The Cayman Cookout is synonymous with award winning chefs, sensational food and the foodie experience of a lifetime. Dubbed “The Culinary Event of The Year” by Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman, it certainly lives up to its hype.
The Cayman Cookout, now an annual event, is where the foodiest foodies go to taste culinary delights by the Ritz Carlton chefs, meet and attend celebrity chef events and party until the wee hours of the morning with the people they have come to love.
Hosted by Eric Ripert and celebrity chef friends: Jose Andres and Emeril Lagasse, 2019 was the 11th Cayman Cookout to date, with each year getting bigger and better than its prior.
Cayman Cookout: The Lowdown
I’d strongly argue the Cayman Cookout has become the adult version of spring break., making it one of the best things to do in Grand Cayman! Except this time you have money and better taste. This isn’t your 2 buck chuck wine event, not even close. The Cayman Cookout is an elevated experience in dining. A lot of the VIP guests I met that had been coming for years were on a first name basis with the organizers and celebrity chefs. It becomes a tight nit crew – I hope everyone remembers me next year!
I was pleasantly surprised when meeting people that they had been coming for years and they all knew each other from prior events. The camaraderie of the event is unmatched. Almost like an exclusive foodie club, except its open to the public and always looking for new recruits.
In a nutshell, the Cayman Cookout is a 5 day event in Grand Cayman at the Ritz Carlton. There is no set schedule, you decide which events you want to attend and get tickets for them.
Cayman Cookout: Fast Facts
I’m sure you are riddled with questions about the Cayman Cookout since it is all the rage in the food industry. Here are some fast facts to get you started:
- When is it?: Martin Luther King Jr. weekend each year in January
- Where: The Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman – most events for the Cayman Cookout are on site, but some are off and transportation is arranged for you
- Weather: it was about 80 degrees Fahrenheit for the duration of the trip. Located on Grand Cayman, you can expect tropical weather
- Getting there: multiple airlines fly in and out of Grand Cayman daily. You will most likely connect in Miami or Fort Lauderdale (if you do not have a direct) and it is about an hour to the island from there
- You can arrange transportation with the Ritz Carlton from the Airport and it takes around 15 minutes door to door
- How much does it cost?: The nice thing is that you can decide which events you want to attend and control the cost. Rooms at the Ritz Carlton started at about $1536+ per person based on double occupancy with a 4 night minimum and it included a couple events with the room price
- Attire: the Cayman Cookout is pretty casual. Think resort casual, with some events asking for a dressier vibe (your event tickets would note if there is a dress code)
Cayman Cookout: Where To Stay
The Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman is where most of the events take place and a gorgeous property. I stayed here during the Cayman Cookout and it made everything easy to get to and my room readily accessible between events or to take a break and wind down.
Located on 7 mile beach, the Ritz Carlton is the only luxury hotel on the island. From the moment you arrive to the hotel, the staff is exceptional. They remember your name throughout your stay, they do everything they can to make check-in easy and your stay memorable.
I stayed in a Ocean Front Room that offered both sunset and sunrise views from the balcony overlooking one of the pools and 7 Mile Beach. The room was about 480 sq. feet in size with a king bed, large flat screen TV, marble bathroom with separate shower and tub, 75 sq, foot balcony with breakfast table and 2 chairs, and plenty of closet and drawer space.
Pro Tip: It has been said that the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman makes the BEST pina colada in the Caribbean – you should definitely get one!
Cayman Cookout: Events
The events at the Cayman Cookout are spectacular! Whether it is a cooking demo with one of the chefs to an elaborate caviar tasting, or even the barefoot BBQ – you are going to have a blast! I said earlier that you pick the events you want to attend and get tickets for them. Since I came as press, my schedule was packed and ready for me when I arrived.
Here are the events I attended and I LOVED them all!
Ole Jose! – Put on by Chef Jose Andres, he arrives in epic style each year, and this year he came by Yellow Submarine. After his grand entrance onto the beach, Andres joins those with tickets under the tent on the beach to cook his famous paella (which the recipe changes each year). He is full of jokes and laughs and the entire duration of this event is hilarious. Being front row was one of my favorite experiences and being able to interact with Andres was lovely. He is such a kind and giving human.
Barefoot BBQ – This event is part of the Cayman Cookout but not at the Ritz Carlton. It is off site and shuttles take you to and from. When you arrive you can take off your shoes if you choose as everything is done on the beach. There are stations everywhere with chefs cooking up smaller sized plates of food and various beverage vendors making cocktails or pouring champagne. There is music playing and at the end of the night there are fireworks. This is a great event to eat a lot of food from various chefs and their specialties.
Caviar Lunch with Paramount Caviar & Thomas Seifried – This lunch was my first event at the Cayman Cookout and really set the bar of expectation for what was to come next. 5 courses were prepared, 4 with different caviar’s, each sensational in their own way. Serving up Dom Perignon and wine pairings with the dishes to compliment them. I want to note that Paramount has Created a vegan/vegetarian seaweed caviar and its insanely delicious. It was my favorite dish during this dining experience!
Al Roker’s Beach Bash – I loved that this event was similar to the barefoot beach BBQ. It was about a 45 minute catamaran ride to the location and all the chefs were out at stands cooking up incredible food. I do believe this was my overall favorite event. I only ate seconds of one item during the entire trip and it was a s’mores ice cream bar. It was THAT good.
We stopped at Stingray City on the way to the Beach bash and this is a MUST when visiting Grand Cayman!
Meet the Distillers – This was a fun beach side sit down event with Kettle One and Don Julio. Drinks were made and passed during the discussion as they talked about each of their histories and future plans.
From Campanille to Grand Cayman with Nancy Silverton at North Beach Pavilion – This cooking demo at the Cayman Cookout was done by Nancy Silverton and she did a live demo and passed food around.
Wine Fair and Auction – This was quite the event. A silent auction took place outside the main area and inside was a plethora of delicious and some elaborate food stations. Everything was so good. A live band was playing and it was a great time to walk around and try food from each station and drink wines and champagne. It was a party, a really classy one.
World Class Takeover at Silver Palm Lounge – I loved that this event took place two nights in a row and the bartenders were mixing up delicious drinks.
Andrew Zimmern Explores the Flavors of Grand Cayman at Great Lawn – For this event, Andrew Zimmern was out on the lawn with local eats and going through to each stand to taste the food. I ate so much food that day and enjoyed all the local chefs coming out.
Essential BAM with Emeril Lagasse – I think I waited my entire life to see Emeril live. My grandmother loved him when I was a kid and we would watch him on TV. The good news: he is still the same! BAM!
The Late-Night Show with Chefs Eric, José, and Andrew – This event was to pay tribute to the late Anthony Bourdain and I think it was done beautifully. The guys shared stories of his kindness and adventures they had together. It felt like the closure some of us needed.
Bon Vivant Champagne Brunch Cook-Off – This is the last big foodie event of the Cayman Cookout and the most robust. The chef judges are hosting a brunch cook off for some chefs and deciding a winner, while a massive brunch with a lot of stations to cater to everyone are open with food.
Rum and Robusto at Harbour Club – Think all things Rum! Located around the back pool at the Ritz Carlton, this event is all about tasting rums and the creative drinks they have made for them. I was a big fan of the adult juice box style drink.
Cayman Cookout: Who Should Attend?
In a nutshell, the Cayman Cookout is for everyone. We eat to survive and this event is bringing some of the best chefs in the world to one place to make food for several days in a row. Who doesn’t want to be wowed day after day with events? If you don’t love food beyond what you would normally eat at home, this event might not entice you, but I promise, it will change your life and the way you look at food.
We do need food to survive, but when exceptional chefs can blow your mind constantly for days with things you never knew could work well together, why not give it a shot? I would be shocked if I heard someone did not enjoy the Cayman Cookout. You get the opportunity to get up close and personal with global chefs who can cook their hearts out. I can remember the constant stream of “wow’s” from guests eating food all week.
If you like food and you are looking for a different type of travel experience, I encourage you to attend the Cayman Cookout. It is such a memorable event, and honestly, I hope I get to go every year.
Cayman Cookout: Additional Dining Options
Even though you will eat at the events during the Cayman Cookout, you will need to supplement depending on how many of the events you do. I know each morning I had breakfast at SEVEN or room service at the Ritz Carlton before starting my day.
There are 6 bars and restaurants on property that all serve something different, depending on what you are in the mood for. I heard through the grapevine that the grilled cheese with in-room dining was incredible – so I had to try it. Total winner!
On the first day that I arrived I had lunch at Andiamo, which offers a classic Italian cuisine. I went with a margherita pizza and an arugula fruit salad. Everything was delicious and I enjoyed eating outside here.
For dinner on the first night we dined at Taikun. This dining experience was a game changer for those who love sushi and miso soup. They put a lime on the dish and my life is forever change. I also had real wasabi grated table side .. it doesn’t get much better than that!
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Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Ritz Carlton, as always opinions are entirely my own.