With a great hurrah, the fantastic Cayman Cookout festivities came to an end on Sunday. Just before noon, guests gathered for the Bon Vivant Sunday Moet & Chandon Champagne Brunch Cook-off. Featuring a mind-boggling display of decadence from the staff at the Ritz-Carlton, from caviar and fresh made blinis to sushi and dim sum, the food offerings were only a part of the adventure – with a live cookoff staged during the brunch.
The competition, emceed by the lovely Gail Simmons of Food & Wine and Bravo’s Top Chef (and the new host of Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts), featured local chefs Jolene Nelson and Charlie Brown bringing their best kitchen skills in hopes of wowing a star panel of judges. Bourdain, Chang, Ripert, and Andres congregated at a the judges table to dine on amuse bouche and main courses presented by the competing chefs. The prize? A trip to New York in the spring for Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs 2010 dinner.
Jolene and Charlie both made their way around the kitchen quickly while the clock ticked down. As each chef finalized the finishing touches, the competition came to an end, and it was time to determine a winner. With only a two-point difference, and according to Bourdain, much discussion and disagreement, Simmons announced that Chef Nelson had won the competition and the trip to NYC. Chef Brown’s consolation prize wasn’t too shabby though – an invite to dine with Chef Eric Ripert at his restaurant, Blue.
In the evening, the weekend came to a final close with the mother of all collaborative dinners. Hosted at Ripert’s Blue restaurant, all six of the guest chefs came together, working side-by-side in the kitchen to present a nine-course meal. With dishes including razor clams with chorizo sauce (Bourdain); local conch, pork belly, and Napa cabbage with kimchi juice (Chang); and shellfish, parsnip, and chamomile (Achatz), the guest list was tight, but I was able to get in to snap a few shots of the restaurant, and the chefs, pre-event.
Because there’s nothing a chef loves more than having to make a photo op just before dinner service…
Rumor has it that the dinner, much like the weekend itself, was extraordinary.
I’m already looking forward to Cayman Cookout 2011.
**As a guest of the Cayman Island Tourism Board, I gratefully appreciate the opportunity to cover this spectacular event.