TV show with garden variety appeal

Local ingredients will be in the spotlight when Genuine Cayman ultimately airs on CITN. The Journal sits down with the people behind the mission.

Two talented women cooked up the idea to promote some of the Island’s culinary talent and locally inspired dishes, and they came up with quite a presentation.

Jackie Sayet, brand manager for The Genuine Hospitality Group, which include’s Michael’s Genuine restaurants, and executive producer Emma Gladstone of Switched On Productions, met serendipitously when Gladstone was looking to do a cooking show and Sayet contacted her about a show she already had in mind.

“We had been working on some show concepts for TV for Michael [Chef Michael Schwartz] in the US and we thought, why not develop something specifically for the Island, partly as a tool to help educate ourselves on what’s going on in the field, and also take viewers along with us!

“When we connected with Emma it was like the stars aligned. And she made it happen.”

Gladstone, whose background in Ireland and the UK is in pre-recorded television production, said at the start of the year she had pitched a cooking show to the station – which they liked – but the timing wasn’t right to develop it in-house.

“Coincidentally, about a month later, Jackie contacted me to enquire about Michael’s being involved in a cooking show specific to Cayman,” said Gladstone. “When she told me her idea, it was pretty much the same concept that I’d already pitched, except it included an internationally renowned chef and she already and lots of programme ideas and contacts. It also coincided with me starting my own production company, and so we decided to film a pilot episode.”

Genuine Cayman follows Schwartz as he explores Grand Cayman to bring the best local bounty to the table in dishes he creates during the show.

In the first part of each episode, he goes out into the field to meet with local producers – including farmers, ranchers and fishermen, as well as such artisans as sea salt producers, bakers and cheese makers.

Each episode concludes with the chef returning with the local ingredients to the kitchen at Michael’s Genuine in Camana Bay and preparing with Chef Thomas Tennant fresh, simple recipes.

The pilot episode was shot in June with Patrick Panton of East End Garden, featuring his calabaza and green onions, which Schwartz incorporates as topping for wood oven pizza, along with his homemade ricotta.

TV proposal

The project has been pitched to CITN, which has agreed “in theory,” according to Gladstone, “to air an initial six-part series at primetime which will run for six consecutive weeks and then be repeated for the following six weeks. There will also be a repeat each week in a non-primetime slot.”

All of these plans are tentative; there is no contract in place, as the series must first find a sponsor.

Once the show has legs, Sayet says there definitely will be promotions built around it.

“The most important thing for us is to have a home on television,” she said. “We want people to see this series, both to tune in and beyond television, so we will certainly be promoting it to a larger audience as well in interesting, non-traditional ways.

“I’d like to do more screenings at Hollywood Theatres tied into our monthly farm-to-table dinner series.”

Another creative idea: “We’d like to screen episodes in the schools to share with students what is growing on their Island, perhaps in conjunction with a visit from a farmer and a healthy cooking demonstration by Chef Thomas Tennant,” Sayet said. “It’s a fun, interactive way to engage youth and teach them about business.”

Tennant, for his part, said, “Who isn’t excited about being part of a television show? It’s a nice way to showcase what we can do with ingredients that are produced here.”

Tennant said some of the episodes would go beyond ingredients such as produce and focus on other aspects, including land crab hunting and lionfish culling.

As far as a time frame for producing the episodes, Gladstone said, “We’re currently looking for interested parties who will either sponsor the entire series or part of the series. As soon as sponsorship is in place I’m ready to starting producing the other five episodes!”

As for future episodes…

“I know we’d like to have episodes on Joel Walton of Plantation House and Paul Bodden of Old Brown Ranch,” said Sayet. “We also have a programme called Lionfish Safari, to get this tasty invasive fish species out of the water and onto people’s plates, so that is definitely a great future episode.

“We’d like to visit the Cayman Sea Salt facility, too. There’s really an endless amount of stories to tell in the Cayman Islands. It amazes us every day.”