Veganism is the world’s fastest growing lifestyle movement and the global food industry has been racing to keep up with the demand. Despite having just over 60,000 inhabitants, the small three-island nation of the Cayman Islands is one of the world-leaders for plant-based living with a growing number of locals adopting a vegan lifestyle.
“My whole family went vegan about 5 years ago,” says Cayman Islands’ resident, Selina. “Best decision we ever made. We found the transition on-island to be extremely easy for the entire family, even the kids, due to the many options available locally both at restaurants and grocery stores.”
The following are five reasons why Cayman was ranked number eight worldwide for vegan friendliness by Chef’s Pencil - ahead of both Sweden and New Zealand.
Plant-Based Education and Resources
According to The Vegan Society, “There's nothing like talking to other vegans to make your transition even easier.” Cayman-based vegans benefit from a variety of community resources pertaining to plant-based living.
Bon Vivant, a luxury kitchen equipment showroom and retail store with a fully functional commercial demo kitchen, offers regular foodie events and classes. Many of these cater to vegan, plant-based and health-conscious lifestyles.
Chef Britta Bush offers private vegan classes and retreats including a three-part series called “Fermentation Nation” that teaches plant-based foodies how to make kombucha, sourdough bread and pickled vegetables.
Local bookstores, such as Books & Books offer an impressive variety of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, and a number of locally administered facebook pages, such as Cayman Veggie Vegan, provide local community-based support.
Vegan Foodie Events
Every Wednesday is dedicated to vegans at local pizzeria, Lucky Slice. Patrons can enjoy $5 martinis and vegan pizza while overlooking the Caribbean sea. A group called “Conscious Cayman” of which Lucky Slice is a part, also hosts regular events that focus on conscious and clean living.
Local restaurant, Cayman Cabana has regular farm to fork dinners, including family-style farm to table Thursdays, weekend “locavore” brunches and special events. This past May, Chef Lauren Von Der Pool, known as The Queen of Green, hosted a vegan pop-up dinner party at Cayman Cabana, offering unique vegan treats such as wild orange mango caviar.
Saucha Conscious Living offers bi-annual vegan yoga retreats in Little Cayman.
Most restaurants on-island offer vegan, vegetarian and farm to table options with several establishments offering exclusively plant-based menus. In fact, Cayman would rank at around number 5 globally and number 1 in the Americas if it was included in The Vegan Word’s “Top Vegan-Friendly Cities,” which ranks countries based on vegan restaurants per capita.
“I love to ferment things!” declares Chef Britta Bush. Her restaurant, Saucha Conscious Café offers raw, vegan and gluten-free dining, meal delivery, kombucha brewing, private chef services, catering, events and cooking classes rooted in a locally grown, consciously-crafted, plant-based ethos. “The vibrancy, ingredients, taste and energy of our hand-selected and organic seasonal produce are very important to us,” says Chef Britta. Some of Saucha Conscious Café’s more popular dishes include falafel with tzatziki, an almond chilli rice bowl and tacos with walnut taco meat.
Chef Britta's locally-brewed kombucha
Lindsay Allen, founder and owner of Island Naturals brought her passion for natural and chemical-free health and nutritional products to the island several years ago. Since then, her retail business has grown into a popular full-service vegan and gluten-free eatery and coffee shop, making fast food slow, healthy, wholesome and delicious and offering local favourites such as sesame soba noodle salad, açaí bowls and a curried sweet potato bowl.
Vivo Restaurant, located in the West Bay area brands itself as an alternative restaurant, offering only eco-friendly menu options. “We try to run our business in the most sustainable way,” says owner, Mikey. “We try to go organic where ever possible and all of our utensils are made of bamboo or corn. We believe that our patrons can have an outstanding meal without an animal on their plate. Some of our favourites include the coconut ceviche and coconut calamari or our seitan chicken which is absolutely delicious.”
Jessie’s Juice Bar in Camana Bay is a local favourite on the mommy circuit. Jessie’s philosophy is “Let your food be your medicine. Not your demise” and offers cold pressed 100% fruit and vegetable juices, nutritious all natural smoothies with a range of superfoods, loose leaf teas, house-made kombucha, salads, wraps (including gluten-free house-made veggie flax wraps), grilled sandwiches and house baked goods with gluten-free options.
Bread and Chocolate Vegan Bistro is an exclusively vegan eatery located in the heart of Georgetown. Some favourites on the menu include chocolate hazelnut butter waffles, shepherds pie made of chopped root vegetables and lentils topped with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy and pulled porkless sliders made from jackfruit.
A number of local restaurants such as The Brasserie focus on farm to table dining and Cayman Cabana is a local leader in family-style farm-to-table food. Owners, Christina and Luigi are well connected with the local farmers and fishermen on which their business depends.
Other restaurants such as Agua, the Greenhouse, the Cracked Conch and Icoa offer veg and veg-flexible options.
“Grocery stores are really on top of staying in the “know” about new vegan options and extremely receptive to special order requests,” says local vegan, Selina.
The top grocery for plant-based diners is Kirk Market, as it has the largest and best-stocked produce department with locally grown fruits and vegetables from Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac as well as organic fruits and vegetables. Also available are internationally recognized eco-friendly brands and hard-to-find vegan products.
Farm fresh and organic produce are readily available in Cayman. Camana Bay Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market, the Market at the Cricket Grounds and the Farmers Market in Bodden Town are all well-known hubs for farm-fresh produce.
The most popular local farm is Hamlin’s Farm, which has been in operation for over a decade and provides organic, farm-to-table produce to a number of local restaurants. The Farmacy, a local fruit, vegetable and honey delivery service, delivers produce sourced directly from a local farm on the North side of the island.
“Mango season provides the most incredible local mangos!” adds resident-vegan Selina of the farm-fresh seasonal produce offered year-round.
“Overall, Cayman offers an incredible range of vegan food options and all restaurants are very knowledgeable about plant-based diets and the growing demand,” says Selina. “Our family loves everything about being vegan here— living our best and healthiest lives without any guilt.”
About Daphne Ewing-Chow:
I’m an environmental writer with a focus on food and agriculture, and commute between the Southern Caribbean (Barbados) and the Northern Caribbean (Cayman Islands). I have a Master’s Degree in International Economic Policy from Columbia University and am passionate about Caribbean social, economic and environmental issues. I am intrigued by the resilience of the Small Island Developing States of the region as well as the opportunities for sustainable and regenerative growth through agriculture. I recently headed up communications for a climate change in fisheries project (CC4FISH) at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and have worked in development banking, environmental not-for-profits, and in the venture capital industry. My work has appeared in wide cross-section of Caribbean newspapers and magazines, the Sunday Times (of London), Elite Daily, Elephant Journal and other publications. Follow me on Twitter at @daphneewingchow.