With a clutch of Michelin stars to their names, a host of the world’s most celebrated chefs are preparing to impress ahead of the Cayman Cookout, which kicks off at the Ritz-Carlton on Wednesday (16 January.)
But this year, there is one noticeable absence from the line-up.
“We are talking about Anthony Bourdain who left us and who was a great friend and who also loved the Cayman Islands and the Cayman Cookout,” acclaimed chef and Cookout host Eric Ripert explained.
Mr. Bourdain’s passing last year left a hole in the global culinary landscape and in the lives of friends and colleagues like Mr. Ripert.
And, given Mr. Bourdain’s long association with Cayman Cookout, Mr. Ripert said this year’s event will not be the same without him.
“As a dear friend, he is very missed,” he divulged.
But Mr. Bourdain’s mark will be felt here, even in his absence; the Cookout representing an opportunity to celebrate the culinary legacy he leaves behind.
“We will be celebrating his presence and his friendship and his legacy during the entire Cayman Cookout,” Mr. Ripert revealed, adding: “we will have an event with José Andrés and Andrew Zimmern, where we will go into the details of his contribution to the island and the world.”
“Tony will be with us,” he vowed.
In spite of the shadow that Mr. Bourdain’s passing will cast, his friend said the Cookout will be a fitting tribute.
“A weekend of celebration, of parties, of eating and drinking and having fun,” Mr. Ripert promised when asked what was in store for attendees.
And he revealed the event he was most looking forward to over the course of the Cookout…. his colleague José Andrés kick-off: a paella party on the beach.
“By a miracle, at the end, the paella is out of this planet, it’s delicious,” Mr. Ripert enthused.
He went on: “every year he changes the paella, it’s a different rice or different topping and so on. It’s a great experience that I really recommend.”
But beyond the food, that spectacle has a little mystery in the mix too.
“José makes a grand entrance,” he vowed.
“Last year he came by helicopter, jumped in the water, one year: by horses, one year: scuba diving. Every year is a surprise. This year we have an amazing one that nobody can guess!” Mr. Ripert laughed.
And, having given just enough to whet the appetite, when asked if he was going to reveal the big surprise to Cayman 27?
“Of course not!” he said.
The 11th annual Cayman Cookout will be held at the Ritz-Carlton from 16-20 January.