Meet a fan-favorite of Belize, Chef Jennie Staines! 

by McNab Editorial Team

Without a doubt, Chef Jennie Staines is one of the top professionals in the hospitality business of Belize. Her dedication, passion, and devotion to food ultimately make her one of the best chefs in the country. Chef Jennie Staines, of Elvi’s Kitchen on the island of Ambergris Caye, doesn’t have wanderlust. But if you lived in paradise, how far would you venture from home? Elvi’s, a must-visit on the island for 40+ years, is renowned for its delicious menu, and its sand floor, which invites people to come as you are. Growing up in Belize, Jennie’s favorite food was always tamales, but these days it is che-chac or fish soup. Chef Jennie Staines trained in Florida and Mexico, but Belize called her back home. She’s fascinated with the effect our many cultures have had on our food, especially as it relates to the wide variety of seasonings. Jennie’s favorite dish from another chef is stewed gibnut. When you visit us in Belize, be sure to try it. 

One of the oldest restaurants on the island

Chef Jennie by Oli

Chef Jennie Staines of the landmark restaurant, Elvi’s Kitchen on this Belize island. Photo by Oli

Elvi’s Kitchen, the most famous restaurant on the island, offers its customers a range of mouthwatering entrees to delight in. Something good is always cooking here! Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, steak, burgers, ceviche, tacos, or Belizean-flavored dishes, you can find it all at Elvi’s. Chef Jennie also offers a vegetarian menu for plant-based lovers!


Stone crabs are a uniquely sustainable, renewable seafood resource — because crabs have the ability to regrow harvested claws. Chef Jennie of Elvi’s Kitchen has insisted on claws only for this reason, creating a demand for fishers to respond sustainably. Image via Elvi’s Kitchen

Elvi’s Kitchen continuously excels in food and service. They also have live music every night along with Caribbean Night on Thursdays and Mexican Night on Saturdays. This five-star restaurant is located on La Isla BonitaPescador Drive, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize, Central America. If you’re a huge seafood fan, one of their must-haves is the coconut shrimp curry. Below you can find a recipe for Elvi’s Kitchen’s coconut shrimp curry from the Flavors of Belize cooking book. Enjoy! 

Coconut Shrimp Curry 

Elvi’s Kitchen, Ambergris Caye 


  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined 
  • Salt, to taste 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • ¼ cup coconut oil 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced 
  • ¼ cup onion, diced 
  • ¼  cup green bell pepper, deseeded, diced 
  • ½ cup tomatoes, deseeded, diced 
  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed 
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder 
  • 2 teaspoons creole pepper sauce, to taste (recipe below) 
  • 2 cups seafood or chicken stock 
  • 2 cups coconut milk 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped 


Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat coconut oil in a cast-iron pot or frying pan. Add garlic, ginger, onion, bell peppers, and tomato. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add cardamom pods, curry powder, and creole pepper sauce; stir well. Add shrimp, sauté for 5 minutes and set aside. Add stock and coconut milk to sautéed vegetables and reduce over medium heat for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Return shrimp to stock, add fresh cilantro, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Serve on a bed of freshly cooked coconut white rice (recipe below) and complement with fried ripe plantains (recipe below). 

Serves 3 to 4 

Creole Pepper Sauce
Dorla Bovell, Caribbean Palms Kiosk, Belize City 


  • 8 habanero peppers, deseeded 
  • ½ cup carrots 
  • 3 cloves garlic 
  • 1 ½ cups onion 
  • 1 cup vinegar 
  • Salt, to taste 


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and purée. Let set 1 hour before serving. Store in a glass jar. 

* May also be substituted with other hot sauces when used as an ingredient in recipes. 

Coconut White Rice 


  • 2 cups white rice 
  • 2 cups coconut milk 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, olive oil or melted butter 


Bring rice, coconut milk, water, salt, and oil to a boil and allow to cook for 2 minutes. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for approximately 8 minutes or until liquid is fully absorbed. Reduce to low heat. Sprinkle with ¼ cup water, cover, and cook another 10 minutes until rice is tender. 

Fried Ripe Plantain 


  • 2 large very ripe plantains, peeled 
  • Vegetable oil for frying  


Heat oil in a frying pan. Cut plantains in half and then half again lengthwise. Fry in hot oil until dark brown and then turn and fry until brown on another side. 

Written by Vivian Lizarraga 

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