Educating Cayman’s residents on how to live a healthy lifestyle and sharing her passion for food has been the focus of wellness expert and talented chef Maureen Cubbon for the past few years.
A founder of Bestlife, a dedicated wellness solutions company, Cubbon is an active participant in Cayman’s farm-to-table scene where she actively encourages people to make healthy choices whilst having fun cooking and creating new dishes.
Cayman Airways Skies caught up with Cubbon to talk about what she hopes for the future of youth food education and more.
How did you get into the culinary scene?
I have always had a great passion for food. I initially arrived in Cayman in December 1995 and worked in the food and beverage industry. I later returned in 2002, working at Progressive Distributors, and really got to keep my finger on the culinary pulse here. Eventually, I moved into the health and wellness aspect of business, opening up Bestlife, a wellness company that focuses on a holistic approach to overall wellness with an emphasis on food education. Through this I got to work with the great team at Bon Vivant and from there things really started moving.
After winning the Amateur Chef Competition during Cayman Cookout in 2014, I was so inspired. I mean, how could I not be? My 11-year-old sous chef and I got to cook for Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, José Andrés and the Governor — and we won. Since then, Bestlife has really taken things up a notch offering several workshops, classes for all ages and sharing our deep passion for the world of food.
What are some of the programmes you are currently involved in?
I am lucky to have such a great partnership with Bon Vivant and to cook in that amazing culinary studio. We do many classes including for kids, tweens, adults, happy hours, healthy cooking workshops and team building events like “Chopped” challenges.
Since becoming the Food Revolution Ambassador for Cayman a few years ago, I also lead a programme called Seed2Plate, which is in partnership with the YMCA and Slow Food South Sound.
We run this after-school programme throughout the school year where we teach children about the source of food and how to make delicious and easy foods. This programme is just so inspiring and where my heart is, as I think it is critical for our children to know where their food comes from and gain basic cooking skills.
How have these programmes grown over the last few years?
To be honest, they are accelerating at a pace that I wasn’t expecting. I thought it would take a few years to be in five schools, but we managed to achieve that in less than two years, which I am very grateful to our sponsors for. At this pace, I would hope with the right support we can be in most government schools within the next five years.
Our cooking classes for kids are very popular and I think it would be amazing to have a proper cooking school where we can offer programmes throughout the year and help harness the excitement that young budding chefs have in Cayman.
Why do you feel that it’s important to encourage youngsters to embrace a healthy lifestyle?
Our numbers for childhood obesity in Cayman are dire. The percentage of Cayman students who are overweight is higher than in the U.S., where approximately a third of children are overweight or obese.
As a community, we have a responsibility to make these numbers better — we are free-thinking adults and can make the choices we want, but that is not necessarily the case with kids. They are a product of their environment and influences. If we can teach children about making more healthful choices and show them how it can be fun and tasty to prepare and enjoy food, I think we can really make an impact on our future generations.
What changes have you seen in Cayman’s culinary scene, and do you think these are for the better?
We are so lucky to have hundreds of choices in Cayman. It’s a whole other world from 18 years ago. We can have pretty much any cuisine we desire and there are a lot of passionate restaurant owners and chefs who are really putting their heart and soul into what they create for us to enjoy.
It is wonderful to see how many establishments are embracing the farm-to-table movement, and unlike other islands, I think there is just such a connected culinary community, which is special to be a part of.
Author: Joanna Lewis