5 minutes with…Sandy Tuason, the executive chef at Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa
By Hannah Barnard on 21st June, 2017
Today we meet Sandy Tuason, the executive chef at Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa to talk about culinary inspiration, Julia Child and island life.
Who inspired you to become a chef?
My mom was my first inspiration. She had a very small modest garden in our backyard in Glen Rock, New Jersey. Of course she cooked mostly Filipino food, but also strived to make “American” food as part of our assimilation to American culture.
I grew up with 6 siblings and we always gravitated to the kitchen table. As I got older and started cooking for myself in college, I became more curious about exploring culinary as a profession. I would rather cook dinner than study! And of course, Julia Child!! When I was a young cook in NYC working in a NY Times 3 Star restaurant, Julia actually came in the kitchen. I was so busy at the time cooking during dinner service I didn’t notice her. Suddenly, I looked up and she was right at my station, observing my cooking. Then she asked me if she could taste my dish. Was thrilled and scared to death at the same time!
Which cuisine do you most enjoy cooking?
I enjoy cooking and learning all cuisines. I was French classically trained at French Culinary Institute in NYC – I love French cuisine. Also, after working for over 20 years in NYC I was exposed to all international cuisines and worked with many chefs from different nationalities which was was very enlightening and educational. It helps you understand different cultures and people from all over the world. Of course I have a soft spot in my heart for Filipino food, which is now gaining great attention and traction in America.
Where does your culinary and flavor inspiration come from?
I like to live in the moment; and utilize local, seasonal ingredients as much as possible. I’ve worked in Hawaii, the Caribbean, and NYC. I get inspiration from local flavors and culture. My wife, Susan, is also a chef and she always inspires me to do more and learn more. In our kitchen down here in Grand Cayman we have many island farmers and local fishermen that deliver to our kitchen on a daily basis. We always strive to use local ingredients and support our local economy. We have chefs here at The Westin that are from many parts of the world including: Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Philippines, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. We encourage all our chefs to share their culinary ideas and thoughts when we build our menus. It is a full collaborative effort!
What’s your signature dish?
Hard to say what my signature dish is. My style has evolved over the years and is influenced by so many chefs I’ve worked for, including Andrew D’Amico, Daniel Boulud and David Burke. At this time of my career, I tend to go to much lighter, healthier cooking with some whimsical touches. Just want to have fun with our culinary team and give our guests a memorable dining experience here at The Westin. We are humbled when our guests compliment us and let us know they enjoyed their meal.
When not creating culinary masterpieces, what’s your favorite thing to do on Grand Cayman?
We love Grand Cayman and try to sample as many restaurants and cuisines as possible. Grand Cayman is known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean. There are very talented chefs here making great food. We also like to venture out to the east end of Grand Cayman, where it’s less crowded. Also we really enjoy visiting local farms, artist studios and small local restaurants serving Caribbean food.
Next month Sandy Tuason will be hosting a series of culinary events at the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa, including a regionally-inspired Beach House Slow Food Wine Dinner and the annual July 4th Beach BBQ and Bonfire. To make reservations or find out more about Sandy Tuason’s tantalizing menu contact 345.945.3800 or visit westingrandcayman.com