The team behind Gansevoort Turks + Caicos’ Stelle restaurant enjoys a well-earned reputation for providing delectable dishes and a festive atmosphere. But this winter’s revamp at Zest, is providing a new opportunity for diners to enjoy the resort’s signature vibe and creative culinary prowess.
The kitchen at the resort’s oceanfront bistro got a winter makeover, but the most visible change is the dining area, now redesigned to an open plan with a seaside Robata grill station. With sweeping views of Grace Bay beach, it’s an ideal spot to enjoy dining by the sea.
Meanwhile, the big news is the all-new menu, a collaboration between Executive Chef Joel Vallar and the resort’s new Executive Sous Chef Bernardo Collazo, who joined the team in September.
Vallar and Collazo each bring their unique experiences to the menu. You will find Asian influences from Filipino born Vallar, while Collazo adds flavors from his hometown in Mexico.
Like Vallar, Chef Collazo’s approach draws from childhood memories of simple flavors, filtered through worldwide experience to produce fresh takes on dishes guests love. “I never ate in restaurants,” Collazo said, recalling the simple street food he grew up eating in Mexico City. “Most of the time I ate in the market. I ate in the taco place.”
While he enjoyed cooking for his younger brother from a young age, he never considered food as a career option. When he was 15 years old, his strong-willed mother changed that perspective. Hoping to teach the boy a lesson about life, she sent him to work with his uncle at a local burger spot. Collazo was not happy about it. “After school, I was supposed to enjoy time with my friends, but it wasn’t possible because my mom wanted me to improve as a man.” It only took one day in the kitchen of that burger place to change the trajectory of his life.
“I realized I love this industry,” he said. “I liked to be in a hurry all the time, I liked people to smile every time they took a bite into my burger or my fries. So I thought this is something I would really like for my life.” After receiving his Bachelor’s from a gastronomy university in Mexico, he started as the pastry chef in a small hotel. Fast forward to 2012, when – having now completed his Master’s – he landed a position as a pastry chef at the Amanyara Resort. Working in pastry taught him to appreciate organization, detail and methodical discipline. “When I came to Amanyara, I learned you can do the same thing in the hot kitchen.”
Inspired by the executive chef’s passion for excellence, he developed a new love for the savory side of cuisine. He spent the next year and a half traveling to New York, Japan and Denmark. And after some more sharpening of his culinary chops, Collazo joined Vallar on a journey to create impassioned fare.
“Food is for restoring people, so how do you do that? By serving them something that they love. So I want to represent what I love to have, to see how happy I can make the guests.”
Using products and techniques from his home country, combined with dishes from some of his favorite cuisines, add in inspiration from Vallar and the menu at Zest is a fun representation of some the two chef’s favorite dishes. From Mexican-inspired tacos to Asian salads, from pizzas straight from the oven to a savory Robata grill selection, plus a refreshing updated dining area, there is a whole new world to enjoy at Zest.