The Cayman Cookout Experience And Tips To Get The Most Out Of The Culinary Event

Above: Cayman Cookout, hosted by celebrity chef Eric Ripert
Above: Cayman Cookout, hosted by celebrity chef Eric Ripert

Foodies, if there is one culinary event you go to before you die, make it Cayman Cookout. At this annual event held each January hosted by Eric Ripert (of Le Bernardin, but of course you already know that), you’ll get to enjoy cooking demonstrations, book signings and more. But be ready for your foodie heart to explode when it comes to Cookout for two key reasons.

The chefs

We are talking the cream of the crop when it comes to the chefs who take part in Cookout. Anthony Bourdain and José Andrès attend each year and with Ripert, the chummy trio are known as the three amigos. They make a grand entrance each year at the first demo of the event; last year they were accompanied by Caribbean dancers and drums as they cheerfully danced into the tent. Not only is the calibre of chefs stellar, remember, too, that this is in beautiful Grand Cayman where they’re at their friend’s event. This means they’re all in Bermuda shorts and tees and they’re in a fantastic vacay mood. So you may see Daniel Boulud with his wife and his baby son enjoying the beach (in 2015 they had matching swim trunks!) or Marcus Samuellson taking a quick swim or hanging out with his wife on chaise lounges in a cabana. In 2016, the lineup includes Tom Colicchio, Michael Mina, Hubert Keller and more. And yes, you will have access to chat with these top chefs that you’d never get elsewhere. It’s enough to make a chef groupie out of even the coolest ones among us.

The food

At each demo or BBQ or brunch, you’ll be eating food prepared by these star chefs. Which you wouldn’t even typically get to enjoy at their restaurants since most are not in the kitchen over the hot stove anymore. The essential tickets to get at Cookout is to the Barefoot BBQ and Beach Bash at Rum Point . At each, you’ll find the chefs at their own stations (and this is usually when you can ask for a photo). The irony of these two events is you may be so overwhelmed by the level of chefs surrounding you, you may find yourself not getting to eat as much as you would like to. After all, the time spent rubbing shoulders with Bourdain is time you haven’t spent going to another chef’s station.

4 TIPS TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CAYMAN COOKOUT TRIP

Stay at the Ritz-Carlton

The event takes place at the Ritz (with the exception of few events such as the Beach Bash at Rum Point) so booking your stay here makes it easy to attend as many demos as possible; this way you also have a suite right there so you can grab a nap after you’ve eaten too much. Besides, this will give you more opportunities to run into the chefs since they’re all around the resort. No matter where you are, though, on the island you may encounter them (we encountered Andrès and all of his family getting on a catamaran just as we were getting ready to set sail, and also spotted Ripert talking a morning walk on the beach).

Arrive early

This is not the time to be late, or even right on time. Get to your demos and events early so that you can grab a prime seat if you plan to take photos or so that you can get into line quickly for your cookbook to be signed, for example. Seats do fill up quickly. At beach bbq, there will be lines but don’t put off until later getting your plate from Bourdain or Samuelson as the chefs do not stay until the station stops serving food. Be patient and stay in line; they do move quickly.

Pack a forgiving beach wardrobe

Elastic waistbands, stretchy pants and flowy dresses will be your friends. While the portions are small at Cayman Cookout, you will be eating plate after plate after plate of them. Keep the meals you’re eating outside of the demos and events small because you’ll be nibbling frequently throughout Cookout.

Plan for extra time to enjoy the Cayman Islands

You’re already there and these islands have so much to offer so treat yourself. Grand Cayman is chockablock full of great restaurants, including Luca (Italian), The Brasserie (farm-to-table fare) and Calypso Grill (fresh seafood and other island favourites). If you have time, in Cayman Brac, stay at Le Soleil d’Or Cayman, which sits atop the cliff and serves exceptional food made from the produce grown on the farm on the property. For a some days of low key R&R,, not to mention phenomenal sunrises, Little Cayman is the where you need to settle down for a night or two. What it lacks in size it makes up a hundred times over in charm.

Karen Kwan

Karen Kwan is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Flare, Elle Canada and ElleCanada.com, Glow, Metro, Huffington Post Canada, Travelife and Travel + Escape. She also runs her blog, HealthandSwellness.com, where she writes about health, beauty, fitness and lifestyle.

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