Vacation Like a Food Network Star in The Culinary Capital of The Caribbean

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Three out of four Americans who have traveled in the last five years went for the food, according to a OnePoll/Hello Fresh survey. One of those travelers is Emmy-Nominated Food Network Star and Chicago native Jeff Mauro, who said, “I want to go to places with great food. And Cayman never ceases to amaze me.”

“I like going to new places and discovering new things, but out of all the places that we have been, this is the one that we come back to,” The Sandwich King explained to the audience at the recent Taste of Cayman Food & Drink Festival.

“The Cayman Islands holds such a special place not only in my heart, but it has been the backdrop of fabulous memories for my entire extended family for more than 30 years. I have been singing the praise of Cayman’s culinary scene for many years. There is nowhere I’d rather be than in Cayman with my toes in the sand and a delicious jerk chicken sandwich in my hand,” the Chef proclaimed.

Spot him driving a Jeep Wrangler around the island, enjoying Grand Cayman with his wife and son, or the 35-plus extended family troupe he regularly visits with.

What Does a Food Network Star Eat in The Culinary Capital of The Caribbean?

The Cayman Islands has more than 200 restaurants with an array of 5-star establishments, brilliant brunches, freshly caught fish prepared straight out of the turquoise waters, causal cafes, and beloved take-out places. Its delicious offerings are influenced by global cuisine, a reflection of the 142 nationalities of its residents.

“We always have a Chicken! Chicken! night, which I love; it’s legit,” he said while preparing a jerk chicken sandwich for Festival attendees. “I love the shredded chicken version of the jerk without the bones. Next thing you know, you’ve eaten four pounds of jerk chicken. It’s the real deal.”

His all-time favorite restaurant on the island is Cayman Cabana. “We’ve been going since we started coming here. He makes some really good food that I fell in love with,” the Chef stated.

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While in town for the 35th Food & Drink Festival, he ate at their weekly Thursday farm-to-table dinner and said, “Everything we ate was from the sea right beside us (fresh tuna), the palm above us (the greatest coconut ceviche on the planet), or a small family farm down the road (callaloo, beets, and so so many ripe mangoes). Just an amazing meal.”

“They [catering team] also come to where our family stays and makes all my favorite food that I eat on the island. He’ll bring a smoker, make jerk chicken, jerk pork, whole snapper, potato salad, hardo break, mangoes, escabeche peppers,” shared Mauro.

How He Spends His Time in Between Meals

This trio of islands between Cancun, Mexico, and Jamaica is a destination fit for all kinds of travelers, including divers, honeymooners, adventure seekers, families, and of course, foodies.

“My wife Sarah and I always make sure we start the day with some good ol’ fitness. We love the hot yoga classes at One Heart Yoga Studio and Bliss. We also enjoy throwing some weight around at F45. Gotta pay to play,” Mauro said.

“I got certified and fell in love with the SCUBA diving in Cayman, so I always plan a couple of dives every time I visit. I love the art and sport of Lion Fish hunting and how important it is to help reduce the population of that invasive species. Plus, it’s way more challenging than you think,” he continued.

“I know this is not a traditional activity, but throwing [bean] bags on the beach during sunset – my lord, does it recharge and reinvigorate my soul. Not many things make me as happy as a golden hour corn hole game outside our condo on Seven Mile Beach with friends and cousins, cold Island Hopper IPA in hand, and The Dead on the Bluetooth,” he proclaimed.

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His Grand Cayman Home Base

Grand Cayman, the largest of the three islands, offers a range of accommodations. Travelers can choose from luxury villas, home and condo rentals, timeshares, resorts, and hotels.

The Culinary Capital of The Caribbean
The Culinary Capital of The Caribbean

His pick while in Cayman is the beachfront condos at The Coral Stone Club. This private luxe boutique complex offers 29 beachfront 1800 square foot 2-3 bedrooms condos in the heart of Seven Mile Beach. Fully stocked with everything you need to enjoy a home-like vacation plus an oceanfront swimming pool, it is centrally located and a great jumping-off point to explore the island.

Is The Sandwich King Eyeing a Move Out of Chicago?

“Every time I come here, I meet more and more people and feel more and more embedded on the island, in the culture, the people, and the food,” he said.

As a former stand-up comedian, it’s hard to tell a joke from fact with Jeff Mauro. However, during his festival demonstration with Young Cayman Chef of the Year winner Brittney Bodden, he asked if he should move to The Cayman Islands in four years after his son graduates high school.

“Should Brittney and I open a sandwich shop?” he asks, taking suggestions from the crowd for its name. People shouted out Between the Buns, his food truck name on Season 7 of The Food Network Star. Or Crust to Crust Café, a nod to his infamous phrase about the proper way to apply schmeers to a sandwich. Maruo always says spreading them “crust to crust is a must.”

Illustrating that he’s put some thought into a move or at least a business in Cayman, he revealed his name for the potential island eatery – St. Lorenzo’s Subs. It’s an homage to the shared patron saint of chefs and comedians.

“We’ll open it up, and I’ll live on the beach and never have to go home again,” he proclaimed.