Restaurant work is so much more than simply cooking and serving customers. One of the things that any business must be involved in is marketing. For a restaurant and its chef, it has become increasingly important to get your name circulating and to make some public appearances. Food festivals are held everywhere and it can be a very valuable experience for a chef to get out, meet other chefs and listen to what the public has to say in a less formal environment. Traveling to food events and festivals can also be an opportunity to experience and be inspired by another place. It’s very difficult for chefs to take actual vacations so being involved in an event can be a way to mix business and pleasure.
A couple of years after I opened “Blue,” our restaurant in the Ritz Carlton on Grand Cayman Island, Mike Ryan, the owner of the Ritz, and I started brainstorming about what we could do to on the island to get some chefs together to have fun and interact. It made sense to us to try and stage a food and wine event just after the winter holidays. The idea was to stage an event where we would invite chefs to come do a couple of cooking demos or conduct a discussion and then at the end of the event, hold a gala dinner where all of us could cook together. The event has taken place for a few years now and has proven to be a success not only because it brings people to the island for the event, but it offers chefs the opportunity to relax for a few days and also to exchange ideas and get to know each other better.
Each year I try and think of chefs and wine professionals that I am intrigued by and would like to get to know better to invite to be a part of the event.
In this week’s episode, I take you with me to the Caribbean to explore the Cayman Islands and experience The Cayman Islands Cookout that takes place each January at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman. You can join me as I cook with and hang out with my friends and fellow chefs, Grant Achatz, José Andres, Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, Dean Fearing and emcee for the weekend, Gail Simmons from Food & Wine Magazine. They offer some great insight into their lives and careers. It is very valuable to me to swap ideas and experiences and we also get some time to just relax and enjoy the islands.
One of the places that we visit is “stingray city” which is a very unique section of the waters just off of the coast of the island where hundreds of stingrays gather at a shallow sandbar and allow humans to swim with, and interact with them. It is an incredible experience to swim with these magnificent creatures.
I’ll also take you back home with me to my kitchen to show you how to cook a dish that was created in the Caymans and inspired by their flavors and techniques. Cooking something at home that reminds you of a good time in your life is important and is like a souvenir that comes to life in your kitchen. Enjoy!