Palette Magazine

Kaytlin Brakefield's New Menu at PAMM's Verde Restaurant Redefines the Culinary Arts

Rick Karlin

Executive Chef Kaytlin Brakefield
Executive Chef Kaytlin Brakefield

Driving over the MacArthur Causeway, you come across one of the most stunning new structures gracing downtown Miami’s skyline — the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). Housing predominantly modern and contemporary pieces from around the globe, PAMM evolved from the Miami Art Museum and earned its name from real-estate developer Jorge M. Pérez, who generously donated his private art collection to be permanently housed there. Needless to say, each gallery is a feast for the senses.

But if you are craving an actual feast while spending a day at the museum, head over to Verde, PAMM’s acclaimed waterfront restaurant. There, Executive Chef Kaytlin Brakefield is inviting culture-loving foodies to pair their meals with art in creative new ways.

Since early spring, starting with the Tàpies: From Within exhibit, Brakefield has designed a menu to complement the exhibit being showcased. The current Poetics of Relation, which brings together several installations evoking migrant experiences, is inspired by the writings of author and philosopher Édouard Glissant and represents Miami as a place culturally defined by its many communities. The exhibit explores the sensibilities of artists whose work engages the historical legacy of trauma caused by colonialism and migration.

Chef Brakefield found inspiration in the representation of immigration and the layering of cultures in new lands and created a menu that incorporates flavors and aromas from around the world. “We take wherever the artists are from and do a menu based on that. But there’s so much more to an artist than that,” says Brakefield. “I sit down with the artists and try to be inspired.”

For this menu Brakefield tapped into her own experiences moving across the country. She trained at the International Culinary Institute in New York while working in Gabe Thompson’s bustling West Village Italian restaurant, dell’Anima. Shortly after completing culinary school, she joined the opening team of Thompson’s L’Artusi before moving to San Francisco, where she worked at the famed Quince and Cotogna. Brakefield then returned to New York to become chef de cuisine at L’Apicio. Most recently, she relocated to Miami to helm the kitchen at Verde.

Though still new to South Florida, Brakefield has settled in pretty well. Like most of us, she finds driving to be something of a nuisance, but acquiring the best ingredients? Not so much. “A couple of weeks ago I went to Paradise Farms to check out their produce. It’s not just the tropical fruit [there], so much of what they have is amazing,” she says.

In planning the menu for the new exhibit, she realized the mixture of voices and backgrounds was similar to the layers of culture that make up Miami. “Dining brings people together, and the culture is inspiring,” says Brakefield.

The three-course meal she and her team created for Poetics of Relation plays off that rich tapestry of cultural interactions. The first course features a crudo of fluke with local mango, ají limo peppers, ginger and black salt. That is followed by a Moroccan-spiced chicken tagine with saffron couscous and preserved lemon for the main course. A light lime granita with honey-glazed shortbread and candied ginger cleanses the palate and rounds out the culinary experience. A special cocktail was also created to complement the meal. A take on the classic dark ‘n’ stormy, the handcrafted drink combines dark rum and ginger beer.

 

Starting November 19th PAMM will present a mid-career retrospective of Jamaican artist Nari Ward. Verde’s fall exhibit menu will showcase ingredients like calabaza and king fish, a nod to traditional Jamaican cuisine. Chef Brakefield also found inspiration in Ward’s method of repurposing materials. She will incorporate this method by repurposing pieces such as the calabaza rind and seeds. pamm.org/dining

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