2020 Cayman Cookout: As tasty as ever

One had only to see the 2020 Cayman Cookout event programme to realise that it was going to be bigger, in terms of the number of events and the number of participating personalities, than it had been in past years.  

But just days before the event started, word came that headlining chef Eric Ripert wasn't going to be able to make it this year due to unforeseen circumstances. Not only would the 12th annual Cayman Cookout be missing its founding host, but Ripert was also scheduled to take part in six different Cayman Cookout events. 

But the show must go on and in a classic example of "next man up" the team of guest chefs pitched in on Ripert's behalf and ensured that all of the weekend's events took place and that the Cayman Cookout was as enjoyable as ever for guests. 

Things got started on Wednesday evening, 15 January, and then four full days of events followed. Although in the early years of the Cayman Cookout, Saturday evening was rather quiet at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, this year included two on-site dinner events followed by a rosé Champagne party that had the Harbour Club pool area hopping with residents and visitors alike. 

Venues

This year, Cayman Cookout events took guests beyond The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman to places like the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, Rum Point, Royal Palms, sailing, swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving in, on and under the waters of the Caribbean Sea, to Le Soleil d'Or on Cayman Brac and to Jamaica aboard a private jet for a Craggy Range wine tasting and lunch at Ian Flemming Villa at Golden Eye.

All totalled, there were more than 75 scheduled events on- and off-site.

Talent

Even without Chef Eric, the line-up of chefs still included two of the best chefs in the world in Dominique Crenn and Clare Smyth.

They were joined by highly acclaimed chefs Daniel Boulud, José Andrés, Emeril Lagasse, Andrew Zimmern and many others. The beverage side of the line-up included Susana Balbo — called "the best winemaker in Argentina" by Forbes Magazine in 2019 — master sommeliers and winemakers Larry Stone and Raj Parr, 2014 Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year Charles Joly, JUSTIN Vineyards owner Justin Baldwin and Craggy Range winery owners Terry and Mary Peabody.

These were just some of the dozens of talented people working in the food and beverage industry who presented at the Cayman Cookout. Also making appearances was NBC News TODAY show weather and feature anchor Al Roker.

Moments and flavours

What makes any culinary festival memorable is its moments and flavours. Some of the memorable moments included hearing Emeril Lagasse describe his lunch salad as “just really yummy” and adding that eating it “will make you feel really good.” Or later, having a smiling and unpretentious Emeril, kitchen towel slung over his shoulder, greet all the guests at their tables while they ate his Piri Piri Chicken topped with — BAM! — his famous Portuguese sauce.

There were several memorable moments at “Andrew Zimmern Explores the Flavours of Cayman,” in which the famous chef and television personality went from booth to booth sampling the dishes of some of Grand Cayman’s best chefs while discussing the ingredients and recounting some of his experiences. Those moments were also created for the local chefs he visited like Thomas Tenant of Tomfoodery, upon whom Zimmern heaped praises for his work in introducing lionfish into mainstream Cayman cuisine a decade ago, or for Saucha owner/chef Britta Bush, on whom Zimmern professed having a “food crush” because of some of her vegan recipes like “Powerkraut.” Guests who attended Andrew Zimmern’s event also learned a new way to describe delicious food: "cravable."

The Cayman Cookout attendees learned a lot about cooking from the chefs and beverage presenters, too: like that preparing octopus is easy, as long as it's pre-tenderised, and that pickling in general is also very easy (Chef Pano Karatassos); that a restaurant-quality fish dish can be brined and cooked in less than 10 minutes at home (Chef Clare Smyth); that fresh Cayman Brac Bluff Farms goat "lollipop" chops are probably more delicious that imported lamb "lollipop" chops (Chef Stephanie Izard); or that red wines can pair better than white wine with fish, depending on sauce and seasonings (Winemaker Michael Kennedy).

With the abundance of events and participating personalities, and a team of talented chefs making sure that the show did go on, even without its host, it's safe to say everyone left the 2020 Cayman Cookout with a great taste in their mouths, as they do every year.

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