If you were lucky enough to visit the Itz'ana site in the last two years, you might have experienced one of our famed Limilita pop-up restaurants on the beach.
Our commitment to utterly unique sea-to-table dining began at the very start of Itz'ana with the design of our kitchens, our gardens, and our pride and joy: the Limilia restaurant in the Great House.
We're thrilled to announce that we've found the perfect chef to lead this ambitious kitchen. Introducing Itz'ana Executive Chef Dean Uren.
Chef Dean sharpened his knives in some of London's most respected restaurants, including as a Sous Chef at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, with three Michelin stars, and 1 Lombard St, which boasted a Michelin star of its own.
"These were really unique experiences in many ways. It takes discipline, courage and determination to be a part of these elite teams. You are taught that hard work really does pay off, that the best ingredients should be appreciated as they stand up for themselves, that great cooking is not something to take for granted, and that celebrity chefs are just people like you and I, who have earned their way to stardom through long hours and dedication to the culinary industry."
After building his career working as a respected chef, Dean has spent the last seven years running nine kitchens as Executive Chef at the Fairmont Zimbali Resort in South Africa. Which would be an overwhelming challenge to most people. "But I enjoy developing menus, developing people, creating successful concepts, and clearing those hurdles that seem so impossible!"
It's that kind of attitude that makes a him the perfect person to lead our culinary team.
"The kitchen can be a really fun environment when a team just connects and it can be an amazing experience. My biggest reward comes through seeing young chefs grow into talented sous chefs as they persevere day in and day out to develop their skills and confidence. This excites me beyond most other things."
And the staff at Itz'ana can't wait to work with him. We've already made sure the vertical garden, created by Sustainability Chief Shawn Marshall, is well on its way to providing for a full kitchen.
So what excites this worldly chef about a move to Belize? "Honestly, Belize was a place I had never heard of. But once I started researching, it was like a culinary novel that I couldn't put down."
"After a short trip out in February, it didn't take long to make up my mind. I'm a very outdoors kind of person and 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."
That's one of the things that excites our new homeowners most: sampling what a great chef will make of the fantastic Belizean cuisine.
And Chef Dean is ready to rise to the challenge.
"The Itz'ana food ethos is simple and pure, and our team is working hard to deliver a rotating menu that focuses on sustainable, locally farmed produce. Food that has a story, and flavor combinations that are new and tantalizing but are always pinned to the land that is Belize."
‘Guests can expect the comforts of ceviche, tacos, empanadas. Market greens with nuts, local cheese and lime juice. Creole coconut curries and the best of the Caribbean sea whenever it's available from the fishermen."
And we're looking forward to tasting all of it!
Belize has been described as an "edible landscape" – is there one ingredient our new chef is most excited to work with? "The team is extremely excited about using the best of what Belizean soil can push through. Farming and produce is so bountiful in this part of Central America. We will completely embrace the culture and heritage of Belizean food, and this will deservedly come through on all menus."
"Imagine pickles and relish made from lime, coconut and serrano chilli. Taste the forest fruits, bilimbi, Jamaica apple, starfruit and surinam cherries with Mayan artisan chocolate that needs no explanation. These are all amazing flavors in their own unique way."
Cue our mouths watering in anticipation.
And, showing the mark of a true culinary artist, Chef Dean reveals the adventure he's most looking forward to in his new home. "I am still yet to catch and cook my own conch, lobster and lionfish!"