Passenger Pick of the Month
Tukka Restaurant and Bar
Tukka native fusion Restaurant is coming on strong, celebrating its first birthday and being named by many passengers as one of the best restaurants on the island. Recently Passenger Picks caught up with the brainchild of Tukka, owner and head chef Ron Hargrave, a native Aussie and long-time Cayman Islands resident.
“The concept of Tukka is native Caribbean and Australian fusion,” Ron says. “It’s Caribbean food with an Australian blend, so you may get a jerk kangaroo; you’ll have an Aussie burger, which is probably one of the biggest burgers you’re going to eat. We’ve got a steak and mushroom pie, which is sort of the equivalent of a Jamaican beef patty.”
But no worries, there’s plenty of local food to offer, and Chef Ron does mean local. “All the fishermen out here… whenever they’ve got fresh snapper, wahoo, tuna, mahi-mahi, it’s going to come straight here, through the back door and straight onto the plate. Many guests of the island think of Calypso Grill, only on the East End. There are also a few other fresh seafood options to be had at Tukka, they are the only live Lobster restaurant in Cayman with Maine & Spiny Lobsters! They also take pride in having the best Lion Fish on the island and the only restaurant that has it available everyday on the menu.
When asked, “what’s your signature style of cuisine?”, Ron replies, “I’m a true blue Queensland born Aussie so I guess it should be Barby cooking, but I’ve always has a passion for Thai cooking. I love to create dishes that are interactive with the guests and don't just come out on a plate! The Tukka brochette is the #1 main course for that very reason, and this year’s season will see the launch of the Thai Sizzle Bouillabaisse Dish! I’m very excited to see this when it comes out onto the ocean deck.”
Many passengers rave about Ron’s wonderful dessert creation: Date and Walnut Pudding. “Yeah,” Ron says, “I created this dish due to the amount of restaurants that had sticky date pudding on their menus and I wanted my own original recipe! It’s a lot lighter and moister than others with that great date flavor.”
What about the name Tukka? “The word Tukka comes from the Native Australian Aborigines. It means native food, or food from the land. It’s Tukka time!”
The Walkabout Wednesday event is quite popular. “You’ll be able to get picked up from the Ritz, the Westin, the Marriott or the Beach Suites on a Wednesday afternoon with Tukka’s very own Tukka mobile for a Wednesday you will never forget! This includes is a scenic 30-40 minute ride out to the beautiful East End. Enjoy a Walkabout themed 4 Course Dinner with culinary delights from around the globe. Drink until you’re merry without the hassle of driving home.
“I want to open up East End to a lot of the tourists over there, even if they don’t have a vehicle. When you have a full moon that comes up over here, it comes up right over that (outdoor) balcony at seven, eight, nine o’clock at night. It’s one of the most beautiful things you’re ever going to see in your life.”
Tukka’s Sunday brunch has really taken off, and there is no better place to begin your week than to relax at the brunch that’s closest to the ocean, of any on the island. From 11:30 am to 3 pm, delight your taste buds with a carving station, breakfast items, soup, salads, desserts and a chef manning the barbecue. Combined with sparkling views of the famous Wreck of the Ten Sails, it truly is a brunch to remember. “It’s easy on the pocketbook, and there’s all the ambience of the ocean.”
The feel of Tukka is a bit more relaxed than its predecessor at the East End location, but Chef Ron said visitors shouldn’t worry – there are plenty of fine dining options with wine pairings and the like. Tukka is family-friendly, with modern high chairs and changing stations in the bathrooms.
“You head to Pedro Castle, you do the blowholes, then you’re looking for somewhere to eat,” he said. “You’re going to come here, because it’s your halfway point.”
As a child, Ron enjoyed helping his Mom in the kitchen, and at 12 he became “the family's chef” when he presented his sister with a homemade birthday cake. At 14 he started working in restaurant kitchens until he graduated high school in 1987, when he enrolled in Professional Catering School. Once the culinary decision was made, he started a four-year apprenticeship through Ambassador Hotels, which took him to several Australian cities. Ron then went on to chef for several prestigious hotels in roles of increasing responsibility.
Everything changed by chance one afternoon in August 1998 when he saw a small advertisement in the local paper, "Cayman Islands need chefs.” With a desire to travel and broaden his culinary experience, and after a great telephone interview with Executive Chef Patrick Maloir of the Westin Casuarina Resort, he moved to Grand Cayman in February 1999. Ron started at the Westin as a line cook and worked his way to becoming a Sous Chef. After stints as Executive Chef at several outstanding Cayman restaurants and winning numerous prestigious cooking medals and awards, Ron and his wife Lana finally realized their dream, opening Tukka last year. And what a year of blessing it’s been, not only a incredibly successful restaurant, but also the birth of their first child, son Ledger! “I’ve always wanted to be a Dad,” Ron says, “and I guess I just got lucky! Ledger has given me a more solid direction in life along with my beautiful wife Lana…who is the best mum ever!”
Passengers consistently comment about how fun it is to dine at Tukka…great food, great fun! “I want everyone who comes to Tukka to have an awesome experience and enjoy great food with friendly service,” Ron says. “When I hear that our guests have had a fun night out and had a great meal! I’ve done my job as a chef!”
Tukka is also open for breakfast, but only on Saturdays and Sundays. During the week it’s lunch and dinner.