Written + Photographed by Sal DiBenedetto [@TheGrubfather]
As an avid traveler, crossing this experience off my bucket-list was surreal:
Fly on a Private Jet. When I arrived to Teterboro Airport on November 14th 2018, I still had to shake myself to remember this wasn’t a fantasy. I continued my pre-flight whiskey tradition with a tiny bottle of Johnny Walker Blue; an appropriate, fast toast given the high end circumstances. After a smooth but quick slug I hopped out of my taxi and it hit me: This was really about to happen…
When I got the email to take a private jet to the Grand Cayman, kick it with the legendary Chef Eric Ripert, and stay at the Ritz Carlton, I was damn proud of myself. Even through the hysteria and theatrics of me reading the email three times over to mentally confirm, I felt like my level of professionalism and creative-abilities had hit sky high. We’re talking once in a lifetime experience here, Grubfam!
Let me explain how I got here: I’m a food, hospitality, and travel content creator. You probably know me from my Instagram @TheGrubfather. This whole adventure was part of an experience put together by The Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman. The luxury resort teamed up with Grand Cayman’s tourism board and NetJets to give several creators an insider preview of the iconic Grand Cayman Cookout. Being chosen out of thousands of creators for something of this caliber was an honor.
The entire security experience is tailored to the passenger and while efficient, it is also super fast. I wouldn’t expect anything less out of a private jet experience. By the time I knew it I was strolling up the staircase of NetJet’s Bombardier Challenger 350, feeling like a super star and taking in every damn moment.
The inside of the aircraft was smaller than I was used to, considering I’ve only found myself on commercial flights up until this point. However, while it was small, it was nothing less than luxurious. Private jets like NetJets turn small spaces into mile high lounges, and this was a perfect case in point.
The plane was operated by two pilots and one flight attendant, all of which brought professionalism and comfort to new pinnacles. I remember staring googley-eyed as a bottle of champagne made its appearance before the flight, being dished out to each of us almost immediately.
Mind you I had only taken my first business class flight a month prior. The idea of champagne before taking off was a riveting one, I was learning. I felt blessed as I saw the bubbles make their way up to the top of my glass.
The stewardess, who probably caught the fizzle-struck look in my eye, bent down to me and said quietly “We’ve got bottles for this entire ride! Just let me know when you’re ready for your next one.” And it was at that moment, I fell in love with NetJets.
Take-off on a small plane was much more… “immersive” of a flying experience, but when you’re sitting in an oversized, plush seat drinking champagne, there shouldn’t be much that can break your vibe. Our group was made up of journalists, and content creators. A few of us spent a solid half hour discussing how monumental this experience was for us.
“Chef Ripert is an amazing guy.” We were advised after we had settled into our excitement “But we’re asking that you refrain from any questions about Anthony during your conversations with him.”
They were referring to Anthony Bourdain, my longtime idol. In fact, his hit show Parts Unknown, was a huge motivation behind the start of my own traveling. As an aspiring food and travel show host, Bourdain is the fucking example. Sadly, Anthony Bourdain died just months before while traveling France with Chef Eric Ripert, his best friend.
I greatly admire Chef Eric Ripert, his culinary prowess with seafood is wild. The fact we would even be spending time with him was an honor. However, I was truly heartbroken over Anthony Bourdain’s death and perhaps subconsciously I was hoping that meeting Ripert and talking with him, would help me move forward from that. That was a question to be answered in Grand Cayman though. Stay tuned for that article!
Now let’s talk on-board amenities, and more particularly, the food. Throughout the ride, NetJets showered us with everything from champagne to courses of high end grub.
Here’s some of the food that made an appearance on the four hour flight: Sushi, Stone Crab Claws, Pizza, Salmon Lox & Cream Cheese, Antipasto Platter, Fruit Platter, Salad and a slew of luxury snacks.
I was on CLOUD 9 – figuratively and literally.
As a photographer, one of the most valuable elements of this flight was arriving into the Grand Cayman and having full access to both sides of the plane’s windows. The ensuing show of turquoise ocean, cruise liners, and palm tree lined shores were framed perfectly out the window of a private jet.
Inhaling the last of my Champagne glass while touching down to parts unknown, I savored the last of those surreal moments. It may have been the last time I ever get on a private jet, or perhaps the first of many. Either way, it didn’t matter, for me this was a huge accomplishment!
Exiting and looking back on those four insane hours of travel style, I am grateful and honored to have experienced it. Crossing things off your bucket-list that seem rare is a feeling that doesn’t go away. Even now, I can (and do) look back at my experience with NetJets and use it as a source of inspiration: Put in your hard work, create your art, and let your passions motivate you, you never know what can come as a result!
Stay tuned for the article about my stay in Grand Cayman!
Sal DiBenedetto | @TheGrubfather