Date interviewed: December 2013
Congratulations on your first-place win in Crowned Eagle’s size category at the 2013 Antigua Charter Yacht Show culinary competition.
Thank you. I am lucky to be aboard a great boat. The current owner bought her in fall of 2013, and I’ve been working as his chef since 2006. He has always let me do whatever I want. He lets me have creative free range.
How did you learn to cook?
I grew up baking with my grandmother in New Zealand. I studied graphic design at college and started cooking for friends and roommates, and I liked it. I used to be a really fussy eater, but then I had to cook for myself and I started figuring out how to make it taste good.
I took a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant, and three days later I was cooking on the line. I had a good work ethic from sweeping my dad’s factory floor. I got a scholarship to culinary school in the Bay of Islands, and I worked for four years in restaurants, getting up to head chef. These restaurants fed high-end CEOs and royals, but I always preferred the smaller restaurants where we had more creativity.
Did any of that background help to prepare you for this year’s culinary contest, which had a vegan theme?
The last restaurant where I worked was 60 to 70 percent vegetarian foods. I feel like a lot of chefs make the vegetables a side to the meat. I like them to be a kind of focus. You can do a lot with vegetables.
How did you get onto charter yachts?
I saved up money, flew to Fort Lauderdale and got a job on a 100-foot boat called Destiny with Capt. Bill Hudek, who is on this boat, Crowned Eagle, now. And here we are.
I heard this was the first time you ever entered the culinary contest—and you won. That’s impressive. So is your menu. Things like West Indie cherry syrup and sunflower root coconut oil confit sound really creative to me.
I went vegetarian for about a year. Personally, I eat less meat for health reasons. So I had some practice working with the foods the judges wanted. I knew we could hand-squeeze local sugar cane to make cherry syrup, to keep it unprocessed. And I grew the pea shoots and wheat grass that I used in some of the dishes right here on board. All of that helped.
Do you bring this style of cooking to regular charters as well?
If the guests want it, yes. All of the meat on board is grass-fed, the chicken is organic, that type of thing. We could do just about everything from the contest on a charter, if guests want it. In general, I feel like if I’m going to be feeding people, I should know what I’m talking about. That’s really all I’m trying to do.
Crowned Eagle is part of the charter fleet at Fraser Yachts Worldwide. She accommodates 12 guests at a lowest weekly base rate of $140,000. Any reputable charter broker can tell you more or help you book a week on board.