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Chef's Blog

10th Annual Grand Cayman Cookout Reconnecting with a Few Chef Friends

10th Annual Grand Cayman Cookout Reconnecting with a Few Chef Friends  

When we thought about and decided to go to the 10th Annual Grand Cayman Cookout, with a list of celebrity chefs attending, yes it was to hob knob with them all and gain some future contacts for Europa Village. We did accomplish this for sure, reconnected with a few old chef friends and had an amazing experience all at the same time.

Traveling to the Caribbean from Southern California is not always the easiest travel, let’s just say, Nicole and I are too old for overnight red eye trips any more. I had never spent time at a Ritz-Carlton property, with all the ladies and gentlemen, it was well worth it for the service! Let me say, the food with all the chefs was more than outstanding. The Ritz-Carlton had flown in 13 Executive Chefs from their other properties for this weekend celebration. They each performed at a tasting table at the first evening’s Wine Fair & Auction for the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Culinary Arts Scholarship. Needless to say there were over ten world-class wineries at this event pouring tastes. What an outstanding beginning to four days of excitement.

Yes, the Celebrity Chefs were very accessible during the entire weekend. When we checked in and were brought to our room, the first person we crossed in the hall way was none other than the host Chef Eric Ripert from Le Bernardin Restaurant in New York City.

Then Daniel Boulud came and sat down at the table right next to us at breakfast the next morning. We were not sure how to contemplate such “chefdom” and it was not until we were waiting to attend José Andrés demonstration that we walked right into Anthony Bourdain. Nicole had just picked up his new book at the shop of the hotel and with her own shyness asked him to sign it. He did, but I think we might have caught him after a late night. I told him that Nicole was going to faint in his presence, he just chuckled with a mischievous grin.

It was truly my goal to see and meet Chef José Andrés. A hero in my standards, not only for promoting TRUE Spanish Cuisine here in America but his humanitarian efforts. During the Houston floods, the California wild fires and the Caribbean hurricane swipe of disaster, José organized a World Central Kitchen organization where chefs feed the world in times of need. Totally remarkable! I did accomplish my goal, to see Jose’s demo, speak to him in person multiple times and yes, I did invite him to the opening of Europa Village to cook paella with me. I told him Europa Village was a French, Italian and Spanish themed property. He stopped me immediately and said, ”No, no! Europa Village is Spanish, French, and Italian property.” I agreed.

So, what was the expectation for his demonstration on the beach pavilion? José gave an inspiring performance beginning with the theme music of James Bond 007, flying in from a helicopter over the sea and jumping into the water from 20 feet. When he was pulled to shore by the ski-do, he emerged from the water with a large golden gun and began spraying everyone in the audience. This energy did not stop for the next 60 minutes. José’s passion and exciting energy became contagious with those watching him. I was even able to assist him with the paella by throwing in the bomba rice. I will continue to lead by example with such traits always in the kitchen and especially for a cooking class. I just need my own theme song……

I was able to spend a little time with our good friend Chef Bernard Guillas from La Jolla’s very own Marine Room.

I also caught up with Emeril Lagasse after being on his Food Network show almost 20 years ago now.

We met new friends such as Chef and farmer Dean Max, acquainted to us by Andrew Harris our friend on AM radio in Anaheim.

Nicole and I went to a luncheon demonstration with Sean Brock from the Lowcountry who is re-vitalizing heirloom seeds of vegetables and nothing is used in his restaurants unless it is local. We have eaten at his restaurant in Charleston, Mc Grady’s Tavern and will dine in March at his new venture HUSK in Savannah.

Thomas Fogarty Winery brought forth excellent wines to match with this luncheon. The favorite was with the dessert a Late Harvest Solera Gewürztraminer. When Thomas described the method of winemaking it was quite intriguing. The first harvest was fermented and placed into a wine barrel with holes in the top and covered with cheesecloth. The barrels were placed in the vineyard until the next year’s harvest and fermentation took place, then the next vintage was added to fill the barrel once again from the evaporation that had taken place. This process took a third turn again before the wine was bottled. FANTASTIC product!

This was truly a family event for the Celebrity Chefs that attended, as they all brought their families along. One of the highlights for me was to watch the Chef teams during the pétanque tournament. So many were of French origin and believe me the French take their pétanque seriously. Team Bourdain held out somehow in the end to win. I watched for three hours and would have done most anything to have been on a team.

Come play some pétanque at the Inn at Europa Village with me on the court, just bring enough Pastis! The Cayman Cookout was a thrilling experience. With sponsors like free-flowing Moet Chandon, Food & Wine Magazine, Breville, Braggard Chef Jackets, Le Crueset, Obut and many, many more how can one go wrong in such presence?