Cayman Cookout, Grand Cayman

Each year, over President’s Day weekend, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and Eric Ripert host the island’s most anticipated culinary event – Cayman Cookout. World-renowned chefs come together to create an unforgettable and delicious experience, including the hilarious José Andrés, legendary Emeril Lagasse and most interesting man in the world, Anthony Bourdain.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend their 9th installment to cover the events through social media on The Ritz-Carlton brand’s major channels. From watching José Andrés and Emeril Lagasse jet ski onto Seven Mile Beach and pop champagne, to playing shot roulette with Tim Love after he showed us how to cook the perfect steak, these four days were some of the most memorable of my life (#RCMemories).

But it wasn’t all fun and games. My 10+ years as a social media consumer and 1.5 as a social media account executive prepared me as much as possible for the comprehensive campaign we had planned; but with about 10 events happening each day on opposite ends of the hotel, candid moments among spirited chefs and unpredictable weather, being flexible was also integral to the campaign’s success.

Our strategy was to capture as much live content as possible for Twitter and Instagram stories (The Ritz-Carlton brand’s debut on this format) to raise awareness for the event, while also gathering recipes, quotes, videos and images to later turn into long-form content for @RitzCarltonChefs Instagram account, Pinterest, and Facebook. Understanding each channels’ strengths, formats and the ways in which they are consumed was key to allocating my time and attention to each event.

I began every morning by trying to memorize times and locations of cooking demonstrations so I could be in the right place at the right time. I was never without my bag of essentials – press pass to enter events ahead of time, Theta for seeking out 360 photo opportunities, itinerary, shot list, phone and portable charger. Overlapping beach demos meant obnoxiously sneaking to the front of the crowd to take pictures of the chefs, listening intently to their ingredients and tips, and waiting until the dish was handed out to snap a picture. Once I got the shot (and devoured the dish) I rushed to the opposite side of the beach to do the same for the next demo.

By Sunday evening we had published 28 live tweets, daily Facebook posts to recap the days’ events, 20+ Instagram Stories, 6 @RitzCarltonChefs posts, and a big enough bank of images for me to #tbt for the rest of my life.

What I got out of this experience was not only an enviable “highlight reel” (and a sunburn), but a fully immersive social media experience. I learned that being able to adapt is just as important to a strategy as a step-by-step plan, as long as you know your overall goal and target audience. I got the chance to meet, collaborate, and learn the crafts of really interesting people also working the event including Tasting Table contributors, incredible photographer Trey Ratcliff and the seasoned Cayman Cookout professionals from the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. Of course, I couldn’t have done it without my amazing Pandemic Labs team who helped proofread and schedule my content, and FaceTimed me when I needed a reminder to just breathe and enjoy the view.

Speaking of highlight reel…

Written by Meekie Meberg