For Executive Chef Steve Griffon of the Marriott Beach House, the concept of farm to table has been an intrinsic element of his entire culinary career. Griffon grew up on a farm in a small village in France, where his family grew barley, corn, tomatoes and a variety of other produce. That harmony with nature, seasons and an awareness of food is translated into each menu, celebrating both farm and sea to table. Griffon notes that diners are increasingly seeking more connection in their meals.
“The guests want to eat more locally, with more consciousness in what they eat. People are looking more after their health, and also to add some great, quality product.” At the Beach House’s Veranda, “Fresh Fish, Simply Done” is more than an ethos. Local ingredients are celebrated and presented in simplicity to let the freshness of the ingredients truly shine. In one of Veranda’s most beloved dishes, the seafood bouillabaisse, a beautiful broth is paired with locally sourced, flavourful marine morsels, including mussels, scallops and lobster.
For Griffon, maintaining a connection to the elements and the Island’s culinary community is essential to the team’s vision and a thoughtful execution of dishes. “It’s something that I always aspire to do in my job. It’s something that keeps you aware and grounded when you create these things.”
Caymanian diners also have the opportunity to help protect the region’s reefs by consuming species that pose a threat to their livelihood. Native to the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, lionfish began appearing in the South Atlantic in the 1980s — most likely due to aquarium species being released into the wild — and have reached alarming numbers in the Caribbean over the past decade. With few predators and an appetite for over 50 species of fish found in Caribbean waters, including those which help maintain the health of corals, the lionfish has proven to be an ever-increasing challenge.
It turns out, however, that they are also quite delicious; and Island restaurants have endeavoured to make the most out of a potential ecological peril by elevating it to a local culinary offering.
At Guy Harvey’s Island Grill, the fan-finned fish are sauteed in a home-made blackened spice mix, or served up tempura style and paired with stir-fried veggies. The menu also showcases local species like wahoo and mahi-mahi, all whilst implementing sustainable initiatives and supporting Dr. Harvey’s work through the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.
And as diners continue to approach cuisine with a heart for authenticity and exploration, insight into the origins of ingredients truly brings the whole meal together. At Cayman Cabana in George Town, their team joyfully celebrates what they call “locavore.” Owned by Luigi and Christina Moxam, Cayman Cabana works with island-based farmers and the Caymanian fishing community to source as many local ingredients as possible.
Says Christina, “Mine and Luigi’s mantra was always to support local community first. That we have healthy, beautiful, natural foods, and that we are mindful of our footprint.”
Diners can dive in to signature dishes like their whole snapper with escovitch, choose their own fish at the neighbouring market or even bring their own fresh catch to be prepared by the restaurant’s chefs. Pair that with vegetables delivered from the farm that day, and it’s a meal full of flavour, freshness and soulful nourishment, as well.
Cayman Cabana also hosts a weekly farm-to-table dining experience, where guests are treated to a specially curated four-course meal of seasonal dishes. Each meal is prefaced by a welcome from the Moxams and a brief word of thanks to their guests for supporting the local community and culinary and environmental sustainability.
Christina continues, “It’s an exciting time for us to be alive. We are truly the generation that is going to change the way the world looks at food. These choices are so important, to make sure that the food choices we make in life are not only fostering great health, but great global health and happiness.”
This connection to the natural world is surely a part of island rhythm. Says Guy Jackson, co-owner and manager at Da Fish Shack, “When you see the fishermen eating on the bar stuff that they’ve brought, I think that’s a pretty good barometer of quality and where it comes from.”
Local merchants also provide Jackson’s team with scotch bonnet peppers, breadfruit, homemade hot sauce and a wide variety of vegetables. These jewels from the tropics are celebrated in dishes like the plantain-crusted mahi, recently introduced to their menu.
In addition to featuring local produce, Jackson notes the value of incorporating mindfulness into all aspects of one’s operations. “Particularly on a small island, the little things make a huge difference. We have one of the best opportunities to prove sustainability. I think particularly when you’re sitting on the water, eating a fish, there’s something about that. It almost lends a responsibility to it.”
It’s that poignant experience of nourishment from one’s surroundings whilst being immersed in its beauty that certainly inspires a soulful reflection. In Cayman, sea-to-table cuisine is both an inspired celebration and a call to steward the sea.
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Author: Jessie Gilmartin