In Profile: Chef Clare Smyth

Earlier this year, Cayman welcomed a very special culinary guest: the UK’s most acclaimed female chef, Clare Smyth MBE.

The first British woman to hold and retain three Michelin stars, Clare was Chef Patron at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay from 2012-16. As part of Slow Food Day 2017, she touched down in the Cayman Islands for 10 days to create a series of bespoke dining experiences celebrating the distinct flavors of the Caribbean. A particular highlight was the Harvest Dinner she co-created with Abacus’ Head Chef Will O’Hara, a farm-to-table feast that paid tribute to Cayman’s locally grown ingredients. She also joined forces with the talented culinary team of the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa for an exclusive dining experience in the hotel’s Presidential Suite. Next, Clare is ready to strike out on her own with a signature restaurant opening in London later this year.

What does Slow Food mean to you? I think that it is a great movement in the food community and gives a platform to discuss important issues.

Professional kitchens are traditionally very male dominated – have you encountered many challenges being a female chef? I didn’t really find any challenges because I was a woman, I just got on with the job. It is true that there are more women coming through now, which is a great thing.

What has the highlight(s) of your Cayman stay been so far? The welcome that I have received from everyone – I felt at home right away. I was pleasantly surprised about the standard of the food everywhere I went and how passionate people are about food.

What were your favorite local ingredients? I discovered many; the leafy produce such as purslane and rocket was outstanding. But if I really had to choose ones to mention in particular, the tomatoes, goat and smoked fish are all outstanding.

Please could you explain the concept behind your menu at the Harvest Dinner? We really wanted to showcase the ingredients in their natural form as much as we could and that is where the edible garden idea came from. When you have ingredients as good as this to work with, you just need to let the flavours shine.

How much had you tried and experimented with Caribbean food in your cooking in the past? Actually very little…But I have enjoyed the food immensely since I have been here.

How did you design the Presidential Suite dinner at the Kimpton Seafire? It was all about luxury and exclusivity for this dinner. It was an incredible setting and something rare to experience so we used some very special ingredients and wines for this one!

Did you get the chance to sample any other local restaurants and, if so, what stood out? I had some great experiences (and all for very different reasons) at Blue by Eric Ripert, Calypso Grill and Peppers!

What culinary inspiration will you take away from your Cayman encounter? It reinforced how much people make for a great dining experience – Cayman is an exceptional place.