Passenger Pick of the Month
Overlooking Camana Bay’s harbor on The Crescent, Ortanique prides itself with its mouthwatering menu and in taking local ingredients to the next level. As this month’s Passenger Pick of the Month, we wanted to learn more about the story behind Ortanique, so recently we caught up with co-owner and executive chef Cindy Hutson.
PP: Cindy, where did you cut your culinary teeth?
CH: I am basically self-taught, and developed a passion for cooking at the age of nine. I was inspired by the t.v. culinary genius of the “Galloping Gourmet” and “Chef Tell”, and would emulate their creations on Saturday afternoons. In my early teen years, I was exposed to Italian and Portuguese cuisine through my best friend's father, a successful restaurateur from New Jersey.
PP: When did you and Delius Shirley meet?
CH: It was 1994 when I met Delius. At that point my main concern was my three kids, so I was a bit hesitant. But it was Delius who finally convinced me to go into the restaurant business with him.
PP: Tell us about that.
CH: In November 1994 we opened “Norma’s on the Beach” in Miami. It was quite a success. Norma’s was named as “the best Caribbean restaurant in South Florida by USA Today, New York Times, London Times, Chicago Tribune and Ocean Drive magazines. In 1996 we were awarded the coveted “5 Star Diamond Award” for Norma’s on the Beach.
PP: Impressive. So tell us about Ortanique.
CH: Thirteen years ago we opened “Ortanique on the Mile” in Coral Gables Florida, and it’s going strong. In fact, it holds that same prestigious “5 Star Diamond Award”.
PP: So you have an Ortanique in Florida, and an Ortanique here in Cayman? Tell us about that.
CH: Delius and I opened Ortanique on the Crescent at Camana Bay, on November 23, 2010. Our Grand Cayman menu reflects the same global inspirations that created the menu of Ortanique on the Mile. And the Grand Cayman location allows me the ability to have a diversified Caribbean “tapas” menu along with my full moon “Caja China” pig roasts.
PP: Ortanique's restaurant menu reflects several global inspirations. Why is this so important to you and Delius?
CH: Delius and I love to travel. We focus many of our trips on learning about ingredients and dishes that have connected the world through commerce.
PP: Tell us about the deal with Norma’s Terrace Salad.
CH:Norma’s Terrace Salad is an Ortanique signature dish we prepare. It’s a juicy tropical summer salad with a charitable twist. This mouth-watering recipe takes advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables available locally throughout the summer, while a mint passion fruit dressing adds a flavorful, tropical twist. For each salad ordered, $1 is donated to the Norma Shirley Scholarship Fund, which raises funds to send one student every year to the Culinary Program at the University of Technology in Jamaica.
PP: Awesome. Cindy, you seem to have a passion to teach. Many passengers have shared with us that your cooking lessons are amazing. With all that you have on your plate, why add cooking lessons?
CH: The cooking classes give me an opportunity to wind down and just do what I love, connecting with people through food!
PP: Tell us about your cooking classes.
CH: We offer two kinds of classes: “Interactive” and "Iron Chef". In the “Interactive” cooking classes, either Executive Chef Sara Mair or I will instruct, while each person at the table takes turns doing a part of each course, assisted by one of our kitchen chefs. After each course is cooked and plated, each table eats whatever they’ve prepared. This type of class is more based on listening to the Executive Chef and following their guidance. On the other hand, our “Iron Chef” style class is much more hands on and yes, competitive! This is a table to table battle! Chef Sara or I are the judges. We go around between each table and judge every person in the group on creativity, cleanliness, preparation, taste and look. At the end of each course a winner is announced. Once judging is over each team will eat what they have prepared.
PP: Sounds like a blast!
CH: It really is. And it’s great for team building, because it promotes a friendly competition and makes everyone work together to win each course.
PP: Ortanique has strong values in team cooking. Tell us about your Chefs and the style they bring to the Ortanique table.
CH: Executive Chef Sara Mair and Sous Chef Jonhoi Reid both bring a delicious traditional Caribbean flair with cuisine inspired by their native Jamaica. Executive Sous Mike Fischetti is the face of our signature pig roasts, entertaining guests while perfectly preparing the roast each time. All three chefs bring my "Cuisine of the Sun" to life each day, with their creative and inspired daily specials, featuring the freshest seafood and quality meat options.
PP: Who's brain child was the Caja China Full Moon Pig Roast?
CH: Well I guess it was mine. No one else on the island was having an event like this and I wanted everyone to be able to eat, drink and dance under the full moon light.
PP: Tell us about it.
CH: The star of any pig roast is, of course, the pig. The pig is split in two lengthwise and bathed in a simple brine of water, salt and sugar for three days. Sous Chef Mike Fischetti handles the pig roasting duties. On the day of roasting, it’s taken out of refrigeration and allowed to come to room temperature for about two hours. The split pig is injected with a mojo marinade and the skin is salted. Then it’s put between to metal racks and lowered into the La Caja Asadora charcoal roaster.
CH: Once the pig is cooking in the roasting box, more coals are added. The pig isn’t done until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees and the meat easily pulls apart. When it gets to about 170 degrees, Mike slits the skin to open the fat cap. When done right, the skin will be crisp and golden brown, not black. Most pig roast fans will say the crackling - the crispy skin - is the best part and the La Caja Asadora roasting box is perfect for that task.
PP: Where did Chef Mike learn how to roast a pig to perfection?
CH: Mike has always loved cooking with pork and this is no exception! He learned this labor of love from a good friend of Delius and mine, Gary Ferguson. Gary is from Jamaica and is the king of pig roasts...now Mike is too!
PP: We had the opportunity to drop by the pig roast earlier this year and it was outstanding! A lot more than just roasted pig.
CH: It is. Mojitos, beer, wine and cocktails at sunset are included while local musicians play. Pork kebab skewers, serrano ham-wrapped melon, shrimp ceviche and sweet plantain are passed around. After the sunset, the island is illuminated by the light of the full moon, creating a tropical oasis. Seating for dinner is at two long tables and the food is served family style on large platters. Complementing the roasted pig is a house salad, local vegetables, black beans and rice and some fresh local fish. Platters of pig, complete with pieces of crackling, keep coming for as long as guests want more and dessert tops everything off. No one leaves hungry.
PP: We sure didn’t. Many passengers intentionally plan their vacations around the Full Moon Caja China Pig Roast event. It was voted the #1 foodie event on the island.
PP: With all the traveling you must do between your restaurants, the guest chef appearances, and the cooking classes, ever feel you’re spreading yourself too thin?
CH: This culinary travel is what I thrive on teaching other chefs about our earths bounties, edible history and the indigenous ingredients that are regionally prepared… being a chef has been an experience beyond imagination. There are no boundaries in cooking, only new opportunities and trends unfolding daily at my door.
PP: What passengers love about this restaurant is that it offers ethnically diverse cuisine by concentrating on the wonderful taste combinations of fresh fruits, fish, vegetables and traditional tropical seasonings. Choose from spicy to fruit-infused and everything in between. Whether dining in or outside on the deck under the stars and canopy of sea grape trees, Ortanique is fine dining at its best.
47 Forum Lane
The Crescent at Camana Bay