Thirty-three-year-old Micail Swindells, head chef aboard the 253-foot (77-meter) Turquoise Go, is quick to attribute his award-winning culinary achievements to collaborative cooking with his sous chef and fellow Brit, Dominic Horsey.
“I could not do this job without Dom. He is 50 percent of the team,” Swindells says. “We spend 17 hours a day together for months on end in the galley. We support each other. Dom is super-organized—more so than I am in the day-to-day running of things. I am more of the ideas guy when it comes to new dishes.”
Swindells grew up cruising aboard a 45-foot (13-meter) sailboat with his parents and younger brother before the family put down roots in Jamaica. He lived the carefree island life until age 11.
“My parents were rather free-spirited,” he says. “My father is a folk musician and my mother is an abstract artist.”
When his family returned to the United Kingdom, he was restless in the structured academic environment. At 14, he traded high school for a catering college in Bath. At 17, he moved to London to acquire restaurant experience. A quick study, he was self-motivated to learn all he could about gourmet food.
“My mom and dad were terrible cooks,” Swindells says. “I have vivid memories: a ghastly lentil pie that my brother and I heaved out the hatch when no one was looking.”
Horsey, meanwhile, grew up in the south of England. He favored art, music and language at boarding school and was an accomplished cellist. He studied French at Birmingham University. After obtaining his degree, he moved to Nancy, France, to teach English. It was there that he identified a business opportunity and opened the only English fish and chips shop in town.
“While I was waiting for bank loans to come through, I hopped a train to the south of France to see a buddy,” he says.
In short order, the notion of owning a business and establishing roots became increasingly unappealing. Instead, he took a job at a restaurant in La Ciotat, and thereafter as a deckhand on a boat. On board, he made meals for the crew and discovered a knack for cooking. Following his heart, he pursued food and travel, and not necessarily in that order. His wanderlust and quest for improving his culinary skills led him to courses and gigs from South America to Australia. Now 30 years old, he is Swindells’ teammate in the galley.
Swindells has accumulated years’ worth of hands-on experience at 15 Michelin-star restaurants. Food is unquestionably his life. He recently taught a cooking course at muymuybueno, Justine Murphy’s culinary school in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. He has won numerous awards and accolades.
“I have been lucky enough to work in many of the best restaurants in the world and will hopefully continue to throughout my life,” he says. “Learning and progressing keeps me interested in and passionate about the job.”
Many chefs put on a few extra pounds while sampling their own fare; Swindells, instead, went on a health spree. He lost 40 pounds in seven months by switching to a predominantly plant-based diet for most of his time on board, saving his intake of meat products for special weekends or when he dined at a Michelin-star restaurant. On board Go, he has toyed with vegetarian-oriented meals for the owner and guests, using meat or poultry flavoring in side-dish sauces. He feels this touch of flavoring appeases certain preconceived predilections for meat.
“I make a green juice every day to replace one of my personal meals,” Swindells says. “I have found this, along with working out regularly, completely refreshes my energy level in the galley.”
The owner of Go is such a fan of the cuisine aboard that he is helping Swindells launch his own cookbook, which is due out in 2021.
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- Char-grilled cabbage variations with truffle custard and parsley emulsion (dressing side dish: chicken with fermented mushroom sauce)
- Bergamot-and-lime-cured hamachi served with shiso vinegar
- Caviar with oyster ice cream, fermented white asparagus and potato variations
- Dill stones, lightly cured and steamed mackerel encased in dill gel, with fermented cucumber snow and horseradish
Micail: What is something surprising about Dom?
He is a devoted to yoga. … I guess with the intensity of being a chef, it clears his head.
Dom: What is something surprising about Micail?
For such an award-winning chef, Micail is selfless. He is open to involving me in everything.
Micail and Dom: With a demanding 17-hour workday, what keeps you two so cheerful?
Deep house techno music keeps us chilled and relaxed. Plus, we simply have fun cooking and inventing together. Plating our food is our version of sports one-upmanship. It’s a game where we reach for new heights every time.
BY VIRGINIA PHILIP
For the first course, try the 2018 Love by Chateau Léoube in Provence, France. Cabbage can be a tricky dish to pair; this rosé has notes of cranberry and pomegranate on the nose with a hint of mushroom and stone. Its elegant, refreshing finish makes it gentle enough to pair with the cabbage.
La Croix du Roy, 2017, from Lucien Crochet in Sancerre, France, should work well with the next course. It’s a crisp, 100 percent sauvignon blanc that is medium-bodied with notes of lemon, ripe grapefruit, green apple and acacia flower. Slight notes of cut grass with a bright minerality on the finish bring out the vinegar and other flavors in the dish.
The caviar dish calls for a 2013 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut from Green Valley in California’s Russian River Valley section of Sonoma County. Caviar and bubbly go hand in hand. This bubbly is a classic blend of pinot noir and chardonnay. On the nose, it has expressive aromas of lemon, orange marmalade and baked yellow apple. On the palate, there are flavors of preserved lemon, mushroom and hazelnut. This creamy, delicious wine will pair nicely with the dish.
With the final dish, look to Far Niente’s Chardonnay, 2017 vintage, from California’s Napa Valley. It’s creamy and full-bodied with notes of ripe pineapple and buttery toasted oak, which makes it weighty enough to stand up to the langoustine. The long finish accentuates flavors and aromas of vanilla and baking spices, which means the fermented horseradish will not overwhelm it.
Micail’s Miracle Green Juice Recipe, serves 10
4 sticks celery
1 bunch parsley
2 green apples
Half a cucumber
2 oz peeled ginger
1 oz fresh pealed turmeric
3 x B12 tablets
1 oz hemp seeds
2 oz spirulina
Juice of 3 lemons
1 oz hemp seed oil
1 oz pumpkin seeds
1 oz açai powder
16 oz filtered water
8 oz ice
Blend and serve!
The Day in the Life of a Yacht Chef - Micail Swindells
5:00 am: Wake up
5.10 am Get the fresh bread on
5:20 am: Start with the guests breakfast continental breakfast
6:00 am: Make the breakfast special of the day
6.30 am: Discuss the breakfast special with service stew
7:00 am: Get the crew lunch food going
7:00 am: Breakfast service
9:00 am: Send the lunch and dinner menus up to the purser for the day and discuss the service style and crockery
9:10 am: Start to prep the lunch service
10.30 am: Service team briefing to discuss the menu and origins of the products
12:00 pm: Crew lunch in the mess
1:00 pm: Guest lunch service
2:00 pm: Break time
4:00 pm: Start on the crew dinner
4.30 pm: guest light snacks
6:00 pm crew dinner in the mess
7:00 pm service team briefing to discuss the guest dinner menu
9:00 pm: guest dinner service
11:00 pm: pull any products that we may need for the next day
11.30 pm: final clean down
Micail Swindells is working on a cookbook, check out his Instagram #micailswindells
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Yachts International.