The Unforgettable Faces Of Our Beach House
Introducing… Steve Griffon, Executive Chef
For our Executive Chef Steve Griffon, cooking has always been a part of his life. He grew up in a small coastal village near Nantes, France. His parents are farmers and his mother always cooked using produce from their farm. This exposure inspired him at a very young age to become a Chef. At the tender age of 16, he started culinary school close to his hometown. For the four years that he was in school, he also pursued a number of internships in different hotels and restaurants in big cities such as Paris and Bordeaux. He preferred working in hotels because he could get to know clientele on a more personal level, often seeing them more than just a few occasions.
His first opportunity to work in a kitchen after he graduated was at the famous Chef Bocuse-owned restaurant “Bistot de paris” at Epcot in Disney World, Florida 18 years ago. It was there that Steve was bitten by the travel bug. He decided that we wanted to see the world. In 2001, his travels took him to Grand Cayman where he worked at the Brasserie restaurant. From then he has never looked back. In 2015, Steve was appointed Executive Chef of the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort.
Throughout his career his culinary vision grew to incorporate influences from his experiences in Europe and the Caribbean. His philosophy has always been to use fresh, local and wholesome ingredients and this is a tradition that he continues to share with the guests of our hotel today. Here we speak to Steve about what he loves about his job and living the Cayman life.
When asked what he adores about his job, the first thing Steve mentions is how much he enjoys working with a multicultural team. He said: “I love the fact that we all come from different parts of the world and we have a mutual respect for each other as well as the common desire to provide our guests with the best possible culinary experience. Because we come from different countries, we can usually accommodate special requests. For instance, if a guest asks for a Shrimp Pad Thai, I have a Chef who is from Thailand and therefore we can adapt to these requests. There is also a great example that took place at our oceanfront restaurant, Veranda. Many guests heard that one of our Chefs was from India and he made a very delicious Thali. It wasn’t part of the regular menu but we kept on getting special requests for this particular dish so we decided to incorporate it into our offering. This is one of the big reasons why I love working with such an international team. It is also a great example of why Cayman is fast becoming the culinary capital of the Caribbean. The island is unique in the sense that there are so many cultures represented in one place and that is most apparent in the diversity of our island’s gastronomic offering.”
Steve also loves his job because he supports the resort’s vision of encouraging innovation and pushing boundaries. He elaborated: “There is a very nurturing environment at our Beach House and all the departments, not just the Food & Beverage team, get together often to collaborate and bounce ideas off each other. We also have the opportunity to travel for inspiration. The team and I regularly go to big cities like Miami, New York and Las Vegas to check out the foodie scenes there and see what the trends are so we can bring it back to Cayman and put our own unique spin on it.”
When asked what inspired him to get into the food business, he talks fondly about his childhood. Born in the countryside in France, he has wonderful memories of cooking with his mother and using different local products from his farm and sharing those dishes with family and friends. He explained: “These unique moments are the ones I strive to create for our guests now. The fact that our guests enjoy my dishes gives me the pleasure to continue my passion for cooking. This is what drives me, seeing how our guests enjoy what I make for them. My team and I love to collaborate – I like to share my knowledge and they teach me new things as well. At the end, we love working together and I think that shows with the guest experience we offer.”
So does Steve run a tight kitchen? With a smile on his face he responded: “The way that I manage my team is very human. I have a personal approach. It is not like the old fashioned way when we used to be strict in the kitchen. If you want to be a good Chef, you have to make sure that the way you speak to your team is with respect and you need to appreciate the culture. The fact that you have so many backgrounds in one kitchen – I have to adapt to each and every one of them. Mutual respect is a big part of teamwork and a successful kitchen. It is important to respect colleagues for their differences and unique personalities. I try to bring out the good in people and I believe that the guest sees and feels that as well.”
Steve also points to the transformation of the hotel’s lobby, restaurant and bar into Anchor & Den in 2014 as an exciting change in the way that the kitchen is run and how guests perceive the culinary team. He elaborated: “With our transformed Great Room, we have a lot of action stations such as our Creperie Station, Raw Bar and sushi station. This means that there are more opportunities for the team to have interactions with the guests. Whereas the kitchen was traditionally seen as “back of house” and you rarely met the Chef, we are now more present. I always encourage my Chefs to engage with guests at their table on a daily basis. Guests love to see the Chef walking around the restaurant. It is like the ‘power of the white jacket’ – and is part of their dining experience and there is almost an entertainment element to it. Our Chefs love it too.”
When asked what his reasons are for staying in Cayman after so many years, Steve has many. He said: “Of course the climate here is enjoyable. And during my free time I love to go fishing. I will go at least twice a month on a little boat and fish for tuna, snapper or other local fish. Plus I love the vibe – it is very peaceful and relaxing. But most importantly, my wife is from the Cayman Islands! All these things have made me want to call this place home.”
With so many reasons to be thankful, it is not difficult for Steve to be excited about the future. He describes how both Anchor & Den and Veranda are moving from strength to strength. And it hardly stops there. He concluded: “I am always searching for new ideas and looking to improve. We recently added our signature Dark Night event, which takes place once a month on the Friday closest to the New Moon. Many of our local clientele come to Anchor & Den for this unique experience and it has been very successful. I am proud to say that every theme night that we have introduced since the renovation has been enthusiastically received by our guests and the local community. And it is also the whole package; along with the food we also provide an amazing atmosphere. For instance for our El Mercat tapas night we feature live music and flamenco dancers. We pay attention to every small detail of the experience – the food, drinks, music and ambience. The guests experience it and they tell their friends and since we live on a small island, it only takes a few people spreading the word for us to become one of the island’s favorite hotspots. This enthusiasm gives me the encouragement and strength to be creative and innovative. We will also soon be launching our Mexican Street Food night (replacing Taqueria Night), which will be taking place on Tuesday evenings. We will be unveiling our new menu and concept at this year’s Out of the Kitchen event in October so watch this space to hear more soon.”
With such a positive outlook, there is no doubt that the future is bright at our Beach House!