Open Palm Kitchen 2023: Rosetta and Twerk 'n Jerk

A night of dinner and dancing with Chef Elena Reygadas, Yola Mezcal, and Ghetto Gastro

The morning after Tillie’s Dinner Party, I awoke rested and ready to savor another day in culinary paradise. That night, Palm Heights would officially open their new residency kitchen, an intimate chef’s counter and dining room with an adjoining veranda overlooking the hotel’s back pool. Chef Elena Reygadas of Rosetta in Mexico City was set to christen the space, with a bespoke bar menu provided by Yola Mezcal. Feeling more than a little full from the previous night’s feast, I headed across the street to the athletic club to work up my appetite, where trainer Alari whooped my ass with a HIIT circuit under the Caribbean sun. During our cool down, the Kentucky transplant shared more about her journey to the Caymans - a lifelong athlete, she studied exercise science in school and has dreams of training with professional team, but also has a passion for pole dance, a physically taxing art form that helped her gain confidence and grow more in touch with her body. She plans to teach pole classes for guests when a dance studio opens on the property later this year.

That evening, guests started to trickle into the residency kitchen just after 8 pm, where they were greeted with an installation by Montreal-based multidisciplinary artist Gab Bois. Thousands of pistachio shells crept up the leg and onto the counter of the open kitchen’s central island, encasing the surface in a scale-like pattern. Gab’s whimsical practice often plays with intersections of food and design, rendering high modernist sofas in bread, jello, and marshmallows, or reenvisioning textiles like boucle and fleece in popcorn and crispy rice. Out on the veranda, I caught up with Angel + Dren, twin DJs and owners of Mad Juicy in Harlem who had flown down with their pal Jon Gray to spin for the afterparty thrown by Ghetto Gastro. We  enjoyed coconut water mezcalitas in the bougainvillea-scented breeze with photographer Tyler Mitchell, who was at Palm Heights on a residency to write a screenplay. (Flush with inspiration, he also snuck in a photoshoot for Marni during his stay.)

Chefs Jake Brodsky and Elena Reygadas

Inside, chef Elena was cranking out a menu inspired by culinary convergences; Mexico City falls on the 19th parallel, the same line of latitude as Grand Cayman, and her dishes sought to foreground shared tastes and techniques. As guests settled into their first course - a savoy cabbage “taco” with pistachio pipian and romeritos, wild greens typical of central Mexico - servers offered tastes of mezcal with salted tropical fruits, paired by Grace Denis. Thomas Pastuszak proffered wines for the second and third courses - delicate lobster aguachile, and a warm sweet potato tamal with salsa macha and tangy buttermilk. Vibrant hibiscus-infused cocktails served in jamaica-rimmed coupes made for a high contrast pairing with olive oil poached red snapper in white mole.

Out on the patio, Chef Dominique Crenn and her team, fresh off a day’s service at a hotel down the beach, relaxed with a glass of wine - the Michelin-starred chef had strolled over to Palm Heights, eager to catch up with the Ghetto Gastro crew ahead of the afters, an affair they’d dubbed “Twerk ‘n Jerk.” After polishing off the final course - a squiggle of white bean and cacao mousse topped with crystallized hoja santa - guests sauntered over to the adjacent nightclub, Bambi’s, lured by thumping bass and intoxicating aromas wafting from the grills outside the entrance.

Angel + Dren at Bambi's

For their inaugural Caymanian turn up, Ghetto Gastro brought their signature du rag diplomacy to the islands, with a crew of collaborators including fellow Bronx native DJs Angel + Dren, and an international twerk team overseen by Los Angeles-based stylist Marquise Miller (whom the dancers affectionately called “Marquisha”). Guests flocked to the light up dance floor, where they were treated to a live set of dancehall and hip hop classics, alongside a healthy dose of Renaissance remixes. Prompted by liquid courage and/or newfound Caribbean confidence, a handful stepped up to the pole that had been installed just for the night - Alari put us to shame with effortless moves, offering a few pointers. Drinks flowed freely at the bar, while just outside the door, guests refueled with snacks from the hosts’ debut cookbook, Black Power Kitchen: shrimp suya brushed with citrus brown butter, and jerk chicken skewers served with pineapple confit and twerk sauce, a miso gochujang BBQ concoction with a whisper of white truffle.

Presented by Palm Heights, Yola Mezcal, and Ghetto Gastro

Special Thanks to Davide Spadia, Sam Wessner, Marquise Miller, Bambi Grimotes, and Gabriella Khalil

Food: Elena Reygadas, Jake Brodsky, Pierre Serrao

Bar: YOLA Mezcal, Grace Denis

Wine: Thomas Pastuszak

Music: Angel + Dren

Photography: Ava von Osdol and Wami Aluko