The cold weather has taken residence up north, making it the ideal time to fly south for one of the preeminent gourmet culinary events in the unfailingly warm Caribbean, the Cayman Cookout. Settle in to the luxurious Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman (where most of the events are held) and get ready to feast on fantastic cuisine, only to wash it down with divine wine. The lineup is pretty stellar this year: Anthony Bourdain, Spike Mendelsohn and José Andrés join host Eric Ripert on the culinary side, while top-notch oenophiles like Bruce Mooers and Tuck Beckstoffer are at the helm of the event’s wine portion. We recently sat down with Startle Tastemaker Ripert to get the lowdown on this year’s Cayman Cookout.
What are the must-hit events during the Cayman Cookout?
The Gala Dinner is always so popular that it sometimes becomes a problem because the tickets sell out immediately. Everyone wants to go. The Bon Vivant Champagne Brunch on Sunday is also always extremely popular every year. The lunches, dinners and chef demos and wine tastings always sell so well, and there’s something for everybody.
What are you most excited for at this year’s Cookout?
This year, I am especially happy to unveil to our friends and guests the rejuvenated Blue restaurant, and I’m excited to have some friends like David Kinch and Daniel Humm to join the Cookout this year. Selfishly, I’m happy to get out of New York and avoid the cold.
Why did you decide to start doing the Cayman Cookout? Any particular ties to the Cayman Islands?
Well, we were “brainstorming” on the beach with cocktails one year and, suddenly, the idea hit us. We thought about sharing moments like that with our friends and to share the beauty of the island and to create a party with good food and wine and good living.
Do you get to judge the cook-off?
I do judge, and I love it. It’s fun to be with Anthony Bourdain, José Andrés and the governor of the Cayman Islands, Duncan Taylor. We get to chat and have a drink while the contestants are making their dishes. I also like interacting with the contestants and asking them questions, and then my favorite moment is when we get to try the dishes. The hardest part, of course, is deciding who is the winner.
You have a spectacular lineup this year in terms of chefs, wine experts and guest appearances. Will they all give some sort of presentation?
We have a really great lineup this year, including David Kinch, Daniel Humm, José Andrés, Spike Mendelsohn, Anthony Bourdain, Sherry Yard and many more, and they all participate with a demonstration or presentation throughout the Cookout.
Photos Courtesy of Cayman Islands Department of Tourism