January 16, 2014 02:45 PM

Courtesy Cayman Cookout

This is not your backyard cookout—unless your backyard happens to be a warm, sandy beach.

The Cayman Cookout, hosted by chef Eric Ripert January 16-19 on Grand Cayman, is for food lovers who like to take their meals surrounded by the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean. (So, basically, everyone!) The festival features food and wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and lots of expertly prepared lunches and dinners. If Ripert’s apricot cream puffs are any indication, we expect everyone to eat very, very well.

But Ripert isn’t doing all the cooking. He invited his fellow superstar chefs like Lidia Bastianich, Rick Bayless, Daniel Boulud and Anthony Bourdain to sharpen their knives and start chopping beachside. They’ll prepare everything from conch ceviche to tagliatelle.

How did he persuade the chefs to leave their busy state-side kitchens?

“Spending time in Cayman in January versus New York makes the decision a little easier!” says the chef of N.Y.C’s Le Bernardin.

Two of the highlights are Barefoot BBQ, where Ripert, Bourdain and Iron Chef‘s José Andrés fire up their grills and prepare meals at the water’s edge as diners romp in the sand, and Burgers in Paradise, where guests head to a nearby beach to snorkel and swim with stingrays then feast in a beef-fest.

Ripert’s favorite event is the farewell dinner at Blue, his seafood restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton. “It’s always very special as all the chefs come together and prepare a course each and get to cook alongside one another.”

If you can’t jump on a plane, oh, right now, do the next best thing: Download a few steel drum mp3’s and try his island-inspired green papaya salad recipe.

Angie Mosier for Avec Eric

Green Papaya Salad

Serves 4

1 large green papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into matchsticks

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 jalapeno, halved, seeded and thinly sliced

¼ cup mint leaves, chopped

¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped

¼ cup lime juice

2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

2 tsp. ginger, minced

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp mirin or ½ tsp. sugar

fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat. Let the salad marinate for 10 minutes in the refrigerator before serving.

—Nancy Mattia

RELATED: New York Wine & Food Festival: Rocco DiSpirito’s BBQ Ribs

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