Chef Bernard Guillas, pictured here at last year’s Cayman Cookout Champagne brunch, will once again be serving seafood wonders from an ice sculpture station.
By Alan Markoff
One of the annual highlights of the Cayman Cookout culinary festival has been the Sunday Bon Vivant Champagne Brunch and Amateur Chef Cook-off.
This year, when the Cayman Cookout returns for its 12th year at the The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman from 15-19 January, there will be no amateur cook-off final. Instead, there will be something better: a cook-off competition between professional chefs Sara Mair Doak from Abacus and Roman Kleinrath from LUCA.
Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Executive Chef Frederic Morineau says that after having amateur chefs participate in the competition for the first 10 years of the Cayman Cookout, it was a struggle to find enough candidates last year, partially because most of the amateur chefs who were talented enough to participate had already done so.
“It was time to refresh the concept and highlight Cayman’s amazing professional chefs,” says Morineau.
The preliminary rounds were a bit different leading up to the final this year. Six chefs from local restaurants cooked for judges over three consecutive nights. The two chefs who received the most points from the judges advanced to the 19 January final, which will be judged by a panel of culinary celebrities including Cayman Cookout host Chef Eric Ripert, Chef Andrew Zimmern, Chef Emeril Lagasse and others.
The competition rules for the final this year with the professional chefs will be more challenging than they were for the amateur chefs in previous years.
“They will be cooking by themselves with no sous-chef, the ingredients will be a mystery basket and they will have 40 minutes to cook one dish for five judges,” says Morineau, adding that there will be a heavy influence of local ingredients in the mystery basket.
The winner of the competition gets a trip for two to New York where he or she will get a two-day stage, or internship, at two Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurants — Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin and Daniel Boulud’s restaurant Daniel. They will also receive a CI$500 gift certificate from Kirk Market. The runner-up will receive dinner for two at Blue by Eric Ripert and a CI$250 gift certificate from Kirk Market.
The brunch will be co-hosted by Bon Vivant owner Cynthia Hew and weather forecaster, television personality, actor and author Al Roker.
An avid chef and cookbook author, Roker has come to the Cayman Islands on vacation several times.
“He attended Cayman Cookout for the first time in 2019 and loved everything about it,” says Morineau. “He will bring his lively and engaging personality to the event.
In addition to free-flowing Moët & Chandon Champagne, the brunch offers a spectacular display of savoury foods and desserts.
“This year, a new ice-carving design will be specially created for the brunch,” says Morineau. “From there, Chef Philippe Haddad and Chef Bernard Guillas will be offering some seafood wonders. The caviar station, by Paramount Caviar, is always a must, and the charcuterie station this year will be handled by Kevin Ouzts from The Spotted Trotter in Atlanta.”
Some of the other chefs in this year’s Cayman Cookout line-up will host hot food stations, with Chef Jean Louis Dumonet, president of the Maitres Cuisinier de France Association, cooking his famous “Pikes Quenelles” and Chef José Gutierrez from Memphis, Tennessee cooking “Lobster and Crab Beignet.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2020 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline “Bring on the Pros.”