Chef Will O’hara – Celebrating farm-to-table dining

Celebrating its seventh anniversary, Abacus in Camana Bay is breezing past the seven-year itch with a renewed focus on farm-to-table cuisine, thanks to newly installed head chef, Will O’Hara.

A farm-to-table stalwart, Will is helping Abacus’s co-owners, Markus Mueri and Neil Bryington, renew their commitment to maximizing the use of locally sourced ingredients with a fresh new menu featuring customer favorites coupled with new locally inspired dishes.

Thanks to his locavore commitment, chef Will has become a popular face at the weekly Farmers and Artisans Market held every Wednesday right outside his restaurant, as well as at the newly opened Market at Cricket Grounds. He has forged close working relationships with many of Cayman’s most established farmers, including Hamlin Stephenson, Patrick Panton, and Clarence McLaughlin, as well as fisherman Ferris Ebanks, ensuring only the best and freshest ingredients make it on to customers’ plates.

“My love of food began in the garden, so it’s natural that I then chose to focus on the use of local ingredients wherever possible,” Will says. “I regularly call all the farmers up to see what they’ll have at the market so I can prepare the menu.”

Favorite dishes

Customer favorites include oxtail spring rolls and Abacus’s famed prime rib. Additional menu standouts include the daily changing stir-fry, seafood risotto filled with the best catch of the day, lobster bisque, and Cayman citrus pot de crème – a riff on a traditional English dessert made with local Cayman key limes and served with a spiced mixed-berry compote.

There’s also the “By Land and By Sea” menu, which accommodates vegetarians with options such as the pumpkin risotto, flavorful chickpea fritters, and the sweetcorn chowder, which adds a perfect and unexpected flavor twist with the addition of a touch of local Scotch bonnet.

Chefs favorite dish?

“When in season you cannot beat Cayman’s local fresh tomatoes,” Will says. “They’re on another level. So, something as simple as a Caprese salad with local tomatoes, Cayman sea salt, a good olive oil and some mozzarella and fresh local basil. It’s very simple, but with a few ingredients, something can taste so delicious.”

Supporting local

Abacus was the first restaurant to open in Camana Bay and has remained a popular dining destination with residents and visitors alike.

“People come back time and time again not only for the food and drink but also for the experiences they share at Abacus,” co-owner Markus says. “You don’t last this many years in the restaurant industry without creating an environment in which people feel welcome and feel like they can truly relax and enjoy time with those they care about.”
Not only is Abacus passionate about Cayman’s farm-to-table movement, but they are also devoted to the future of Cayman’s ever-growing hospitality industry.

Markus is a member of the founding board of directors for the School of Hospitality Studies. Indeed, to further its commitment, Abacus hired its first graduate of the school, Addie Christian, in August 2015.

“I want to make farm-to-table cuisine accessible to everyone,” Will adds. “It’s obviously important to support the local farmers and I think more people need to start using local produce, not only to support the farmers, but for their own health benefits. It’s all round better for you. Reducing packaging, promoting environmental sustainability, there are multiple benefits to eating something that was grown down the road from you rather than imported.”

He adds: “I’m quite happy for the restaurant to say we are out of a dish because we don’t have the local ingredients. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think guests appreciate that you’re truly using local produce.”