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Small Island, Big Flavors:
Why Cayman is the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean
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If you’re talking geography, Grand Cayman is a small curve of sand in the Caribbean Ocean. But its size has nothing on its ambition, especially when you’re talking about the food. “Despite the size of the island, there is a big variety of restaurants and in recent years we have seen some big names completing the landscape of local restaurants,” says Eric Ripert, a renowned chef in his own right, whose Blue at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman has become a staple of the culinary scene. “You can eat casual or fine dining very well on Cayman, with lots of local products, including some of the best seafood.”


It’s this ultrafresh and ultralocal approach that makes Grand Cayman such a culinary hot spot. Step into its myriad of restaurants and you’ll get a taste of that unique approach.

For instance, on any given evening, if you peak behind The Brasserie, you’re likely to find chef de cuisine Thomas Tennant standing with a fisherman who is tossing the day’s catch onto a huge scale. Some restaurants have their own gardens, or bake their own bread from scratch, but how many also have their own fishing boats? This restaurant has not just one, but two—Brasserie Catch I and Brasserie Catch II—that keep the kitchen supplied with wahoo, mahi mahi, snapper, yellowfin tuna, and more. This haul will go straight from the boat to the kitchen, and in a short time, right to the plate of hungry diners.


Chefs on this island don’t make requests about what they’d like to serve—they instead listen to the experts: local deep-water fishermen, many of whom possess knowledge passed down through two or three generations. Fishermen know, for example, that grouper tend to gather and spawn when the moon is full. They let the rhythms of nature guide their catch.


In the same way, The Brasserie lets nature guide its menu, and not just the seafood dishes. Home to an impressive garden, this restaurant grows more than 100 varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Step across the parking lot—spotted with guava trees, curry leaves, and okra—and you’ve arrived at The Brasserie’s garden, dense with Thai basil, peppermint, plantains, and more.


You’ll see the bounty of that harvest in just about every item that shows up on your table: a basket of housemade breads seasoned with garden herbs, or cocktails like the spicy El Scorcho which blends tequila, club soda, grapefruit, arugula, and scotch bonnet. And of course, there’s all that fresh seafood, just delivered by the fishermen out back: roasted red snapper with braised garden greens and green curry coconut sauce; yellowfin tuna tartare with pickled garden radish; and wahoo ceviche with cilantro and Cayman lime.


Like many restaurants on Grand Cayman, the menu changes frequently, inspired by the best that nature has to offer, from both land and sea.

So whether you find yourself dining at the fanciest table at Chef Ripert's Blue or snacking on jerk chicken from a casual beach shack, you’ll quickly recognize the signature devotion to fresh flavors that tempts food lovers to return here time and time again.


Where the Chefs Eat

Dylan Benoit is the head chef at Craft, home to the best beer selection on the island plus unconventional comfort food. Here, Chef Dylan describes some of his personal favorites.


Luca: “This brunch offers real bang for your buck with bottomless prosecco plus a raw bar, sushi station, carving station, cured meats and cheese, and more. Outdoor dining completes the stunning scene.”

Singh’s Roti Shop: “This hole-in-the-wall shop serves awesome roti—I recommend the shrimp or beef roti. The curry goat is also excellent.”

Agave Grill: “A small, unassuming Mexican restaurant on the outskirts of town, this spot serves killer food and has the best tequila and mezcal selection on island. Try the tequila shrimp enchiladas with salsa verde and salsa rojo.”

Agua Restaurant: “I always let the bartender choose my drink here. The cocktail program is excellent, with an impressive selection of spirits from around the globe.”


Beyond the Restaurants: Cayman’s Must-Try Farmer’s Markets, Fruit Stands, and Food Trucks
There’s more to the food scene in Cayman than just restaurants.


Camana Bay Farmer’s Market: Pedestrian-friendly Camana Bay holds a farmer’s market every Wednesday with local fruits, spices, and baked goods.

Willie’s Fruit Stand: Taste this stand’s famous mango smoothies at the Camana Bay Farmer’s Market or head to its East End roadside stand which sells fruit, juice, jams, and smoothies.

Smokin’ Bros Food Truck: This roving food trailer produces slow, wood-smoked barbecue including jerk chicken, brisket, and pulled pork.

Jessie’s Juice: This Camana Bay juice bar serves cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices along with smoothies, raw vegan food, gluten free cakes, and organic free trade coffee.


Epicurean Escapes: Culinary Events Worth Traveling For
Hop on a plane for a front row seat to these culinary events.


Cayman Cookout: Celeb chef Eric Ripert hosts this annual January foodie fest. “For whoever lives north of Miami it’s a great escape from the winter cold!,” he says. “Most of the festival is hosted on the beach and at the Ritz-Carlton, and it’s very diverse, with highly talented chefs. We like to keep it small so it’s a very intimate event.” This year, José Andrés, Anthony Bourdain, and Tom Colicchio are all part of the fun.

Cayman Cocktail Week: The craft of the cocktail is celebrated each October with this week of parties, classes, and dinners featuring the island’s best bartenders.

Taste of Cayman: Held annually in Camana Bay, this food and wine festival features delicious fare from Grand Cayman’s array of restaurants, along with fireworks and live music from local musicians.


Local Gems
Follow the locals to the best bites on the island.


Icoa: Many cuisines merge at Icoa, tucked away in a strip mall. Don’t miss theme nights, when the menu turns to Asian street food or Thali-style Indian.

Duke’s Seafood and Rib Shack: Take a cue from Jamaican native Chef Orrel “Rambo” Williams here: his favorites include peel-and-eat shrimp, blackened mahi mahi, and Maui ribs marinated in a brown sugar ginger sauce.

Morgan’s: Recently relocated to the Cayman Islands Yacht Club, this intimate West Bay restaurant promises cool breezes, fresh local catch, and icy cocktails.

Calypso Grill: Fresh fish comes in to this West Bay classic from the dock right next door. Chef George Fowler is known for his simple preparations that spotlight the seafood—and his indulgent desserts such as sticky toffee pudding.

Ortanique: Chef Cindy Huston started out in South Beach Miami, but it’s here on Grand Cayman where she really shines. Her Caribbean-Latin cuisine and full-moon pig roasts are not to be missed.

For more information on the Cayman Islands, please visit www.caymanislands.ky