Cayman Islands’ Booming Food Scene

With Martha Chapman

Air Canada’s Cynthia Farrell with
Raymond Mathias of the Cayman Islands

Well known décor experts Justin Ryan and Colin McAllister with Laura Johnston of Fathom, Cayman Islands’ PR firm

Mouth-watering ideas

Some of the well-heeled crowd

It seemed that anyone who was  anyone was at Luxe Appliance Studio in Toronto last week. 

From aging hipsters to ultra-cool millennials, the smart set chowed down on smoked salmon and picture-perfect fruit platters, surrounded by a half-a-million dollars or so of envy-inducing kitchen appliances.

The reason for the soiree?  To celebrate Canada’s 100 Best magazine’s Cooking Issue, full of holiday season recipes and top Canadian chef interviews. Why was I there? 

To learn about the Cayman Islands, of course!

Now the last time I looked, the Caymans were in the Caribbean. So what’s the connection between a glossy Canadian foodie mag and that little trio of islands?

My host for the evening was the genial Raymond Mathias, recently named Business Development Manager for the Cayman Islands’ Department of Tourism here in  Canada. “We’re known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean,” he explained to me, “And this is a perfect audience for us: Canadians who love great food and wine.”

The current issue of the magazine features a four-page spread on the Islands, written by editor and famous foodie Jacob Richler. With over 200 restaurants and a population of just 60,000, it’s never a question of “Where shall we eat tonight, honey?” And because the three islands don’t have any all-inclusive resorts, visitors inevitably sample the diverse local food scene.

This is a destination known for sticker-shock pricing - the Caymanian dollar is permanently fixed at US$1.25 - which can discourage first timers, but Mathias assured me that once agents convince clients to try the islands, they can’t wait to come back for more. Suggest off-season travel, or condominium accommodation – which is commissionable.

Some 23,000 Canadians visit the island each year, taking advantage of four hour non-stop flights with AC and WS. And the number grows each year.

While there are some of the finest restaurants in the Caribbean, including the swanky Blue by Michelin-starred chef Eric Ripert at the Ritz Carlton, there are affordable options such as the funky Royal Palms for an idyllic burger: crank up the tunes and tuck your toes in the sand!

“We’re a great quality destination, safe, tranquil – and we have one of the highest repeat factors in the business,” Mathias told me.

 As one who once vacationed on sleepy Cayman Brac, where a guy cycling by our rental house was late-breaking news, I can testify that this is a destination where the stress just slides off you.  Try putting a price on that!

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