Galley gourmets: Winners of the 18th Antigua Charter Yacht Show

Antigua Charter Yacht Show

While there are many important aspects to a charter, the food has to be at the top of the priority list, whether you're looking for a healthy retreat or indulgent tasting menus. But how can a superyacht chef strike the right balance and keep it fresh? The winners of the Chefs’ Culinary Contest at the 18th Antigua Charter Yacht Show tell Elizabeth Finney where they find inspiration and how they give dishes their signature twist

Dining on board may seem a tranquil affair to charter guests. Michelin star-worthy food simply appears: the finest cuts, towers of fresh vegetables, jus swirled artfully across plates. Once the food has been devoured the empty dishes are swept away quickly and the next course arrives. But while the waters may seem calm up on deck, below there’s a ferocious current of activity.

The galleys were certainly frenetic during this year’s Chefs’ Culinary Contest, when competitors were challenged to create a Caribbean Sunday “Funday” brunch. The meal was to be served with a basket of baked goods, created using Caribbean ingredients and executed with an element of fun, with menus suitable for multiple generations of guests on board.

“The level of hospitality experienced during the show was amazing,” says Alex Grimley, competition judge, founder of Sheer Rocks restaurant and owner of Catherine’s Café, both on Antigua. “The crews were incredibly gracious and the effort put in by everyone was whole-hearted. The level of skill and preciseness was a breath of fresh air and something that very few people get to experience.”

Nearly 30 yachts that were available for charter in the Caribbean over the winter took part and competition (sponsored by Boat International Media, Laurent-Perrier, Bacchus Wines, Le Gout du Vin, Marina Casa de Campo and Yachting Matters) was  fierce. The winners – chosen in three yacht size categories – injected their work with innovative ideas to create not just a delicious brunch but a meal with personality. Speaking to each chef, we found out how they transfer their personal air to the dining table.

Meet the winning chefs...

Antigua Charter Yacht Show pictures courtesy of Ed Cavendish

The Artist

_Caitlin Kennedy_ – Over 164ft winner

Over 164ft winner: Caitlin Kennedy

After a course at the Silwood School of Cookery in Cape Town, Kennedy was drawn to a career in fine dining before coming to the yachting world four years ago. Highlights of her menu ranged from a Bloody Caesar cocktail shot with a concealed oyster to a coconut panna cotta, served in a coconut shell with salted cashew ice cream and white chocolate granola.

For inspiration I had a massive discussion with the crew. At the time we were in Florida, so we went to lots of different brunch restaurants and turned it into a bit of fun.

Food presentation is so important. I have always loved art – it’s half the fun for me, looking at your food first and imagining how it’s going to taste. I knew that I wanted to do a coconut dessert – I worked in a restaurant before that lined a bowl with ice cream, so I thought I could transfer that to a coconut shell. I spent hours in the fridge with a freezer jacket on, setting layer after layer of panna cotta.

The Bloody Caesar shot was something I once served as a canapé – I just think it’s a match made in heaven.

Egg white omelettes are really popular for breakfast. Especially at the end of the charter! The guilt sets in. My strangest request was to have quails’ eggs – boiled for 10 minutes exactly and peeled – for the guests’ baby at all times.

Superyacht: Andiamo

Builder: Benetti

Length: 59.3 metre

Charter: IYC

Antigua Charter Yacht Show pictures courtesy of Ed Cavendish

The Wild Child

_Harriet Mansell_ – 136ft – 163ft winner

136ft – 163ft winner: Harriet Mansell

Mansell quit law school to train at Tante Marie in Surrey, UK. After stints at Noma, Dinner by Heston and Hedone, she started a journey back to her childhood sailing roots and arrived on board Sarissa only three weeks before the competition. Her colourful spread included a spicy ginger and turmeric shot, four different bakes paired with homemade butters, conch fritters, pumpkin frittatas with maple rum bacon and an okra “chop-up”.

I went to the market for inspiration to see what was available and that was the most useful thing for me, because there were some local ingredients that I’d never experienced before. I love discovering new ingredients.

I don’t like to menu plan before I’ve seen what ingredients I can get locally – you’re going to be able to produce better dishes if you have found out what you have access to that is in season and of good quality.

My favourite dish is bread and butter. I love making sourdough so much and I love baking bread – what better treat is there than eating bread with butter?

The fun aspect of my meal was that it was a big spread and it was finger food. I wanted to give people lots of options – it’s literally playing with your food. I’m a bit of condiment end; I love to have loads of things to put on my food, so for me it’s logical and fun that I would have lots of butters and sauces.

Superyacht: Sarissa

Builder: Vitters

Length: 42.6 metres

Charter: Burgess

Antigua Charter Yacht Show pictures courtesy of Ed Cavendish

The Eccentric

_Alain “Teva” Schieb_ – Up to 126ft winner

Up to 126ft winner: Alain “Teva” Schieb

Schieb grew up in Tahiti and moved to France, where he obtained a CAP-BEP hospitality degree. After many years working in luxury hotels, he turned to yachting and now boasts more than 20 years’ experience in the culinary industry. His dishes included zingy wahoo accras, mahi mahi ceviche, vegetables shaped into sh and turtles, sweet potato banana bread and a délice caramel coco dessert “yacht”, which had caramel lace sails.

I look for new ideas everywhere. I like to travel. I went to Thailand to see how they use the ingredients, but I take inspiration from all over the world. I see good ideas everywhere and I take them.

The most important thing is not necessarily just one dish – I wanted to get really special flavours for the whole table. I wanted to use the spices that I can find here, to present all the plates really nicely and to have time to do the special decoration.

Guests with special diets? No problem. I kill them! No, it’s a joke – I was vegan for three years and I think it is a good idea. Everyone is different. We’ve had lactose free, gluten free, halal, kosher – it’s not a problem.

I liked the challenge of the competition because you always need a motivation. It has to be for the pleasure and for the art. And the artist is crazy, no? It’s not cooking for the head, it’s cooking for the heart.

Superyacht: Vigilant 1

Builder: Lagoon

Length: 19.2 metre

Charter: Blue Latitude Yachting

Antigua Charter Yacht Show pictures courtesy of Ed Cavendish