, Andrés was in the throes of presenting his paella demonstration.
At 11:30am, a large crowd gathered on the Great Lawn at The Ritz-Carlton for Andrew Zimmern Explores the Flavours of Cayman.
An American chef with a penchant for bizarre foods, Zimmern took a turn around local restaurant booths with resident foodie, Alan Markoff, giving him the lowdown on certain cooking traditions and ingredients.
Zimmern spoke enthusiastically about the dishes he tasted, raving about the delights of saltfish and ackee – a popular Jamaican and local dish – and encouraged guests to try the green iguana on offer. Kirk Market, Cracked Conch, The Westin and Nyamaste were just a few of the companies represented at the event.
Once Zimmern had visited every booth, he sat on the stage for a Q&A session with Compass Media’s Living editor, Vicki Wheaton, and answered questions from members of the crowd.
On Friday night, the Barefoot BBQ was once again held at Royal Palms on the beach. Chefs had stations set up all around the venue, including Andrés and Zimmern at the water’s edge, with OneWorld’s DJ Natural, accompanied by Gary Ebanks on saxophone and Luis Eden on percussion, keeping people dancing until the event ended at 10pm. There was a firework show at 9pm, sponsored by Cayman Firepower.
Catamarans and cars headed to the Rum Point Beach Bash at lunchtime, hosted for the second time by ‘The TODAY Show’s Al Roker, while some of those who remained on Seven Mile Beach attended Un Lunch Quebequois with one of Quebec’s most revered chefs – Normand Laprise – and Cape Landing wines.
Cayman resident and owner of the winery, Mark Lewis, took diners through the courses, explaining the wine pairings. The award-winning Cape Landing Cabernet Sauvignon was presented to guests for the very first time at the lunch.
On Saturday night, the Harbour Club at The Ritz-Carlton was in the pink for the Rose it Out event presented by Moet & Chandon.
Guests were greeted at the entrance by two models sporting lit hoop skirts that held many glasses of Champagne. Guests danced on the plexiglass platform situated over the pool to a DJ on an elevated stage with large video displays below.
Carnival girls from the CayMAS Swanky group wearing the latest costumes from the 2020 collection joined in a conga line that culminated in a Champagne spray on the dance floor. The event ended at midnight.
For two professional local chefs, a lot was riding on their performance at the Bon Vivant Chef Competition Brunch, hosted by Cynthia Hew of Bon Vivant and Roker.
Sara Mair-Doak of Smokies fame and Roman Kleinrath of Luca battled it out on the main stage before judges Andrew Zimmern, Emeril Lagasse, Charles Joly, Rainer Zinngrebe and Frederic Morineau, as well as a sold-out ballroom audience.
Each chef was given a mystery basket of basic ingredients, featuring tuna, and had access to a pantry from which they could pick further items.
With very little time on the clock, both came up with impressive dishes, but it was Mair-Doak who emerged victorious, winning the coveted title.
After the brunch, guests made their way to Rum & Robusto at the Harbour Club Pool where the sounds of Trio Vivo band permeated the air. Cayman Cigar Company had a rolling station, which joined a coconut-chopping booth and sugar cane station, along with myriad food and drink stops around the pool area. Overcast skies and those persistent breezes were a welcome break from the hot sun.
The final event of Cayman Cookout 2020 was held in Blue by Eric Ripert on Sunday night. The Grand Gala once again had many cooks in the kitchen creating a multi-course meal that has gained such a reputation over the years, that the dinner was one of the first events to sell out online.
What is in store for Cayman Cookout 2021? We’ll just have to wait and see.