The 29th annual Taste of Cayman Food and Drink Festival saw record numbers attend the event, which was held at the Festival Green, Camana Bay on Saturday January 28th.
Over 5,000 people attended the festival and sampled food and drink from restaurants and bars from across the island, who served from around 40 individually decorated booths around the Festival Green. As well as tasting the best dishes and drinks Cayman has to offer, guests also enjoyed live entertainment, an air-conditioned Camana Bay VIP Hospitality Tent, exclusive culinary experiences and demonstrations, and the Camana Bay Kids Corner.
Festival goers were asked to vote for their favourite vendor to win the coveted title of Cayman’s Favourite Restaurant. For the second year in a row, this award was won by Seven at The Ritz Carlton, who served up their ‘C4 Sundae’; a warm brownie with chocolate fudge sauce, smoked Cayman sea salt and molten chocolate ice-cream.
“We would like to congratulate Seven at The Ritz Carlton on winning Cayman’s Favourite Restaurant 2017 at this year’s Taste of Cayman. There were so many incredible dishes and drinks on offer, including from lots of new vendors, so it’s a great achievement to be voted winner of the people’s choice, not once, but twice in a row.” Tiffany Dixon-Ebanks, Executive Director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) said.
The event saw the return of crowd favourites, including the annual Heavy Cake competition. Eight competitors submitted their heavy cake creations to a panel of judges. Tara Creary won the competition, with Elizabeth Larsen and Kayla Thompson coming in second and third place respectfully. Once the judging was complete, the traditional cakes were shared with festival attendees.
For the first time, the Seven Fathoms Rum Challenge featured international competitors. Winning contestants from preliminary international rounds in New York, Miami and Chicago joined the five preliminary winners from Cayman to compete for Mixologist of the Year. Valerie Balignasay of The Westin and Micah Jensen of Kimpton Seafire made it to the final round, along with Sabrina Kudic of Trench Bar, Chicago, who eventually claimed the title of Taste of Cayman Mixologist of the Year 2017.
Mr. Joey Hew, Councillor for the Ministry of Tourism, Transport and District Administration and Chef Maureen Cubbon, took the title in the Amateur Chef Cook Off against Theresa Broderick, Vice President of CITA and Chef Jolene Nelson, after creating a sweet and spicy soft chicken taco using the mystery ingredient of Best Dressed Chicken. The winner of the Gimistory Fish Fry, Georganne Rankine had her own booth at the event and proved extremely popular with festival goers.
The night was filled with entertainment, including performances by local band Seven Miles Long, as well as live sets from international David Bowie, Paul McCarthy, Madonna and Lady Gaga tribute acts and a large fireworks show.
The new Experience Room brought guests together for more imitate taste experiences, whilst the Camana Bay Kid’s Corner catered for the younger attendees, with screenings of the movie Ratatouille, face painting and games. VIPs were treated to express entry and access to the air-conditioned Camana Bay VIP Hospitality Tent with a private DJ and bar.
The night was special for The Brasserie Chef, Thomas Tennant and his girlfriend, Chelsea Smith, who, after cooking together on the demonstration stage and a surprise flashmob, were engaged at the festival. The two had met at Taste of Cayman four years ago.
"We are extremely excited about the large crowds who joined us at Taste of Cayman Food & Drink Festival this year. It's great seeing everyone enjoying the delicious food and drinks, dancing to the live music and all the other exciting new elements the night had to offer," Ms. Dixon-Ebanks said.
"I would like to thank the amazing volunteers who made Taste of Cayman such a success. This year, we had over 200 dedicated volunteers who donated their time and efforts to help ensure the event ran smoothly.
"Taste has become an amazing place for us not only to showcase the best restaurants Cayman has to offer, but as an embodiment of the island’s culture as well. We are happy that everyone had such fun at the festival and we are appreciative of the support we received from all of our sponsors, without whom, the festival could not be possible,” Ms Dixon-Ebanks said.
The announcement of the ‘Best Of’ and raffle prize winners will take place this week.