Taste weekend recap & winners

Taste of Cayman First Three-day Weekend FestivalThe Black Eyed Peas, NYC Celebrity Chefs, and the Best of Cayman’s Culinary Talent

The Cayman Islands Tourism Association celebrated its biggest event this past weekend with an entertainment-packed, multi-day Taste of Cayman Food & Drink Festival.

“Taste of Cayman has exceeded our expectations to provide an unparalleled, world-class experience for food and music enthusiasts alike,” Jay Ehrhart, Executive Director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) said. “The seamless organisation, top-notch production quality, and vibrant atmosphere all contributed to making the event a resounding success that only goes to strengthen Taste of Cayman’s reputation as one of the Caribbean’s premier cultural events.”

Presented in partnership with Dart, the festival opened on Friday, 12 April at the Festival Green in Camana Bay with a concert featuring multi-award-winning musical group Black Eyed Peas. Opening for the group were local artists, neo-soul singer Dan Ebanks, cover band The Neverines, and DJ RKM.

The Taste of Cayman Food & Drink Festival followed on Saturday, 13 April with a full evening of culinary experiences with celebrity guest chefs, culture displays, and musical performances by Cayman’s Swanky Kitchen Band, DJ Urusai & Billy Corduroy, Rico Rolando, and DJ Mat Banx.

Over 30 of Cayman’s restaurants and bars participated in the festival, underscoring the Cayman Islands’ designation as the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean. Participating restaurants competed in ‘Best of’ competition categories judged by a panel of experts with Steak Social and Cayman Cabana tying in the Best Food category and Caybrew winning Best Drink for its newly launched Hopnosis IPA.

The Westin Beach House Restaurant was voted The People’s Choice Best Restaurant, and Best Booth went to Volcan Tequila.

The Bon Vivant Demo Stage featured a mix of culinary demonstrations and competitions hosting two New York City celebrity guest chefs with the support of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.

Couture Cake Chef-Owner, Ron Ben-Israel led a kids’ mini cake tower demonstration alongside local chefs Maureen Cubbon and Paula Stonga. Restauranteur and author Chef Mark Strausman went head-to-head with local culinary star Chef Diego Smith for a local ingredient, comfort food cook-off featuring oxtail.

Other Demo Stage events included a local produce demo by Chef Maureen and Beacon Farms during which they discussed Cayman’s growing local agriculture and produce industry. Matt Majik of Backroom Bar took first place in the Mixology Competition sponsored by Cayman Spirits’ Offshore Gin.

The All Things Cayman area sponsored by the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Heritage, showcased Cayman’s culture and heritage through local artisans, music and dance performances, and local food samples from community chefs.

Performers included Cayman Youth Choir, Cayman Islands Folk Singers, Radiance Dance Studio, and Marie Martin Primary School. The Cayman Islands Traditional Arts Council provided demonstrations of conch shell blowing, thatch rope making, and old-time fun and games like ‘Waurie’ and gigs, and ‘Sojah’ Crab races. The Cayman Catboat Club showed people how to make catboat replicas using coconut husks, and East End Artisans taught the art of thatch plaits and turtle net making.

Guest judges Mr. Alvin McLaughlin, Chef Mark Lea from the Governor’s House, and The Honorable, Minister Isaac Rankine awarded Elizabeth Larsen best Cayman Heavy Cake in the All Things Cayman Community Chefs competition, with James Ebanks awarded Best Cayman-style Beef.

The Taste of Cayman festival weekend continued on Sunday, 14 April with a family-style brunch at Saltwater Grill led by visiting celebrity Chefs Ron Ben-Israel and Mark Strausman.

Sunday brunch’s menu included home-made bagels and beet-root ‘love buns’, potato fritters, avocado toast, eggs benedict, blackberry topped blinis, and desserts – Key Lime Tart, and ‘Death by Chocolate’ chocolate pudding. Specialty cocktails and prosecco were provided by Tortuga.


‘Best of’ Competition:

  • Best Food (tie) – Steak Social, Pulled Pork Sliders; Cayman Cabana, Lobster Lollipops
  • Best Local Dish – Murph’s Kitchen, Fish ‘n Fritters
  • Best Dessert – ChickN’Go, Sweet Plantain Rolls
  • Best Drink – Caybrew, Hopnosis West Coast Style IPA
  • Best Booth – Volcan Tequila

The People’s Choice, Best Restaurant, voted by attendees via the Good Taste app:

  • 1st Place – The Westin Beach House Restaurant
  • 2nd Place – Pane & Pasta
  • 3rd Place – Chick N’Go

Mixology Competition sponsored by Cayman Spirits’ Offshore Gin:

  • 1st Place – Matt Majik, Backroom Bar
  • 2nd Place – Kat Turley, The Wine Emporium/Le Petit Bar
  • 3rd Place – Eduard Parasca, Tillie’s

Community Chefs Cayman Heavy Cake:

  • 1st Place – Elizabeth Larsen
  • 2nd Place (tie) – Phonecia Fraser, Anola Smith, Jodianne Jackson
  • 3rd Place – Sheron Campbell

Community Chefs Cayman Style Beef:

  • 1st Place – James Ebanks
  • 2nd Place (tie) – Mia Schvartz, Phonecia Fraser
  • 3rd Place – Anola Smith