Raised in St. Thomas on the southeast end of Jamaica – Kevin Baker certainly is no stranger to the culinary flavors of the Caribbean islands. Some of his earliest childhood memories, in fact, are of enjoying curry goat and jasmine rice.
As Baker grew older, so did his enthusiasm for food and exploring his creativity with herbs and spices from the Caribbean and rich sauces from France.
Now as executive sous chef, Baker brings all of that creativity to Steelpan, the new Caribbean-American fusion kitchen and bar at the Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach hotel.
“I’ve always been driven to try different things,’’ said Baker, who studied charcuterie at the Rockford Vocation Heart School and executive sous chef for The Foundry restaurant in Pompano Beach before opening Steeplan this past spring.
“We want to bring different themes to Fort Lauderdale – show off the different flavors and cultures of the islands.
Located on the ground floor of the Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach hotel, Steelpan seats 115 guests and serves an all-day menu. The restaurant also has an eclectic menu of island-inspired cocktails.
Baker’s menu at Steelpan fits perfectly with the laid-back, 240-room hotel on the corner of Sunrise Blvd and A1A.
Begin with the Caribbean Jerk Wings. As flavorful as you might find in South Florida, the wings feature cilantro, scallion, papaya and jicama slaw and poblano cream sauce.
For those looking for more a seafood appetizer, go with the Coconut Shell Ceviche.
The all-day menu also has some great sandwich options, including (my favorite) the Jerk Chicken Sandwich with grilled pineapple, avocado and chipotle mayo.
For dinner, the banana-leaf wrapped Whole Baked Snapper is a “must have’’ for seafood fans. Where’s the beef? Try the Guava Braised Short Ribs with Peruvian garlic potatoes and jicama slaw.
“Being creative is really what the menu is all about,’’ Baker said. “Creativity translates. You might not be able to speak the language, but you can eat the food.’’