What's Cookin' Cayman - Cayman's Best Chefs 2017


Candid Q&A's from Cayman's most 'colourful' chefs


Chef Michael Leonhardt
The Bistro Head Chef

What was the first dish you learned to cook?
Italian meatballs


At what age did you know you wanted to be a professional Chef?
When I was in the 8th grade, (13 years old), there was a new girl in the class. Usually, I signed up for football each year as my extra activity but I wanted to try and spend more time with this girl, so I followed her to cooking instead. The first few classes did not go well. My mom was very surprised that I was taking cooking as an elective. At home, to earn pocket money, we helped out with chores. My family was making buns so I worked all week on these buns at home. When I returned to my cooking class, I presented the best buns. A week later, I started dating the girl I liked.

What three pieces of kitchen equipment can a Top Chef not do without?
Pepper grinder, tweezers, blender

Who or what inspires your cooking?
Nature and the seasons, even the palm trees inspire my cooking here.

What tips would you offer someone learning to cook?
Don’t be afraid, try to understand the process of cooking, and most importantly, have fun!

What is the most overrated ingredient?
Beef Tenderloin.


What locally grown produce do you like to use most in your cooking?
Watermelon – along with the wonderful flavor in eating it fresh, I like to grill it and pickle it.


Name two foods you hate?
Surstromming – fermented sea herring. It’s the only food I hate.

What’s your favourite local fish and how do you like it prepared?
Lionfish – I like the challenge involved in working with it. I recently created a fresh ceviche from it and also poached it.




Chef Roman Kleinrath
Head Chef at LUCA

What was the first dish you learned to cook?
Schnitzel & potato salad.

What three pieces of kitchen equipment can a Top Chef not do without?
Sharp knife, hot pot, pencil because we do a list for everything!

What famous dish is unique to your hometown or country?
'Nougat Topfen Knoedel' - it is a cube of nougat (chocolate and hazelnut) stuffed inside a curd lemon dough, than formed into a dumpling, after steaming it for a couple of minutes, its rolled in cracker crumbs.

What is the most overrated ingredient?
Shark fin.

If you had your own cooking show, what would you call it?
The Heat Is On.

What’s the best meal you have ever eaten and who cooked it?
My grand fathers rabbit with homemade cowberry jam.

What locally grown produce do you like to use most in your cooking?
Local tomato, cucumber, seasoning pepper, scotch bonnet.

Name two foods you hate?

Lavender and bitter melon.

At what age did you know you wanted to be a Professional Chef?
Since I was 10 years old. I never wanted to be anything else.




Chef Carlos Contreras
Head of Culinary Services at HHG/Margaritaville

What was the first dish you learned to cook?
Chicken Fricassee.

At what age did you know you wanted to be a Professional Chef?
11 years old.

What three pieces of kitchen equipment can a Top Chef not do without?
Knife, a good oven and clean burners.

What famous dish is unique to your hometown or country?
In Spain 'Paellas' and Colombia the 'Tamales'.

If you had your own cooking show, what would you call it?
Cooking with Logic.

More and more diners seem to have a food allergies, how has this impacted your cooking style?
I think we should be aware of the advances in medicine and is very important to be part of the evolution, I enjoy helping customers in all their needs and limitations, I think it is my responsibility and is part of love and passion for my profession.

Name two foods you hate?
Escargots and insects.

What’s your favourite local fish and how do you like it prepared?
Red Snapper, wrapped in plantain leaves.




Chefs Gippy & Jeson
Head Chefs at Peppers Bar & Grill

Who or what inspires your cooking?
Jeson: My grandmother was a very good cook. Her food was delicious and she was really interested in food, the taste of it and how to cook it.

What locally grown produce do you like to use most in your cooking?
Gippy: Scallions, thyme, pimento and hot peppers.
Jeson: Pimento, scotch bonnet peppers, scallions, thyme, onions and garlic. Garlic is a very important in Jamaican cooking.

If you had your own cooking show, what would you call it?
Jeson: Don’t Jest with Jeson!
Gippy: Gippy's Taste!

If your son wanted to be a chef what advice would you give him?
Gippy: I would happily teach him to cook everything I know!

In your opinion, what’s the next big culinary trend?
Jeson: Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork!

What’s the best meal you have ever eaten and who cooked it?
Gippy: My Grandmother’s cowfoot! She was a wonderful cook, and she told me cowfoot was good for my joints!

What’s your favourite local fish and how do you like it prepared?
Gippy: Snapper and I love it cooked as a brown stew.
Jeson: Pan fried snapper which is then steamed with ochre, carrots, scallions, thyme, onions, potato, salt, pepper and a little garlic.

What dish is unique to your country?
Jeson: Ackee and saltfish. It’s the national dish of Jamaica.
Gippy: Oxtail! Jamaican's love their oxtail!


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