Chef’s Tables: Tropical Turkey

Gentrifying a Hawaiian dish he enjoyed as a child, executive chef Kevin Darr of City Cellar Wine Bar and Grill in West Palm Beach gives the traditional Thanksgiving turkey a Polynesian punch. Once the bird has been brined with garlic, herbs, and Sriracha sauce, it’s stuffed with fresh pineapple, wrapped in banana leaves, and pit-roasted for 12 hours. The result is fall-apart, tender meat.

“I grow my own vegetables at my home in Loxahatchee, and this dish incorporates something fresh from my garden.”

Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey recipe from Executive Chef evin Darr - City Cellat Wine Bar and Grill

Luau-Style Roast Turkey

Serves 15

  • 1 large turkey, 25-30 lbs.
  • 3 gallons water
  • 2 quarts pineapple juice
  • 2 lbs. sugar
  • 2 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1/2 lb. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha sauce or chili paste
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 golden pineapple, ripe
  • 20 large banana leaves


  1. In a large pot, bring water, pineapple juice, sugar, thyme, salt, Sriracha sauce, and garlic to a simmer.
  2. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Fully submerge the turkey in the cool brine overnight. The next morning, remove the skin from the pineapple and stuff into the cavity of the turkey.
  4. Thoroughly clean the banana leaves to remove any sand. Wrap the turkey with the banana leaves, alternating directions and overlapping to ensure it is fully sealed. Use butchers twine where necessary to keep it tight.
  5. Line a fire pit, or a brick hearth oven, with heat stones. Build a fire on top of the stones using oak logs.
  6. Let the fire burn, adding wood for at least 5 hours to ensure the pit and rocks are heated thoroughly.
  7. Once the fire burns down to coals, place the wrapped turkey into the pit, cover with more banana leaves, and then cover with heat rocks to hold in the heat.
  8. Let the turkey roast like this for at least 12 hours or overnight.
  9. Remove the turkey from the pit and let rest for one hour before unwrapping. After rested, remove the banana leaves and serve.


For more Thanksgiving recipes, click here.


Photography by Libby Volgyes

Styling by Janderyn Makris, Earth and Sugar 

Flowers by Flower and Fringe

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