Thais Rodriguez, Chef de Cuisine of Anchor & Den, has a passion for the kitchen that is rooted in her childhood. Along with her mother, she opened her first restaurant in her hometown in New Jersey when she was a teenager. She hasn’t looked back since. After attending the French Culinary Institute in New York City and owning a wedding cake business, she got the opportunity to move to Cayman in 2010.
Since then she worked as a Pastry Chef for Michael’s Genuine before joining Marriott. She explored various roles at our resort but last year was a turning point in her career when she was asked to use her creativity to craft our unique menu at Anchor & Den. Here she talks about her inspirations and explains why she is so excited about our recently transformed Beach House.
When you chat with Thais, you can tell right away that she is a true foodie. She loves making food, eating food, talking about food, even posting pictures of food on social media. There is no denying it; it is in her blood. And her inspirations come from many sources – her background, travels and her family. She said: “My grandmother always cooked and I was always in the kitchen peeking over and taking little bits here and there. I was always interested in what she was making. So when I was in high school, my mom and I started a restaurant. It was a small cute place that offered Latin Fusion cuisine. That is where I learned most of my skills because it was really hands on and I had to help my mom with everything. The dishes that we served were all recipes that my mom inherited from her mom who is originally from the Dominican Republic. What’s funny is that I originally wanted to be a Criminal Psychologist and all of a sudden it changed like that and I wanted to work in the kitchen. Opening a restaurant with my mom was a defining moment for me. I was in charge of desserts and that is when I really found my passion for Pastry. I was only 14.”
When asked what she likes the most about being part of the Beach House team, she acknowledges the creative freedom that has been handed to her. She elaborated: “For Anchor & Den I was basically given the artistic license to create a menu based on their vision. I saw the plans and pictures for the revamped space and I was asked to put together dishes that would suit that style. I was able to incorporate a lot of my childhood favourites as well as classic comfort food with a little twist here and there. There was a focus on simple but innovative cuisine. I also wanted to incorporate different influences stemming from the various cultures that make up our island – I felt that it was very important for me to acknowledge this.”
Even with a globally inspired menu, using local produce in Anchor & Den’s dishes as much as possible is also a priority for the kitchen. She continued: “Even if it is as simple as using local tomatoes or kale in a recipe, we try to incorporate it. We live in Cayman after all and it is important to represent and promote what we have here. Before we didn’t have as much of a relationship with the local food market but it is perceived differently now. There is a movement towards farm-to-fork. And this is good in two ways – we get to use all these amazing ingredients from the place we live but we also benefit local farmers and producers. It is really cool that we have all of this available and we don’t have to order everything from outside.”
When asked what she is most excited about with the recent transformation, Thais said: “A lot of the people I know in the industry have visited us recently and they are so pleasantly surprised by our new look and design. They are really excited about it and when they look at the menu and see that we have a Raw Bar, Creperie Station, Gelato Stand and all this cool stuff they are really blown away. It has really attracted the local community. Now they can come here and enjoy an all-around experience with our different food offerings. It is such a nice place to chill. You just come here after work and relax, meet up with friends and enjoy a cocktail and bite to eat all in a beautiful setting. Our Boulangerie Brunch on Sundays has been very popular. It is the talk of the town and I think it is a great opportunity for people to see what we are all about and what we are capable of.”