Jungle Grill

Outdoor Kitchen Award KDC 2015-16
2015-2016 KDC Finalist

Retirement can wait

Instead, Scott and Sandra Gjesdahl are setting a new standard for sustainable luxury living in Belize.

Back when the Great Recession hit in 2008, the Seattle design/build (and matrimonial) team of Scott and Sandra Gjesdahl decided to retire outside the United States, where their dollars went farther. Having traveled all over the world, they choose Belize in Central America, for its natural beauty, perfect climate and relaxed lifestyle.

They bought land in the mountains, with panoramic views of the surrounding jungle, and built a luxury home that is completely off grid, powered by solar and micro-hydro energy. It also has a rather special outdoor kitchen – one that won the very first Outdoor Kitchen award ever given in the 2015-2016 Sub-Zero and Wolf Kitchen Design Contest.

"With the heat here, it's better to cook outside," says Sandra. "So the outdoor kitchen becomes much more important. What we're most proud of with our design is that the scale of it is subdued."

"In the Pacific Northwest, the outdoor kitchens can be enormous," adds Scott. "Huge rock fireplaces, extravagant gazebos, you name it."

As they completed construction of their jungle home, their business in Seattle began to boom again. They made a second purchase in Belize, a modest piece of property on the Caribbean Sea, and built a small villa on it. Friends visited and fell in love with the area, and more seafront villas popped up. The Gjesdahls bought another 440 acres of property, with the Mullins River running through it, down to the sea.

(The Mullins River, you ask? In Belize? Well, Belize used to be British Honduras, thus the anglophilic name.)

Scott picks up the story at this point: "One day our excavation guy said to us, 'My family owns some property, south of the river. Would you be interested?' So we took a look. It was magnificent – 770 acres. The more Sandra and I talked, the more excited we became about what we could do here."

They conceived an idea for a luxury development, including both private homes and a resort. But not just any development: it would be totally beyond sustainable, a model for other developments in Belize and indeed, throughout the world.

"We're passionate about regenerative built environments and sustainability," says Sandra. "In our development, we'll generate our own energy, solar and geothermal. Be totally carbon neutral. We'll compost all our food waste. All our choices of materials will be as environmentally friendly as possible. We won't use any plastics and have pure available water throughout coming from an amazing aquafer that the entire property sits on. No plastic water bottles allowed."

The development, called JaQor Belize, is a huge undertaking. Even before building begins, the infrastructure must be created, with roads, pipes, fiber optic and much more. How do Scott and Sandra deal with it all?

"It's such an exciting project, people all over the world are jumping into it," says Scott. "So we've been fortunate to assemble a great team, from architects to builders and craftspeople to marketing. The government here has also been very helpful."

The first villas at JaQor Belize will be completed by 2019, followed by the resort. Among other things, the resort will include a world-class golf course with a few special twists.

"It will be an edible golf course," says Sandra. "Instead of the typical kinds of golf course trees and plants that are all ornamental, we'll have mango trees, coconut trees, many varieties of tropical fruits, and even plants growing herbal ingredients for the resort's aromatherapy spa products. Golfers will be able to enjoy a smoothie made from products grown on the course."

"And it will be a multi-use golf course," says Scott, "with a lagoon where people can kayak and do other water sports."

Throughout the JaQor development, the appliances will be Sub-Zero and Wolf.

"We've always used [Sub-Zero and Wolf] appliances, from the time we first started our business in Seattle," says Sandra. "[They] give us so much flexibility in how we can design. Down here buying your food fresh every day is such a way of life, people don't need as much food storage, so we'll use many of your smaller products – like a 24" column refrigerator. And smaller cooking products too – [the Wolf] convection steam oven will be perfect for many of our kitchens."

What happened to the idea of retirement? "I guess we're not the retiring types," says Scott.

It's a good thing. Because of their efforts, people from all over the world will soon be enjoying the luxurious yet laid-back beauty of Belize – and future developments will have a sustainable, earth-friendly model to guide them.

In This Kitchen

  • 24" Outdoor Undercounter Refrigerator - Stainless Door

    UC-24RO

    $2,885

    View Details

  • 42" Outdoor Gas Grill

    OG42

    $6,375

    View Details

  • 13" Built-In Burner Module

    BM13

    $1,590

    View Details

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Kitchen Design Contest 2010-2012

U.S. & Canada Regional Winners are recognized for the best use of Sub-Zero and Wolf in the kitchen.

Prizes include:

  • A trip for two, for each regional winner, to the KDC conference and awards gala in Madison, WI.
  • National PR and online program for regional winners.
  • Customized publicity and marketing kit for each regional winner.

International Regional Winners are recognized for the best use of Sub-Zero and Wolf in the kitchen.

Prizes include:

  • A trip for two, for each regional winner, to the KDC conference and awards gala in Madison, WI.
  • National PR and online program for regional winners.
  • Customized publicity and marketing kit for each regional winner.