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Chef Wheeler Brings Fresh Ideas to Baker’s Cay

Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo has appointed Carolann Wheeler as its executive chef, and she is bringing a slew of innovative ideas to the table

By Linden M. Bayliss

Executive Chef Carolann Wheeler of Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo || Courtesy of Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo

Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo, Curio Collection by Hilton, in Key Largo, Florida, named Carolann Wheeler as its executive chef in April. Wheeler brings more than 18 years of experience to her new role in the Florida Keys, including executive chef positions at four-star restaurants, hotels, and private clubs; as well as personal private chef positions for celebrities such as Billie Eilish and Steven Tyler. Wheeler prioritizes a passion for fresh food and sustainability as she works to elevate and expand the hotel’s culinary offerings. She will oversee all culinary operations for the 200-room property including banquets, special events, its signature restaurant Calusa, and its beachside dining establishment Dry Rocks.

Born and raised in New York and classically trained in Pennsylvania, the Northeast-hailing Wheeler is excited about cooking in a new region and for the culinary opportunities Florida offers. “I really like having access to fresh seafood and unique fruits and vegetables that are only grown here in Florida,” says Wheeler. “There is something special about a dining experience that truly embodies the spirit of its location, and the bountiful options in the Southeast allow me to be expansive in menu creation. Plus, you can’t beat the year-round sunshine, which inspires fresh, airy takes on classic dishes.”

Aerial view of Baker's Cay Resort Key Largo
Aerial view of Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo || Courtesy of Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo

Wheeler says she draws a lot of inspiration from nature and enjoys introducing guests to flavor pairings they might not have tried before—she says she often pairs berries and fruit with fennel, for example. “I get excited using fresh ingredients and new techniques,” she says. “I’m always searching for new things to try and implement it in my own way to make dishes unique.”

For meetings and events, Wheeler says Baker’s Cay has a lot to offer planners and attendees, from beautiful views to intimate tropical settings to expansive accommodations for all dietary needs. She says she is currently working on a vegan and vegetarian menu for the hotel’s outlet dining as well as its catering menu to better serve all guests who walk through the doors.

Calusa, signature restaurant at Baker’s Cay || Courtesy of Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo

Another exciting project the chef is undertaking is the revitalization of the resort’s rooftop garden to include fresh herbs, tomatoes, edible flowers, cucumbers, and more. The new Chef’s Garden, slated to open early next year, will provide an enhanced garden-to-table taste for several dishes as Wheeler aims to seasonally refresh menus throughout the resort. “I want to bring a garden-to-table experience to Baker’s Cay Resort,” Wheeler explains. “For example, the flavor profile of a tomato straight from the vine, never being refrigerated, is unlike anything else. I think that will be a uniqueness few places in the Keys can offer.” She adds that eventually, she hopes to host small, private dinners in the garden.

hilton.com

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