I almost blew it.
On a recent charter in the Exumas, when asked if I was game to try the chef’s special huevos rancheros, I nearly opted instead for plain scrambled eggs. (Hey, even the most adventurous palates crave something basic once in a while.) Later, as I peeled away layer after delicate layer of bacon, tomato, avocado, jalapeño and savory feta to reveal two perfectly over-easy eggs, I realized just how costly my stubborn nature might have been. Thank goodness for peer pressure.
Colombian-born Daniela Sanchez, who is the chef aboard 162-foot (49.3-meter) Christensen Remember When, has been rewarding fortunate palates since she joined the yachting industry six years ago. With cuisine spanning classic to avant-garde, she turns a weeklong charter into an exploration of ethnic flavors and global ingredients, preparing everything from zesty, Latin-inspired delicacies to full-on French fare.
“Anyone can follow a recipe and make amazing food,” Sanchez says. “I always try to think it further, beyond the salt and pepper, because I love working with herbs and fresh ingredients. It’s hard [for me] to pinpoint a specialty. I enjoy so many different types of food, but Mexican and Thai have a special place for me. The cilantro, the lime, the sugar, the spices—all together—it’s how I like to cook.”
After earning her culinary degree in Toulouse, France, Sanchez refined her craft working beside top chefs in the high-end hotels and restaurants of Cannes, Corsica, Mallorca and Saint-Tropez, settings that might pique anyone’s curiosity for yachting.
“I didn’t grow up on the water, but I always wanted to live in a vacation destination,” Sanchez says. “I’d see the yachts anchored offshore and wonder what it was like to work on one.”
She’d soon find out. After a job recommendation from a friend in the industry, she never looked back. The continuity of being a charter chef remains one of Sanchez’s favorite aspects of the job.
“As a restaurant chef, your days are divided in two—the day shift and the evening shift—so there’s a lot of coming and going,” she says. “In charter, I get to work where I live.”
With no yachting background, seasickness was among Sanchez’s initial challenges in adapting to life afloat: “I had to take lots of pills at first, but I’ve gotten better. It’s not really a problem now.”
Staying in shape isn’t a problem, either. “I spend most of my day cooking, so I tend to have small meals throughout the day,” she says. “I’m constantly grazing as I cook, so I’m never really hungry. It can be a little strange to try certain foods at odd times of the day, like when I have to prepare a sauce for a meat dish in the early morning. It’s not exactly a normal breakfast flavor, but I still have to taste it.”
Interestingly, her greatest challenge is cooking for the crew. “They’re a well-traveled group, with lots of preferences—and of course they’re used to having top chefs cook for them, so they know all about good food,” she says with a laugh.
Perhaps the only thing able to top Sanchez’s food is her inventive presentations, such as the “potted-plant” dessert in this month’s menu. It is one of Sanchez’s most-requested creations.
“To me, it’s like art,” she says. “My mother is an artist, and if I wasn’t [a chef], I would have been an artist too. The flavor is the most important thing, of course, but I’m always thinking about the presentation. How can I make this look amazing on the plate? On a charter, you want to show the guests so many things, but it really comes down to seven lunches and seven dinners. With each meal, it’s about showing the guests a culinary experience they’ll never forget.”
For charter inquiries and information: churchillyachts.com, myrememberwhen.com