This week, I have been assisting Amie with a kitchen renovation plan. This feeds into one of the 2017 goals of Chan Chich- to elevate the food and beverage program by taking inspiration from traditional Caribbean, Belizean and Mayan foodways, creating a cuisine that we’re fondly calling Mayan Soul Food. The improved agricultural practices and updated kitchen are important building blocks to achieve these goals. Emily is mainly working on the agricultural side, communicating with colleagues at Gallon Jug farm to better align their supply with the Lodge’s demand.
Between dining hours, I have been asking Chef Ram the minutest details about refrigerators and convection ovens and walking the kitchen to measure every wall and shelf. Currently, I am creating a 2D diagram of the proposed kitchen in SketchUp, a modeling software used for drafting construction and architectural drawings, that will help Chan Chich Lodge form a stronger argument for a kitchen renovation and to create a visual to reference throughout the process.
Concurrently, I have been researching produce with Amie that will direct the food and beverage program here to further highlight both the foraged food and farm-to-table aspects of the menu. As a few examples, we have been exploring the potential chia seed, the ramon nut (maya nut), and sorrel could have on the menus. Specifically on the bar side, we have found a few herb-infused simple syrup recipes that we hope to incorporate into beverages. We also aim to feature seasonal fruits like mango and sweet granadilla (an oval fruit with a sweet, jelly-like pulp at the center) in signature cocktails.
One day, when I was measuring the prep tables in the back of the kitchen, Rosie, one of the members of the kitchen staff, looked over and asked, “Are you building us a new kitchen!?” When I nodded, she gave a “thumbs up” to another staff member. Chef Ram and the rest of the kitchen staff have been cooking delicious meals for me three times a day for the past week; while the fanciest of stovetops can’t replace the raw talent of the team, I sure do look forward to what they can do with an improved space!
While this is technically a side project for my time here, it has been my main focus for the past week. It’s been extremely useful to reflect on academic courses about foodservice operations, and even my own time as a server, and apply them to this project. As we look to the future of the food and beverage program here at Chan Chich, I can’t help but be excited that the initial work I am completing this summer will be a direct influence.