Little Palm Island’s Newest Gem: Executive Chef Danny Ganem

Little Palm Island, an adults-only private island in the lower Florida Keys, was recently voted one of the Top 50 Best Resorts in the World, and Number 7 in the US, by Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards 2020. There are several ways to get to the island: by car (it’s about a 3-hour drive from Miami) to Little Torch Key, where the resort’s boat will pick guests up and transport them to the island; by seaplane; or by boat—as they have a marina for boats up to 100 feet to dock. Of course, being a sailing aficionado, my partner opted for that, and so we boarded up our 44-ft. ketch and sailed—completely powered by the wind (no engine!)– from Miami to the Florida Keys.

We sailed from Miami to the Lower Florida Keys on our 44 ft. ketch! (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Here we are! (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)

While Little Palm has been around for many years (Former US President Harry Truman and his wife Bess were frequent visitors), it was devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and had remained closed since. This 2020, it officially re-opened its doors with exciting additions and changes.

British West Indies aesthetics make up the interiors of the bungalow suites (there are 15 bungalows, each with two suites, so a total of 30 suites)– each personalized with guests’ last names–and The Great Room (the *only* place with a TV in the island). There is a zen garden, cellphones are discouraged in public areas, and it is only accessible by boat or sea plane, making it the perfect place to disconnect, relax and recharge.

My bungalow suite (No. 12 Reddish Egret) personalized TIU (by Cheryl Tiu)
The living room (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Lots of space to lounge around and unwind (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
The bedroom in my bungalow suite (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
The beds are actually super high! You need to get on the stepper to get up– well, at least I did! (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
The bathroom situation (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Each room is equipped with a bath tub (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Apart from the indoor shower and bath, each bungalow has an outdoor shower (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
The Great Room is the only place in the entire island with a TV. It’s a beautiful library, too, equipped with books (mostly about Cuba and Ernest Hemingway), card and board games (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Our sailboat docked at Little Palm Island’s marina (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Breakfast can be had at the comforts of the bungalow. They place the breakfast tray by the terrace seating so as not to disturb you. So just go out and check at the time you indicated on the order form. I ordered the salmon, and sausage and eggs. So good! (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Each bungalow has a little private nook where you can look out to the sea or stare up at the stars in the evening (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Love that cell phone use is not allowed in public spaces! (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
What walking around the island looks like.. I felt like I was transported back to the tropics in Southeast Asia! (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
The Zen Garden is super calming. You can just sit here and be at peace (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)


It’s rare to visit an island resort just for its food. Usually, it’s supplement to a getaway, and to be honest, often, generic. But at Little Palm Island, newly appointed executive chef Danny Ganem’s brand of Contemporary Florida Cuisine is enough reason to make the trip to the lower Florida Keys. Danny previously trained at Martin Berasategui and Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Spain—before returning to his native Miami where he worked at The Raleigh Hotel, and later on, The Betsy Hotel as executive chef.

The sunning Dining Room at Little Palm. For the Chef’s Tasting menu, seatings are here or at the adjacent outdoor terrace, and soon, after Covid-19, their chef’s table in the kitchen (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Little Palm Island’s new executive chef Danny Ganem (formerly of The Betsy Hotel and The Raleigh Hotel in Miami) (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)

His tasting menu ($195 for 5 courses; $250 for 8) is peppered with the quintessential ‘fine dining’ ingredients: caviar (served with egg), foie gras (as a crème brulee), wagyu (coated with lardo). Importantly, these are complemented with local seasonality—90% of his seafood and produce are sourced locally: black grouper turned into a ceviche with the creamiest leche de tigre; ravioli stuffed with Key West pink shrimp; and the Triple Tail, which after his trip to Japan last year dining at Zaiyu Hasegawa’s Den, Hiroyasu Kawate’s Florilege and Hajime Yoneda’s eponymous Hajime, inspired him to include a rice dish—with grains sourced from Congaree and Penn in Jacksonville—on his tasting menu. You’ll finish with the best rum cake ever.

Techniques and taste are 100% on point—lots of flavor and umami—and further heightened by assistant general manager Felipe Murcia’s wine-pairing program, where you’ll find California, New York and Burgundy wines, alongside sherries both from Spain and Florida. Also, service is superb. Special thanks to Gabby for taking care of us!

Our favorite dish? The Beets Mangalica—raw and vinegar-roasted beets, served with Rogue’s Creamery Smoky Blue Cheese—and Hungarian mangalica ham—and we normally don’t even like beets! That’s how delicious it was.

Our menu! (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Egg | Caviar, Parsnip, Banyuls (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Beets Mangalica | Balsamico di Modena Rouge Creamery Smokey Blue (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Danny Granem’s signature Foie Gras Creme Brulee | Mango, Coconut, Cashews (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Ravioli | Key West Pink Shrimp, Pumpkin, Mustard Seeds (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Tripe Tail | Sweet Potatoes, Valrhona Dulcey Chocolate, Plouts (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Key West Rum Cake | Pink Caribean Pineapple, Buttermilk Ice Cream (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Some of the wines we had, thoughtfully paired by assistant general manager Felipe Murcia (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Little Palm Island Executive Chef Danny Ganem and Assistant General Manager Felipe Murcia
Thank you so much for the warmth and hospitality, Little Palm! (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)

The good news is, The Dining Room is open to the public. The bad news is, it’s already booked out for the month, so reservations must be made in advance. Danny also changes the ala carte menu daily as guests sometimes stay for four to seven days, so to ensure they are given a variety and something new everyday.

*With regards to Covid-19: resort staff have their masks on at all times, and for guests, they are required indoors. The bungalows are generously spaced out, there’s lots of fresh air, so it is perfect for social distancing.

Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is located at 28500 Overseas Highway, Little Torch Key, FL, 33042, USA. Phone +1-305-684-8341 (hotel direct) or +1-888-413-0560 (room reservations). Visit for more information