The Best of the 2012 Cayman Cookout
An eater’s journal from the annual Caribbean getaway with Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain and friends.
January 19, 2012
We’re back from the fourth annual Cayman Cookout, a whirlwind culinary weekend hosted by Eric Ripert and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. It was a breezy 80-degrees on the islands and between an endless array of epicurean delights, chats with Anthony Bourdain and the inviting crystal-clear beaches, we didn’t miss the New York winter for one minute. Opening with a charity wine action put on by Sotheby’s and ending with a chef-studded gala dinner—prepared by Ripert, José Andrés, April Bloomfield, Laurent Gras, Paul Rogalski and François Payard—the three-day cookout was a gastronomic Eden. Here’s how it all went down.
It’s 10 AM. José Andrés emerges from the Caribbean waters—in full scuba attire—and marches toward an awestruck crowd. What a way to start a cooking demonstration. Andrés proceeds to cook a breakfast of paella, grilled oysters and sangria, which we finish just in time to rush over to The Imperial Lunch put on by Moët at the hotel brasserie. Soon, a 40-pound snapper, hours out of the water and baked in a salt crust, lands on the table while Champagne flows. We leave feeling like kings and take a short rest.
Before we know it, April Bloomfield is hosting a raw bar demo on one end of the beach while François Payard turns out sweet nibbles on the farther side. Dinner is a beach barbecue with Anthony Bourdain donning a chef jacket and serving savory porchetta that literally melts in our mouth. Andrés is doling out petite salmon roe cones, Ibérico ham and seared tenderloin, served from grill to plate. Live music ebbs, cocktail shakers clack and the smell of barbecue and saltwater waft. Suddenly, it’s midnight. No wonder they call this place a paradise.
Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert start the morning with a beachside chat. News of Paula Deen’s diabetes and subsequent drug endorsement deal has just broke and Bourdain rips right in calling her “morally dubious” and a “destructive force.” An audience member notes that Bourdain isn’t exactly the poster child for healthy eating. “My show comes with a parental advisory; hers does not,” he counters. Fair enough.
We decamp for a lunch with Ripert at Periwinkle Restaurant, where the dapper Laurent Gras serves us lobster and caviar. Ripert reveals his favorite everyday drinking wine is Bordeaux and declares, “Guilty pleasures are very American. As a Frenchman, I have no guilty pleasures about anything.” His favorite late night snack? Spicy chorizo and dark chocolate. Later, we hang out with Ripert again for ceviche and cocktails. He teaches us how to make his signature tuna and foie gras, a seemingly simple yet brilliant stack of toasted baguette, foie gras and pounded tuna.
Dinner is prepared by Michael Schwartz and Bloomfield at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, the Cayman outpost of Schwartz’s popular Miami eatery of the same name. The ingredients are distinctly Cayman and the cookery is unmistakably Breslin. We devour wahoo crudo with ginger; vegetable giardiniera and slow roasted pork shoulder; Cayman rabbit and ricotta; and lamb scottadito. Dessert is a sweet and salty peanut caramel bar.
Our final day kicks off with a Champagne brunch and local culinary competition judged by Food & Wine’s Dana Cowin, Ripert, Bourdain, Andrés and Cayman Islands governor Duncan Taylor. After last night’s dinner, we can’t imagine making room for more than a nosh. As fresh oysters, sashimi, black cod and a caviar buffet are presented, we somehow find room for a full lunch. Some more Champagne, local fruit and Ispahan macarons seal the deal—we’ll be back next year.