CATCH AND DINE – Program shows mindful harvesting, food preparation - A plate of food on a table - Full breakfast
Blackened mahi mahi, fried snapper (whole) and pan-sauteed almaco Jack with a Jamaican escovitch curated with Mexican oregano, thyme and other rooftop herbs served on top of a banana leaf in Le Crueset, with a side of lyonaisse potatoes, rooftop herbed tomatoes and house made cornbread.

Our day began at 7:30 a.m. when we met Capt. Casey Scott at the dock of Baker’s Cay Resort in Key Largo. Once offshore, we got to experience the thrill of searching for a pelagic species, looking for frigates and lines of sargassum in the distance. 

Scott’s years of experience were impressive, and thanks to his trained eye, he was able to spot from the bow of the boat a school of mahi yards out. The chase was exhilarating, and with special guidance, we were able to land some impressive fish. 

Toward the end of the half-day excursion, we stopped near a reef to catch some gray and yellowtail snappers. Scott was very knowledgeable about the various regulations put in place by NOAA and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and even suggested that we release the fish, which barely made it over the size limits — giving them a chance to grow bigger. This attention to detail showed the importance of harvesting mindfully and made the overall experience unique. Once back at the dock, Scott walked over to deliver our fish to the resort’s executive chef, Andy Papson.

CATCH AND DINE – Program shows mindful harvesting, food preparation - A close up of a fish on a table - Northern red snapper
Chef Andy Papson preparing the various species of fish caught a few hours beforehand. This gray snapper was prepared using the “whole fish utilization” policy. IAN WILSON/Keys Weekly

“One of the exciting benefits of cooking with our guests’ catch of the day is the inspiration that accompanies the occasion,” he said. “I had the opportunity to prepare an almaco jack, a fish I rarely have the opportunity to play with. Curating a dish with something unique is always inspiring and then translates to new ideas and thoughts with my culinary team. Getting local knowledge from Scott is always a great way to procure vision of how it has been prepared in the local area.”

After chatting with the culinary team and hearing their ideas for how to prepare the fish, we followed Papson to the rooftop garden where his excitement for fresh herbs and produce really came through.

As an appetizer, we were served a snapper ceviche. The use of raw fish was a great way to highlight the transition from dock to dish.

The main course resembled a masterpiece in cast iron, with mahi, yellowtail snapper, gray snapper and almaco jack all presented side by side family style, garnished with flowers and rooftop vegetables. Possibly the most eye-catching of all, however, was the snapper fried whole, which emphasized the fact that we were eating fish from the sea that we caught with our very own hands.

CATCH AND DINE – Program shows mindful harvesting, food preparation - A man and a woman standing in front of a building - Greenhouse
Executive chef Andy Papson walks us through the resort’s rooftop garden. The greenhouse on the right is home to five of the hottest pepper species in the world, used for their homemade sauces for both the Mexican-inspired cuisine at Dry Rocks and Caribbean-inspired cuisine at Calusa. The garden also holds countless pots of basil, mint and chef Andy’s personal favorite, Cuban oregano.

Mindful harvesting and preparation of food demonstrated the environmental and health benefits associated with short supply chains. We left Baker’s Cay Resort with incredible memories from the fishing adventure and the breath-taking three-course meal, but perhaps what will stay with us and future participants the longest is the empowerment that came from knowing we could supply seafood for ourselves.

CATCH AND DINE – Program shows mindful harvesting, food preparation - A piece of cake sitting on top of a white plate - Crudo
Yellowtail snapper crudo with blood orange and yuzu pearls topped with chile threads

“By manifesting the guests’ complete experience, beginning with threading the line, to picking the seasonings and rounding out the meal with the perfect wine pairing, we hope that it is the genesis for thoughts beyond their stay and into their daily lives,” Boyd said.

Visit bakerscayresort.com and explore the “Activities” page to book a Dock to Dish Tour.

Join Our Blast – Keys News Right to Your INBOX

Leave a Reply