Cultural and Culinary: A Background of a Belizean Icon
Wander deep into the heart of Belize's extraordinary culture-driven cuisine. Drawing from the inspiration of the numerous cultural groups that define the country, the rich ingredients, and textures, allows one to illuminate both pallet and soul. Here in Belize, culinary experiences are blossoming, from world-class dining to culture-driven chefs that innovate intriguing dishes from the vibrancy of Belizean culture. To help foster the growth and celebration of Belizean cuisine, Belize's top chef, Sean Kuylen, along with our very own General Manager, Wolfgang Brandl, have come together to collaborate with other creatives to bring Glazed Out Belize. Wolfgang's unique experience in the tourism and culinary arts over the past two decades lends an international outlook to his role as a judge on the Glazed Out competition. With experience in the Maldives, Fiji, Seychelles, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and Mauritius, his global exposure to the culinary scene joins Chef Sean's local expertise on Belizean cuisine for a special perspective on the combination of culture and the culinary arts. The Glazed Out competition aims at showcasing some of the best culinary talents the country has to offer, while also encouraging important conversations about Belize's own unique position in the culinary world. We invite you to experience our country's vibrant cultural cuisine through this new series and on your next visit to Ka'ana Resort.
Culinary Visionary, Chef Sean Kuylen
Having grown up in Dangriga, the cultural capital of Belize, Chef Sean is the symbol of a culinary ambassador for Belizean cuisine. Combining knowledge from culture and nature-driven ingredients, Chef Sean reveals his own exceptional take on the very best of Belizean culture in his culinary work. We had the opportunity to chat with Chef Sean to discuss the unique innovations of culture and cuisine that are the ultimate embodiment of his culinary work. Here's what he had to say:
How did your culinary career start and why did you want to become a Chef?
I left Belize for San Francisco, California for Culinary School in 2004. I was formerly a musician in a very popular Garifuna Band out of Dangriga and at the time but quickly found out that although fun, it was not a career for me. My girlfriend at the time encouraged me to look at schools outside of Belize and I could not think of something that I would like to do. Casually one day, my mom reminded me that I loved to cook as a child. See I did like to cook and was always in the kitchen making eggs, cakes, baking pastry out of my head and without recipes. But to make it a career was the last thing I would imagine. In the end, I did get accepted to a prestigious Culinary and Hospitality program and excelled with honors. This was surprising even to me since, in Belize, I was not that type of student. Looking back, passion was my driving force then and this same fuel continues to be today with my now ‘Inspired Belizean Cuisine.'
You traveled a lot throughout the past few months, did it influence your cuisine?
I have been traveling experiencing Pipple, Food & Kulcha over the last 15 years. I have documented the Cuisines of Belize and the Caribbean through my working experience in Dominica, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and of course every inch of Belize and its terroir. Travel is the best way to experience a country and its cuisine in its most authentic form. I always say as a traveler, you may go to Xunantunich Maya Temple or our Great Barrier Reef and only take photos and memories since you cannot physically take an artifact or coral! However with food, you can tangibly touch, smell, taste, digest, see and experience a people, country, and its kulcha and even recreate it back home with a cookbook. At Ka'ana you can do all this by booking the Authentic Fogon cooking experience, take a walk through the Organic Garden or visit San Ignacio's Farmer's Market, which I personally think is the country's best market only second to the market in Punta Gorda, Toledo.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a chef?
Everyone has an inner Chef waiting to be freed. Eating and food is the one thing that everyone does every single day for survival and pleasure evoking connotations, memory and nostalgia. The number one answer to any successful Chef on the question on where they learned how to cook is always Mom & Grandmother. My advice then is to tap into what you have right at home, ask questions, take pictures, document and practice. Many times you hear that food or language is lost with the last generation. Today's aspiring chef must use his cell phone to his advantage, documenting and creating your own style of cooking with tips from online platforms. Personally, I take hundreds of pictures a day documenting people and their way of life. One might take the making of fresh coconut milk for granted in Belize as its a way of life, but to a foreigner, this is simply fascinating. It is always fun to see the look on a guest's face when they see a coconut tree for the first time and equally a giggle to see Belizean experiencing snow for the first time as that is certainly not a common experience on Christmas morning in this country. The point is, document and appreciate our local cuisine and don't ever feel compelled to have to imitate another's as ours is just as exotic to a foreigner.
Is there one ingredient in particular that you have enjoyed working with?
My all-time favorite ingredient to work within Belize has been the mighty coconut. When young, it's favored for its refreshing coconut water, cocktails, and pastry such as tableta and cotobrute with its ‘jelly' soft meat. The older coconuts are used for coconut milk, oil, soap making, and the husk for firewood giving that rice and beans its smoky flavor. I have documented and experienced every culture of Belize using the milk in their own authentic way and names by simply changing the protein and spice such as fresh grouper, crab, game meat along with annatto, yellow ginja (turmeric), basil, the heart of palm and habanero.
What do you think of the recent TV contest - Glazed Out Belize?
Glazed Out the Competition gives the young chef the platform to express themselves showcasing Belize's Culinary Art. As the host, I am most excited to see how the different chefs interpret the box ingredients based on their very own ethnicity and style of cooking. I certainly encourage local application and use of ingredients, but the end result is up to the judges as unfortunately, I don't get to taste! During the competition, I work up a sweat as I am running on all cylinders and adrenaline to each contestant during the allotted time. I am most proud that whatever ingredient, technique, and cooking style showcased, I was able to identify and expound on their names, use, and description. This wealth of knowledge was not earned from a cookbook, but rather traveling to every district and town in this country documenting our Pipple, Food & Kulcha.
Glazed Out Belize premiers August 4th on the National Channel featuring Chef Sean and our very own Wolfgang Brandl, General Manager of Ka'ana Resort. The winner of the competition will have a special dish added to the menu at our onsite restaurant, La Ceiba Restaurant.
Book a stay at Ka'ana and experience untamed Belize, with the knowledge that at the end of your adventure you will come ‘home' to one of the most comfortable beds, personal outdoor shower & relaxing tub, or even your own plunge pool. Book a Culinary Experience, climb Maya Temples, walk the beach at our sister property, Itz'ana, and eat like a local from culturally reflective restaurant menus.