Interview with Chef Dylan Benoit

Dylan-Benoit-2.png

Chef Dylan Benoit is the host of the hit television show Fire Masters on Food Network Canada and Cooking Channel in the United States. He is the owner of Grand Cayman's Prime Kitchen, a premier private chef, catering and food tour company, Carnivore, Cayman’s only bespoke butcher shop located in Camana Bay and co-owner of San Si Wu Noodle Co., in George Town. Born and raised in Canada, Dylan fell in love with the Cayman Islands in 2010 and now makes it his permanent home.
 
The Cayman Islands is well-known as the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean. If you had to describe the Caymanian food scene in 5 words, what would it be?
It’s difficult to distill Cayman’s food scene into 5 words, and although a few of these are contradictory, I feel the best words would be diverse, local, international and continuously evolving.
 
What impresses you the most about the fare in Cayman?
I’m always impressed by the variety and evolution of the food scene in Cayman, and we have always had amazing chefs here. But every year even better chefs and better restaurants come to the island, which has propelled us to the forefront of cuisine in the Caribbean.
 
What would surprise people about the food scene in Cayman?
Visitors who come to Cayman for the first time are often surprised by the quality and consistency of the food as well as the level of service in Cayman. It’s head and shoulders above other places that they’ve travelled to in the Caribbean.   
 
Where is your favourite place to eat?
That is an impossible question to answer! But a few top spots are the chef’s counter at Avecita at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa; the wine room/wine bar at Grand Old House; seaside at Heritage Kitchen (make sure to order the fish ‘Cayman style’) and a slew of other “off the beaten path” local restaurants.
 
Where can you find the best cocktail?
Backroom is a personal favourite. There is nothing better than a cocktail and a cigar at the end of a long week. 
 
What’s the hidden gem?
You’d have to join me for a food tour to find out, I can’t give away all my secret spots!
 
What are people’s reactions when you take them on a food tour for the first time?
I love giving food tours because I get to support independent micro-restaurants and introduce people to the tucked-away shops making honest, good quality food with no frills and big flavours. It’s really the true taste of Cayman. The response from guests is always the same; “This place is awesome, and we would never have ended up here but so glad we did!” 
 
Is there one thing you want people to take away from the Cayman Islands?
I want them to know that Cayman has so much more to offer than just white sand beaches and Stingray City. Those things are truly incredible, but Cayman is a multi-dimensional destination where you can relax and explore but also experience unique and memorable culinary offerings and events that will be as much a part of your vacation as the excursions.
 
Is there a special place on the island that people should not miss?
As cliche as it sounds, Stingray City truly is such a unique and incredible experience. I’m not aware of any other place in the world where you can interact directly with rays in their natural habitat like you can here. Also, the scuba diving here is incredible, highly recommended.  
 
What distinguishes the Cayman Islands from other Caribbean destinations?
Cayman is unique geographically, culturally, and culinarily. I’ve travelled extensively throughout the Caribbean and eaten some incredible food, but the offerings available in Cayman are second to none.
 
People say that Cayman is a farm/sea to table destination. Is this true?
The farm to table / sea to table movement is alive and well in Cayman and it keeps getting better year after year. Growing anything in the Cayman Islands is challenging at the best of times due to the quality of the soil, the relentless sun and sea air, but our farmers are strong and resilient and keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible to not only bring fresh local produce and products, but also decrease our collective reliability on imported food.
 
If you could only eat one thing found in Cayman for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s easy, braised oxtail! There’s one local joint that prepares the best oxtail with rice and peas I’ve ever had, period. The meat is tender, the gravy is rich and flavorful… It’s just perfect. And as much as I love to support small businesses, I’m not going tell you where it is, but if you come on a food tour it’s almost guaranteed I’ll take you there!