Jeff Mauro shares why a Taste of Cayman draws him back for another flavorful experience, interview

Taste of Cayman food festival, Cayman Islands, photo provided by Taste of Cayman
Taste of Cayman food festival, Cayman Islands, photo provided by Taste of Cayman /

Food Network viewers know Jeff Mauro has a co-host of The Kitchen and other food television shows. While the popular podcast host and owner of Mauro Provisions might be known for his craft giardiniera, Italian Beef and sandwiches, the chef and entrepreneur has found an escape from the Windy City that brings him back time and again. During recent chat with Mauro, he shared why Taste of Cayman, a festival celebration of Cayman Islands, showcases the exuberance of the island’s culinary diversity.

While some people dream of relaxing the day at Seven Mile Beach and others prefer to zoom their way across the island on an ATV, the Carribean island nation can be the escape for visitors who want a taste of everything. From the pristine waters where divers encounter the diverse sea life to the exploring the rich history that dates back to Sir Frances Drake, the Carribean destination is more than just gentle waves crashing on the sand. Although relaxation can be found from almost any vista, there is a vibrancy to the locale that comes across with its food and culture.

Although Cayman Islands might not be the Caribbean’s geographically largest nation, the food cuisine is quite diverse. Drawing on its local ingredients, the fresh fish, produce, and spices combine for unique flavors on traditional dishes. On the other hand, the British influence can be seen in the fish and chips options. In a way, it is a celebration of food multiculturalism.

Taste of Cayman food festival on Cayman Islands
Taste of Cayman food festival, Cayman Islands, photo provided by Taste of Cayman /

This year, Jeff Mauro joined many chefs to celebrate a Taste of Cayman. A food and culture festival that began 35 years ago, the multi-day, all ages event showcased the flavor diversity that the island’s food offers. From farm to table chef-driven elegance to bold jerk spices, enjoying all the options takes an almost insatiable appetite.

During a recent conversation with Mauro, he shared that visiting the Cayman Islands has been a longstanding tradition in his family. He said, “it started about 10-11 years ago that I began coming with my family. I had cousins who had been visiting for over three decades. While my family was gassing up the Dodge Caravan to head to the Wisconsin Dells, my cousins went to this exotic place. I couldn’t wait to get there myself. The blue water, palm trees, and delicious food hooked me, and I’ve been coming back ever since.”

Speaking directly to the food options, Mauro said that the breadth and depth of option are impressive. Whether it is the most amazing chicken from a chicken shack or a Michelin-quality dish from a celebrated chef, there are choices at every turn.

Mauro explained that the destination is “proverbial melting pot here of cultures and people. The people who are on this island for generations are just so proud of the Cayman style.” From beef and conch to fish fry and pub food, any food can be found around every corner. Guests just need to embrace that sense of food adventure by getting out and exploring what the island has to offer.

For Mauro, he encourages guests to embrace the possibility. Specifically, he said, “you owe it to yourself to go explore.” Even though that club sandwich at the resort is tasty, there is a restaurant down the road with the best jerk chicken or the crispiest fried fish.

Even if those dishes, flavors, or ingredients might not be exactly what people enjoy at home, each one has something familiar. As Mauro put it, “you can replicate that wholesome, soul food, quality, feeling.” People just have to be open to sit at the table.

Mauro finds the island locale easy to navigate, which makes it fun to explore. Whether it is going to a fish market to purchase a whole fish for dinner or finding that roadside stand with the most flavorful local treat, everyone is open to allowing people the opportunity to join their food feast. There are stories waiting to be told. People just have to be open to listening to them.

During the Taste of Cayman event, Mauro served a jerk chicken at the event. Although the event has passed, everyone can get a taste of something similar in Mauro’s cookbook. It might not exactly be the same as enjoying the dish as the waves crash in the distance, but it could make people long to book that flight to the Cayman Islands.

That connection between food and culture is apparent with food travel. From making a special visit for a food event, like Taste of Cayman, or booking a trip and discovering an adventure on the plate, the reality is that food is that common connector with people. It flavors the memory in a way that other souvenirs may not. In addition, one bite can make all those moments come back to the front of mind.

The next time someone suggests a Carribean getaway, the Taste of Cayman is the event that is the ultimate flavor escape. The water is pristine, the wildlife is exciting, and the food celebrates the country’s diverse culture. The next chapter in the great food adventure is waiting to be written about Cayman Islands.