Chef Steve Griffon brings a fresh global flair to the Grand Cayman restaurant scene. (Photos: Laura Skec)
The allure of bright sun, white sandy beaches and vibrant coral reefs is enough to bring visitors to the biggest island in the Cayman Islands: Grand Cayman. For Steve Griffon, executive chef of Anchor & Den at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort and its outdoor beach grill, Veranda on Seven Mile Beach, it goes beyond the natural beauty.
Griffon, a native of a small village in France, spent hours in the kitchen with his mom as a child, experimenting with local vegetables and meat from their own farm. He found his love of cooking from making pastries in his home kitchen with freshly laid eggs and a bounty of local fruit.
These fond memories translated into a career path as he enrolled in culinary school in France. He graduated and went to work for chef Paul Bocuse at Disney World before traveling the world and ending up in Grand Cayman, where he worked for various resorts before landing at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, also known as the Beach House, where he’s remained.
The restaurants at the Beach House, particularly Anchor & Den, have become a destination for travelers and locals alike for their inventive themed dinners like a Catalonian tapas night with flamenco music and a dark night gathering with apothecary-style cocktails and holistic bites. The restaurant even has an on-site chocolatier.
Griffon talks with Marriott TRAVELER about his love of local ingredients, where he finds inspiration and why Grand Cayman has, arguably, the best service anywhere.
Tell us about your inspiration for the restaurant.
We have a team of 60 chefs from around the world. I get inspiration from them — especially for Sunday brunch, where we try to represent dishes from a variety of different countries. It makes it more interesting for the guests. On our tapas night we have a chef from Spain interacting with our guests and carving jamon Iberico. I change the menu weekly, and we use locally sourced vegetables and fish to make sure we are supporting the farming on the island.
Local ingredients are very important to you. How do you decide what to source locally?
When we can get the local ingredient, it’s a big impact on the guest experience. We get tomatoes eight months of the year — cherry, plum and larger tomatoes. I include them in many dishes — for salad, gnocchi and shrimp pasta, as a few examples. Eighty percent of our tomatoes are locally sourced. Cucumbers and mangoes are others we often get locally. All the mangoes come at once (between May and August). We buy as much as we can and make a coulis and cut it in slices for a mango dessert. We vacuum seal and freeze it, and we can use it all year round. We often buy out tomatoes at the end of the season, as well and do tomato jam and chutney, and we can use it for the rest of the season. Local seafood, as well — tuna, snapper, grouper, black snapper — we can get about half of what we need locally; the rest we source from Miami.
How do you incorporate that in your menu?
We go to the farm and check out the farmer. I try to go at least four to five times a year. I sit down with them and set what we can get at what time of year and base the menu on what farmers can produce for me during the season. I focus on quality. I know quality from growing up on a farm and work with the farmer to get the best. It’s my way of living and way of sharing it with the guest. Most of the newer generation can tell the quality of what they get on the plate.
What is your favorite part of living on the island?
It’s a small island, so you get a little bit of fame. Everyone knows you. If I were in a big city, people may not know me, but on a small island everyone knows me. It’s also a super diversified, super cosmopolitan place, with people from all over the world. I love all of the mix of culture that we have in the kitchen. It’s a challenge daily but interesting at the same time; we can all learn from each other.
From a restaurant perspective, what is Grand Cayman doing well? Perhaps better than the rest of the country?
I’d really have to say it comes down to attentive service. People are so nice naturally on the island that it isn’t a struggle. It makes such a big difference for the people who visit here.