Food brings people together. The reason for that is more than just the fact that people have to eat to live; it’s also about the joy of dining together with others, of sitting around a table “breaking bread” and having convivial discussions with fellow men and women in a ritual that dates back to the earliest of humankind.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman took that premise, added a good cause and some of the best chefs on Grand Cayman when it presented the second annual “Around the Table” event on 2 May.
Cayman Islands Minister of Community Affairs, Sports, Women, Youth and Culture Juliana O’Connor-Connolly spoke before people sat down at one of the two long tables on either side of the Ritz-Carlton’s Harbour Club pool and commented on the diverse gathering of people who attended the event.
“The Bible says, ‘Come now, let us reason together,’ but for tonight, it’s ‘Come, let us eat together,’” she said. “When you eat with somebody, I think that is the highest level of trust you can display. There are so few things that can bring us together, but eating is one of those things.”
The event was a fundraiser for the Cayman Islands National Youth Culinary Programme, members of which participated by preparing one of the main course dishes, Caymanian jerk chicken. The first two courses of the meal, along with the side dishes, were served family style, while dessert was served from five different stations. Each dish was created by a different chef from one of Grand Cayman’s restaurants.
“Tonight is not a good night to go out somewhere else to eat,” Ritz-Carlton Executive Chef Frederic Morineau told guests, “because all the best chefs on the island are here.”
Some of the many highlights of the meal included spicy wild shrimp, mushrooms and asparagus thermidor prepared by Chef Gilbert Cavallero of Cracked Conch; coffee and spiced beef tenderloin with smoked Hollandaise sauce created by Chef Massimo De Francesca of Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa; local pumpkin and sage ravioli with toasted pine nut butter sauce made by Chef Luca Coccheiri of Ragazzi; and the unique and delicious aloe vera coconut stone with aloe vera gelee, toasted coconut Bavarian cream and tropical compote prepared by pastry chef Barani Thirunavukkarasu of The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort and Spa.
Ritz-Carlton General Manager Marc Langevin, who celebrated his birthday that day, noted that everyone who was working the event, including all the chefs and servers, were volunteering their time to help maximise the funds raised for the National Youth Culinary Programme. The purpose of that programme is to help instill passion in the culinary arts in young Caymanians and offer training that can help them enter the industry on a career path to become chefs.
“The next executive chef of the Ritz-Carlton will be born in the Cayman Islands,” said Chef Morineau. “We’re working hard to achieve that.”
National Youth Culinary Programme Director James Myles introduced Bradley McLaughlin as the new prefect of the programme and Mohyndra Brown as the new deputy prefect. McLaughlin, who is 17, has for the past two years represented the Cayman Islands team in the Caribbean Junior Duelling Challenge, a cooking competition that is part of the Caribbean Junior Culinary Conference in Barbados, and has come in second place both times.
Myles said that McLaughlin, Brown and the rest of members of the National Youth Culinary Programme are going to make their mark in the Cayman Islands culinary scene.
“Look for them in our future,” he said. “That is our aim.”