Passenger Pick of the Month
Tukka Restaurant and Bar
Tukka native fusion Restaurant is coming on strong, celebrating its second birthday and being named by many passengers as one of the best restaurants on the island. Recently Passenger Picks caught up with the creator of Tukka, owner and head chef Ron Hargrave, a native Aussie and long-time Cayman Islands resident.
PP: Ron, November starts off with Cayman’s Pirates Week celebration. You really go all out for it. Tell us what you have going on at Tukka.
RH: Pirates Week on Cayman is such a blast. At Tukka, we all dress up in Pirates week costumes. To celebrate, we’re offering a Pirates Week Promo - Order one of Chef Ron's favorite entrees during Pirates Week and receive a free glass of bubbles, Appleton Rum Punch or Heineken.
PP: Sounds great. Last year we remember seeing a bunch of Pirates visit your restaurant on East End Heritage Day.
RH: Yeah, it’s been a tradition for that bunch. Ben “Blackbeard” Cherry and his First Mate, Dee Gee will be back dining at Tukka on Thursday November 15th. For 20 years strong they have been coming to Cayman's Pirate Week and dining in East End on Heritage Day.
PP: They obviously love your food, as we do! Ron, tell us about your signature style of cuisine.
RH: 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. I’m very excited to see this when it comes out onto the ocean deck.
PP: Tell us about the concept behind the creation of Tukka.
RH: The concept of Tukka is native Caribbean and Australian fusion. 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.
PP: So creative! But Ron, you haven’t mentioned the dishes that keep bringing us back...your local seafood is just outstanding! Tell us more about what makes it so exceptional.
RH: All the fishermen out here on the East End…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. We’re also the only live lobster restaurant in Cayman with Maine and Spiny Lobsters! And we take pride in having the best Lion Fish on the island and the only restaurant that has it available everyday on the menu.
PP: We love the Lobster tank and the Lion fish tank you have in the front of the restaurant.
RH: I do that mainly for education. I want our families to be able to see live Lobsters, and in the other tank to see live Lion fish. Live lion fish are nothing to play, so if they recognize one in the water they’ll know to stay away from it. Lion fish are a threat to our local fish population. I’m glad they taste so good, so I pay our local divers and fisherman to harvest them.
PP: And this month we hear you’ve launched “Fresh Fish Friday”. What’s that about?
RH: We’re really excited about “Fresh Fish Friday”. Local East End fisherman drop off their catches everyday at Tukka! So you get to choose your own fish fry on Friday nights and get to chat and watch me as I filet your dinner. It just doesn't get any better than this!
PP: Last year we were able to watch you filet fresh fish at a table down on the beach. We’re so glad you’re promoting it now. Well, how about dessert? So many passengers rave about your wonderful dessert creation: Date and Walnut Pudding.
RH: Yeah, 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.
PP: Your Sunday brunch has really taken off. To us, it’s a great place to begin the week.
RH: Brunch now has even more sushi choices, BBQ options and ala-carte eggs Benedict! Tukka is the only Brunch in Cayman that asks how you would like your eggs cooked. You can delight your taste buds with a carving station, breakfast items, soup, salads, desserts and a chef manning the BBQ. It’s easy on the pocketbook, and there’s all the ocean ambience.
PP: How are Walkabout Wednesday’s going?
RH: Walkabout Wednesday’s are going strong. For a reasonable price you’ll enjoy a Walkabout themed 4 Course Dinner with culinary delights from around the globe with a free glass of house wine or beer of your choice.
PP: Last time we were here, we watched you feed scraps to the birds.
RH: Yeah, I think we’ve got those Frigate birds trained. Every day at 5:30 pm and Sunday during Brunch at 1:30 pm we feed them. Everyone seems to love this unique occasion for some great photos.
PP: What made you choose cooking as a career, and how has your career progressed?
RH: As a little bugger, I enjoyed helping my mum in the kitchen. I became known as “the family's chef” at 12 when I presented my sister with a homemade birthday cake. At 14 I started working in restaurant kitchens until I graduated high school, then enrolled in Professional Catering School. I did a four-year apprenticeship with Ambassador Hotels, which took me to several Australian cities. From there I went on to chef for several prestigious hotels.
PP: Well, how did you get from Australia to Cayman?
RH: One afternoon in August ‘98 I saw a small advertisement in the paper, "Cayman Islands need chefs.” After a telephone interview with Executive Chef Patrick Maloir of the Westin Casuarina Resort, I moved here in February ’99, sight unseen. I started at the Westin as a line cook and worked my way to a Sous Chef. Then I had stints as Executive Chef at several outstanding Cayman restaurants, the best one being the last one because that’s where I met my beautiful wife, Lana. Then two years ago, we finally realized our dream, and opened Tukka!
PP: And what a couple of years it’s been! Not only your incredibly successful restaurant was born, but each year your children were born. Last year was the birth of son Ledger, and then this year was the birth of daughter Kinsley!
RH: I’ve always wanted to be a Dad, and I guess I just got lucky! Ledger and Kinsley have given me a more solid direction in life, along with my beautiful wife Lana…who is the best mum ever!
PP: And you all got to take a nice break this summer.
RH: Yeah, we visited Lana's home town of Bowser on Vancouver Island this summer and had an amazing time with the family, Kev & Nancy, on the farm. The salmon were running, black bears were feasting on the spawning pink salmon, while I was dining on very tasty halibut and chips with a few Sleemans (honey brown larger) to wash it down. It was heaven.
PP: Sounds wonderful. You’ve got such a beautiful spot out here in East End.
RH: From the ocean deck you have the sparkling views of the famous Wreck of the Ten Sails by day. Then, 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.
PP: Tell us about the name Tukka.
RH: The word Tukka comes from the Native Australian Aborigines. It means native food, or food from the land. It’s Tukka time!
PP: Passengers consistently comment about how fun it is to dine at Tukka…great food, great fun!
RH: Fun certainly is a goal of ours. So November 1st we start our Happy Hour promo. Choose items from lobster & shrimp spring-rolls, coconut shrimp and Crocodile & conch fritters for as low as $1.25 per. It runs from 3-6 pm each week day with beers at $3 and cocktails and wine at $6 bucks. The earlier you get there the cheaper it is!
RH: I want everyone who comes to Tukka to have an awesome experience and enjoy great food with friendly service. 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!
PP: Folks, I think you can see why this is one of our favorite places to dine. Don’t miss this opportunity.