Here at Ka'ana, Executive Chef of both Itz'ana and Ka'ana, Dean Uren is constantly looking for ways to perfect the culinary experience for guests dining with us. The South Africa-born chef, who's spent years working at top restaurants in London and along South Africa's Dolphin Coast, is fully in his element in Belize. "Belize has an amazing climate, seas that draw you in deeper, jungles that excite my sense of adventure and natural produce that I must admit is really on its own level," he shared with our friends at sister resort Itz'ana.
And now, he's thrilled to share his brand new dinner menu for our La Ceiba Restaurant. The dishes are loaded with flavor, and feature fresh seafood and meats alongside organic, homegrown produce raised at nearby farms and in Ka'ana's own gardens. The whole kitchen staff here at Ka'ana oversee the production of this new menu, including Head Chef Indera Duran and her team Carlos, José and Lilia. Duran, who's a local Belizean, has a profound depth of knowledge on the food of our country. She always knows the right flavors and spices to add, and makes sure that the food here at Ka'ana is Belizean to the core.
We sat down with Chef Dean to get the details on what's new and delicious.
What was your inspiration for the new menu at Ka'ana?
The region, the people, the local ingredients, and the organic garden on site. I wanted to share Belize's rich culture, allowing our guests to step in and admire this country's rustic, diverse cuisine.
What percentage of ingredients from the organic garden on site would you say you use for your dishes?
The garden gives an impressive 20 percent of our kitchen's produce demand. There are the menu-supporting products along with seasonal produce that adds a refreshing element of surprise each year.
What grows in the garden?
Belize's cuisine calls for menu must-haves like tomatoes, basil, cilantro, arugula, mint, culantro, habanero and sweet peppers. And each morning, the breakfast chef collects passionfruit, avocado, papaya, cantaloupe, craboo, zucchini, and limes.
What are some unique things guests can expect to see/taste on the new menu and what should NOT be missed?
The Mayan dukunu with longaniza sausage and eggplant chipotle is a firm favorite with our international travelers who want to taste a local traditional food. AI also recommend pairing the shrimp ceviche and homemade corn tortilla chips with a cold Belikin—it's an unrivaled match.
And the Mestizo beef showcases a unique Ka'ana spice blend rubbed over a New York strip steak, so it has this unique smoked spice flavour and is juicy and tender—everything you would expect from a great steak.
Do you have a favorite dish on the menu and why?
The Barbacoa pork is something we worked on for some time. We marinate the meat overnight with a unique spice blend and then barbecue it over hot coals. It's braised in local beer and pineapple juice, too, so it really delivers something quite special.
What is your philosophy when it comes to cooking food?
Fresh is best: aways start with quality in mind. And keep it clean and simple: don't try to overwork food with overpowering flavors. Food in its most simple form should be appreciated for what it is. (Consider fresh basil, limes, black pepper...they're all incredibly powerful just as they are.)
What is your favorite thing to cook?
Braised meats, for their different textures and succulence.
What is your favorite thing to eat?
Sourdough with olive oil, avocado, and black pepper.
Want to try Chef Dean's new menu for yourself? Now's the perfect time to start planning your next visit to Belize for a culinary discover at Ka'ana!