At Cayo Levantado Resort, on its own private island off the coast of Samaná in the Dominican Republic, authenticity is part of its DNA: From its architecture, design and interiors imagined by Dominican Republic-based Ramón Emilio Jiménez and his studio Arquimilio, to the cuisine and the cocktails under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Erick Dominguez, it is an all-encompassing, yet distinctive experience that sets it apart.
Cayo Levantado Resort moves to a rhythm all its own. Sustainability is a core pillar of this newly opened, 5-star resort’s philosophy, with a dedication to upholding and preserving the island’s unique ecosystem. “Natural Rhythm” inspires the initiatives that reduce the resort’s environmental impact, such as reverse gardening, solar panel installations that generate 20 percent of its electricity, a state-of-the-art water treatment plan and the ongoing protection of coral reefs encircling the island. The founders’ stance on zero plastics and the safeguarding of the endemic flora and fauna species through collaborations with biologists are industry leading.
Speaking of industry leaders, Executive Chef Erick Dominguez took some time out of his busy schedule feeding his resort guests, to tell us more about his approach to food and the importance of staying true to the Dominican culture.
How would you describe in a few words each of the five dining options at Cayo Levantado?
Chef Erick: Palma Real is an exquisite restaurant that takes you on a global culinary journey, showcasing diverse flavors and dishes from around the world in an international dining setting.
Santa Yuca restaurant is a haven for well-being enthusiasts, dedicated to promoting a healthy lifestyle by serving scrumptious meals crafted from fresh, nutritious ingredients following the four paths of well-being.
Carey is where the worlds of Japan and Peru collide in a culinary explosion, offering an array of innovative and flavorful dishes, as well as delightful snack options.
Manaya is a restaurant that caters to connoisseurs of the finest meats, specializing in ultra-premium and meticulously aged cuts to provide an unparalleled and indulgent dining experience.
Senda is a culinary masterpiece that artfully melds the rich traditions of Dominican cuisine with poetic flair, delivering a truly unique gastronomic experience with every dish.
How deeply involved are you with the resort’s sustainability ethos and the slow food movement?
Chef Erick: Our unwavering goal is to uphold the fine dining standards of our Live Station Restaurant, Palma Real. Achieving this objective requires dedicated teamwork and meticulous planning. We meticulously curate our display offerings by handpicking the finest ingredients, from lean meats and fresh fish to crisp salads. Our commitment to excellence shines through in the live cooking islands where our skilled chefs craft personalized dishes daily. This culinary approach ensures a delightful contrast, offering a diverse and clear array of dishes to suit every palate, always infused with a special touch of culinary artistry.
Do you oversee all the food offerings, including the wellness menu?
Chef Erick: I diligently oversee our entire culinary repertoire, which encompasses not only our wellness menu where I collaborate with our on-site nutritionist but our entire culinary spectrum. I take great pride in our kitchen team’s steadfast dedication to upholding the utmost quality in our dishes, a commitment they maintain at all times.
How do you maintain a high standard from buffet to fine dining? Is the buffet a challenge?
Chef Erick: Naturally, being the epitome of luxury that we are, we’ve replaced the traditional buffet setup with Palma Real. In this capacity, I take personal care to oversee every facet of our culinary offerings, from our wellness menu to our indulgent options. I take immense pride in our kitchen team’s unwavering commitment to ensuring the highest quality in every dish, ensuring a consistently exquisite dining experience.
How important is it to infuse your menu with local ingredients and also traditional methods and flavours of the Dominican Republic?
Chef Erick: My constant mission is to weave the essence of local ingredients and authentic Dominican flavors into our menu preparation. This holds immense significance as it not only fosters cultural identity but also lends support to local producers, ultimately offering our diners a truly authentic culinary experience. Additionally, preserving these cherished culinary traditions serves as a vital means of keeping our country’s cultural heritage alive, while simultaneously encouraging the growth of gastronomic tourism.
Are there dishes you thought would work but are now changing or reworking since opening?
Chef Erick: Currently, our gastronomic offerings have been running seamlessly. However, we remain open to innovation, and our commitment to rotating menus with the seasons is unwavering, ensuring that freshness and quality always take center stage.
What are the most popular items on the menu, and what’s your favourite to prepare?
Chef Erick: Cooking is a passion of mine, and above all, relishing delectable cuisine. To me, every dish I prepare holds a special place in my heart, as each one possesses its own unique essence.
Do you work with local providers and how do you go about the selection process?
Chef Erick: Absolutely, our dedication lies in being an environmentally conscious company. We carefully select our suppliers, ensuring they align with our rigorous criteria for hygiene, quality and freshness.