Back in 1986, when restaurant owner Mike Flowers held the Cayman Islands’ first Chili Cook-off in the parking lot behind Lone Star Bar & Grill, no one could have imagined that 32 years later, his little idea would live on as Taste of Cayman, the biggest annual food and wine festival on Grand Cayman.
On Jan. 27 starting at 5 p.m., the 30th edition of the culinary festival that started off in such a small way will take place on Camana Bay’s Festival Green, marking the tenth time Camana Bay will host the event.
This year’s Taste of Cayman will look to build on last year’s, which was the first the firm Tower served as event managers.
In 2017, Taste of Cayman featured several new elements. In addition to offering tastes of food from more than 40 different restaurants on Grand Cayman, last year’s Taste of Cayman featured a ticketed VIP area in an air-conditioned hospitality tent; a Kids Area; and an Experience Room that offered various sessions like wine and cheese pairing, cupcake decorating and a cocktail masterclass. This year’s event will
feature all of those things and a new “Yello Marketplace” that will serve up foods from Smokies and feature stalls with local farmers showcasing their fresh produce.
After the initial Chili-Cook-off in 1986, the first use of “Taste of Cayman” came in 1990, with the event being held at the old Holiday Inn beach — where The Residences of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, is now. Eventually, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association took over the event and it moved to the empty field just north of The Ritz-Carlton to land then belonging to the SafeHaven development.
For many years, the event was held over two days over the Constitution Day holiday weekend in July, with a Taste of Cayman element on one day and the Chili Cook-off on the next day. Rain, however, interrupted the events on a number of occasions and cancelled the event in 2005. Taste of Cayman then split away from the Chili Cook-off and was held later in the year, taking place early November 2006 at what is now the Cayman Turtle Centre and then at the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal for the 20th anniversary in 2007.
The weather again played a role in postponing the event in early November 2008 and pushed it to late November 2008, when it was for the first time held at Camana Bay in the Town Centre.
After that, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association decided to move Taste of Cayman to January, a historically drier month. That resulted in no event taking place in 2009, but instead in January 2010. After being held in the Camana Bay Town Centre for four years, Taste of Cayman moved to the roomier Festival Green in 2013.
In 2017, approximately 5,000 people attended the event and were served 18,000 tastes of food by 45 different restaurants.
As it has in years past, Taste of Cayman will feature a blend of local and international live entertainment, the Seven Fathoms Rum Challenge cocktail competition featuring winners from international rounds coming to Grand Cayman to compete against local bartenders, a local chef cook-off, a demo stage, the always-popular heavy cake competition and a charity raffle, which this year will raise funds for Meals on Wheels. Taste of Cayman also serves as the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s largest annual fundraiser.
Adult admission for Taste of Cayman is CI$40 in advance, $50 at the gate. Kids ages 5 to 13 are $20 and VIP tickets are $150. Adult admission includes 12 food or drink tickets and kids admission includes 10 food or drink tickets. VIP admission includes 25 food or drink tickets as well as welcome drinks, canape, priority parking, express entry, Experience Room vouchers and exclusive access to the VIP hospitality tent.