Chefs on Island Time: Working in the Cayman Culinary Scene

March 2014

You’ve seen the job postings: chef wanted, tropical climate, island hours, exotic product, steady stream of wealthy travelers. We asked some of the chefs who participate in this year's Taste of Cayman Food & Wine Festival what they love most about cooking on the island, along with some of their biggest challenges.

Mike Fishcetti of Ortanique
via Miami, Florida
The best part of being a chef on this island is that there is a huge culinary community here and some great chefs; also the local produce and local fish are amazingly fresh! The worst part is you’re on an island, so certain things that don’t grow here can be a pain to source. If it misses the boat, then as they say here in Cayman “soon come” … which means two weeks.

Kapila Kodituwakku of Rum Point Club
via Sri Lanka
Clearly the best part of working on Grand Cayman, is that we work on Grand Cayman. It is a beautiful place, especially at Rum Point, where I work. My job offers me a lot of challenges, as we have an incredibly busy beach bar and grill during the day, and a finer dining venue at night, as well as many beach banquets and buffets. The food selections are radically different, each requiring their own unique styles, products and presentations.

The biggest challenge is also the best part! Cayman is very expensive, most items need to be imported, the work ethic can sometimes be ... well, shall we say, challenging? And, as mentioned, at Rum Point we offer radically different styles of fare, which requires lots of creative comparison pricing.

Joe Mizzoni of Brasserie
via Miami, Florida
The Brasserie is a special place. We have our own garden, fishing boats, and a beautiful state-of-the-art kitchen. With that said, it comes with a giant work load that really never stops. I’ve had the privilege to work with ultra-fresh product—25 minutes out of the ocean, or just harvested out of the ground. I’ve created relationships with many of the local farmers and fishermen, and I try to support them as much as possible. The hardest thing to deal with is [imported product]. I’m so used to having everything at my fingertips year round in the States. I use as much Cayman local products as possible, so I have to think out of my comfort zone to come up with new ideas with the minimal product that is found on the island. In the long run, it will help me tremendously in my growth as a chef by expanding my knowledge and technique with things I may have never had the chance to experience. I’ve been here for almost one year, so this coming year I know what to expect from the island, and I am excited to see how I put my last year’s lessons to use. 

Steve Shienfield of Mizu Asian Bistro
via Toronto, Canada
Being a Chef in Cayman is one of the best experiences. With so many different cultures living here, we get to experience food from around the globe. All the chefs working in the different kitchens bring their own twist and flair to the food that they prepare. The biggest challenge here has to be the fact that we live on an island where everything is brought in. This makes food cost a challenge, as we want to make sure guests get reasonably priced meals. The other part is that when boats are late due to unforeseen circumstances, we can run out of things. Not just us as restaurants, but suppliers too. It can be a challenge to explain to guests that we may be out of ingredients.  

Thomas Tennant of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
via Miami
The best part of being a chef on Cayman are the connections you make with everyone. The best ones are oftentimes with those from whom purchase food—the farmers who put in the countless hours of work, the fishermen who catch the freshest fish, and the guests who give you feedback to improve every day. The biggest challenge is the limitations on some ingredients that a chef might have to work with. Not everything can be brought on island the way you want it, and sometime the weather can be your enemy.