Sunday’s Moët & Chandon Champagne Brunch was perhaps one of the loveliest events of the Cayman Cookout. Closing a weekend of spectacular parties, demos, and tastings, the brunch always sells out, offering the opportunity to gorge on luxury items like caviar and made-to-order blinis, a fully-stocked seafood cold bar, sushi and dim sum, and a bevy of other brunch items from greens to tartare. While inhaling the best food and champagne available, guests are treated to a live culinary competition judged by a panel of celebrity chefs, food and wine experts, and this year, at least, local government officials.
Seated at the judges table, as every year, chefs Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain, and Jose Andres were joined this round by Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin and Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor. Chef competitors Maureen Cubbon – or “Mo”, as her fans chanted from the floor – and Eric St. Cyr, who had completed preliminary competition rounds in order to advance to the finals, took their spots on stage with chef Richard Blais emceeing the cooking frenzy. With a timer set (half hour? hour? I was eating, not looking at the clock) Cubbon and St. Cyr worked furiously with a staff of assistants to create a main dish. For some added fire, they were each asked to create a cocktail to pair with their dish as well, while nearly 500 brunch visitors snapped photos, chatted with their favorite chefs, and loaded up their plates. The lighthearted atmosphere of the room only brought more fun to the forefront.
Upon the announcement of the winner, Ripert, Bourdain, and Andres took to sabering a few champagne bottles, showering the stage and the crowd with the finest bubbly around. In the end, it was Eric St. Cyr who stole the show, securing himself the win, along with an invite to attend this spring’s Food & Wine Best New Chefs event in New York City. But we were all winners that weekend… (cue sappy music and cliches)
I heart you, Cayman Cookout!
Don’t miss all the Daily Blender coverage of the 2012 Cayman Cookout! Check out day one and two here and here, respectively. Stay tuned, as I’ll have a quick Q&A with Certified Angus Beef corporate chef Scott Popovic coming up at the end of January, along with my exclusive interview with chef Jose Andres (on the move, no doubt!) posting in early February.
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender
**What can I say? I heart the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and the staff at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman as well. Thank you so very much for inviting me to cover this fantastic event for a second time.