#066 – Chef James Kelly: Personalized Dining Experiences, a Solar Powered Food Truck, Organic Fruit & Vegetable Pops, and MORE! | Forking Around Costa Rica

  • June 12, 2018
Forking Around Podcast Equipment

Chef James Kelly

Chef James Kelly, or Jim for short, is a Southern New Jersey boy who relocated to Costa Rica nearly a decade ago. He is now the Executive Chef & Owner of Soma Chef Services, in addition to being a Partner in La Buena Paleta (which produces coconut water-based organic fruit & vegetable ice pops with superfoods in them) and the Owner of Dos Santos Taqueria (a cantina and food truck).

Soma is absolutely incredible – a collaborative effort between Costa Rica’s finest food, beverage, and event planning professionals specializing in world-inspired gourmet and ingredients driven by Latin cuisine.

“Every client has a different thing that they’re looking for & you have to suss out that vibe. If people just want you to put some delicious food on the table then you do that – but if they want a dining experience, that’s when it becomes interesting.” –Chef James Kelly

We also discuss:

  • Jim’s backstory
  • When Jim arrived in Costa Rica
  • Fusing Asian & Latin American cuisine
  • Cooking for the climate
  • Transitioning from restaurant chef to personal chef
  • Creating a personalized dining experience for clients
  • The difference between running a catering company in Costa Rica VS the U.S.
  • The rules & regulations of running a restaurant and bar in Costa Rica
  • Jim’s fully solar powered food truck

A Chef James Kelly Recipe:


  • 4 seeded yellow aji chili peppers (or two tbsp of aji pepper paste)
  • ¼ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tbsp fresh-squeeze orange juice
  • 2 thins slices of ginger, cut against the grain
  • 1 medium garlic clove, peeled
  • ½ tsp Himalayan sea salt (or other quality sea salt)
  • 1 tsp finely minced cilantro
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ pound of any fresh fish (1 to 1.5 inches thick)


  1. Clean the fish, pat it dry, and put it on a plate in the freezer for about 40 minutes. You don’t want it to freeze – just get firm.
  2. Add first six ingredients into blender
  3. After that is properly blended, continue mixing while slowly drizzling in the olive oil
  4. When the fish is firm, not frozen, take it out of the freezer and slice it thinly against the grain
  5. Arrange the fish on a plate, pour the sauce on top, and sprinkle cilantro on top of that


Chef James Kelly Bio:

Executive Chef James Kelly and Head Chef Max Dean, Co-Founders of Soma Chef Services, work exclusively with local and organic produce, sustainably caught seafood, and cruelty & hormone free meats to create inspired, customized, seasonal menus for the most sophisticated palates. They are the first choice for foodie couples looking for a memorable and delicious dining experience.

Having a background in the art of Japanese cuisine and immersing himself in Costa Rican culture, Chef James Kelly has been refining his culinary skills for nearly 20 years. He describes his style of cooking as a fusion of Asian and Latin American, but most importantly his dishes are a perfect balance of freshness, lightness, flavor and texture.  He opened Restaurante Soma at the Milarepa Hotel in 2004, and at the request of his patrons he began offering personal chef services.


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