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Tennant ready for Cookout's return

Chefs pose for camera
Chef Eric Ripert, left, and Chef Frederic Morineau, Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman executive chef, have been leading characters at the Cayman Cookout. — Photo: Rebecca Davidson

Thomas Tennant has seen the cameras and experienced the crowds. Sharing the limelight with some of the world’s best chefs is exciting and fun, but that’s not what keeps him coming back to participate in Cayman Cookout.

“Spending time with those chefs — any of them — it’s just cool,” said Tennant, who serves as chef at Tomfoodery. “It’s nice to be around a concentration of people who want food and enjoy food and can talk about food. We’ll talk about food, yeah. But then we'll [also] talk about how [life] is and talk about owning a restaurant."

Cayman Cookout is set for 9-15 Jan. at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, making its return after a two-year hiatus to reunite some of the world’s most talented chefs and wine and spirits experts.

Tennant is set to participate in two events this time around, one promoting sustainable reefs by showing revellers how to catch and prepare the invasive lionfish and another focusing on local flavours.

“I actually enjoy what they did. It’s awesome for me,” Tennant said. “My brand is using something that's invasive or sustainable or something that's conscious of the environment.”

Tennant has participated in the lionfish event in the past, which led him to one of his favourite Cayman Cookout memories that also just happened to feature the late Anthony Bourdain.

Tennant was meant to do a demonstration on preparing lionfish with chef José Andrés in front of about 150 people. Andrés, however, was called away to cook for Michelle Obama’s birthday, leaving Tennant without a partner. Bourdain, who was not meant to be working, volunteered to step in.

“Tony had the ability to make you shine as well as himself shine. He brought the audience into it and it was fantastic,” Tennant said.

Bourdain’s presence still felt
Bourdain is synonymous with Cayman Cookout. He was good friends with several participating chefs, including Eric Ripert, who was featured prominently on Bourdain’s television shows.

“He kept up with everybody and he remembered everybody and he was really genuine in that way,” said Melissa Ladley, who helped organise the event. “Everybody who worked with him at Cayman Cookout over the years developed their own relationship [with him].”

Bourdain was an author and published several books, including his bestseller, “Kitchen Confidential." He's known in some circles as much for his storytelling as his cooking. That’s a great trait to have for having some fun at an event like Cayman Cookout and Ladley remembers a trip out to Pedro St. James where Bourdain met more local chefs and farmers.

“He has all of these culinary, heritage dishes and it was great because he spoke to the producers, he spoke with all of the farmers and really made a production out of getting into the stories behind all of the dishes,” she said.


This article was originally published in the December 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

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