Meet the yacht chefs who took top honors at the MYBA Charter Show in Barcelona.

Photography by Stuart Pearce

Yachts International, along with World Wine Services from France, sponsored the 30th Anniversary MYBA Superyacht Chefs’ Competition at the organization’s annual charter yacht show in Barcelona, Spain. Participating chefs had to make five types of canapés: three savory and two sweet. 

The following three chefs earned top honors in their charter yachts’ respective size categories.

WINNER (<42m): Chef James Wright

122-foot (37.4-meter) Sanlorenzo Awol (International Yacht Collection charter fleet)

MYBA18BCN © StuartPearce L382_web

Twenty-seven-year-old James Wright, a first-time entrant in the MYBA Superyacht Chefs’ Competition, describes his culinary predilection as fresh Mediterranean, or letting seasonal food speak for itself. On occasion, he draws inspiration from his South African roots. Growing up in Cape Town, he cooked with his grandmother and his mother, who had a catering company for corporate clients. (“I helped her prep and pretended I knew what I was doing,” Wright says.) While working toward a degree in marketing management, he took cooking classes. Food preparation was an avocation; his father and brother, both in finance, encouraged him to follow in their footsteps. He instead went off to see the world and landed a job as a deckhand on a 154-foot (47-meter) Turkish gulet, and he has spent the better part of the past five years working on yachts, attending culinary classes and cooking for private villa clients. 

Chef James Wright, M/Y Awol

Chef James Wright, M/Y Awol

What was the biggest challenge with the competition?

The judges were diverse, ranging from fourth-generation, old-school French cuisine to New Age health food advocates. I wanted to get the right balance in my dishes to appeal to all tastes.

Describe a couple of your canapés.

On the savory side, I made a mushroom and goat cheese arancini served on a fresh tomato sauce and a fried basil leaf. For a sweet, I made a traditional Afrikaans milk tart, which is a sweet pastry filled with vanilla- and cinnamon-flavored custard: simple, but always a big hit.

What was the strangest food request you ever received?

I had a breakfast order for a single hard-boiled egg yolk. I thought the stewardess was pulling my leg, but it was a genuine request.

What is the craziest thing that’s happened while you were cooking?

I was working at a hotel restaurant and we ran out of gas 15 minutes before dinner, and we had to turn three of the seven courses into cold dishes.

If you were cooking for Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, what would be your main course?

The main protein component of the meal would be South African-inspired duqqa-encrusted kudu fillet.

What key spices do you keep on hand?

I always have flash-frozen fresh thyme and peeled garlic.

What is your favorite time of day in the galley?

I like the time in between the main dinner course and dessert. The pressure is off, and then I can relax into knowing I have achieved my goals of the day.

What’s your hidden talent?

I used to play saxophone in a jazz band from the age of 10 to 18.

If you were not a chef, what would you be?

I would be a pilot.

Gallery | Sample Chef James Wright's competition tasting menu here:

WINNER (43-55m): Andrea Campidonico

170-foot (51.9-meter) Golden Yachts Victory (Fraser charter fleet)

MYBA18BCN © StuartPearce L197_web

Forty-year-old Andrea Campidonico, also a first-time entrant in the MYBA Superyacht Chefs’ Competition, is used to hard work. Growing up in Porto Santo Stefano, Italy, he skipped high school and joined the workforce to help his family out. His role models were his father, Santi, a naval carpenter, and grandfather, Giulio, a cook on cargo ships. When Campidonico was 15, he started working on his uncle Pietro’s fishing boat, where he learned how to prepare fresh-caught fish. At 18, Campidonico became an assistant cook to Angelo Gabrielli at Il Moletto, a restaurant in his town. He earned the title of cook, worked in restaurants for another five years and became a private-yacht chef. Victory is his first charter yacht. He credits his captain, Andrea Aste, with encouraging him to participate in the competition. 

Chef Andrea Campidonico, M/Y Victory

Chef Andrea Campidonico, M/Y Victory

What was the biggest challenge with the competition?

Having to organize meals for the crew, create dishes for the competition and then make a dinner for the brokers as well. Everything was happening at the same time. Also, considering the high level of my colleagues, I knew the competition was stiff. The only chance I had to win was to create new recipes with genuine flavors and offer the judges complete simplicity and freshness.

What is the craziest thing that’s happened while you were cooking?

I was working on a private yacht and came back very late from the disco on my night off to find my owner cooking for himself, and we two ate and laughed together.

What key spices do you keep on hand?

My cooking secrets are the freshness of the ingredients and the simplicity of cooking them, and obviously no chemicals.

What is your favorite time of day in the galley?

The most beautiful moment in a day on Victory is the moment when I serve meals to the crew, and sit down and eat with them and listen to their thanks for having cooked well.

If you were cooking for Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, what would be your main course?

Oh, something simple, perhaps start with courgette flan with marinated grilled lobster, then a crab risotto with grilled porcini mushrooms, or homemade tagliolini with asparagus, red prawns and lemon zest, and John Dory grilled with white wine sauce, garlic-coconut rice and ratatouille, and end with vanilla and chocolate soufflé with berry sauce.

What would your crewmates find surprising about you?

I dye and iron my hair like a girl. If they knew, they would make fun of me all the time, so let’s not tell anyone, OK?

If you were not a chef, what would you be?

An artist. I really liked painting as a boy, and I also had a rock band, in which I played guitar and sang.

Gallery | Sample Chef Andrea Campidonico's competition tasting menu here:

WINNER (56m+): Chef Lauren Everet

197-foot (60-meter) Perini Navi Seahawk (Perini Navi USA charter fleet)

MYBA18BCN © StuartPearce L165.jpeg_web

Born in South Africa and raised in the United Kingdom, Lauren Everet has been making her way around the globe since she was a teenager. Adventure took precedence over the idea of attending law school, and while living in Barcelona, she wandered around fresh markets, picking up exotic foods and then searching the Internet for recipes. She became a temporary yacht stewardess, then was hired as a chef at age 19. Everet’s yacht travels took her around the Mediterranean, Caribbean and South Pacific. She attended culinary courses including a two-month sushi course in Tokyo, and she did internships and worked at The Clove Club in London, as well as alongside chef Clare Smyth at Core in London. Ultimately, she earned a certificate from the International Culinary Center in New York City thanks to her grandparents’ encouragement and support. This summer, as Everet turns 30, she will be interning at the famous two-star Michelin restaurant Noma in Copenhagen.

Chef Lauren Everet, S/Y Seahawk

Chef Lauren Everet, S/Y Seahawk

Describe a couple of your canapés.

One was a handmade corn tostada with steak tartare, a smoked quail yolk, homemade pickles and frazzled leeks. I always make all my own chutneys, pickles and jams. I also made a chocolate mousse bon bon with black salt in the middle and a cocoa butter coating.

What was the strangest food request you ever received?

We are in the service industry, so I try not to judge people’s tastes. Our goal is to make our guests happy, so anything goes. I must say I did find it odd when we had exquisite caviar and one guest wanted to eat it with Walkers salted crisps [potato chips]. Also, once I remember trekking into the hills of Greece to find a suckling lamb for a particular request.

If you were cooking for Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, what would be your main course?

I have a new favorite dish I invented: grilled broccoli with burrata topped with brown butter sautéed almonds. I make a puree with the broccoli stems. The whole effect is hot, cold, salty, sweet, creamy and crunchy all at one time—simply delicious.

What key spices do you keep on hand?

I always have fresh herbs of every type, but one thing I love is espelette, a smoky pepper from Spain. I am also obsessed with salt. I love black volcanic salt.

What is your favorite time of day in the galley?

It can be so noisy during the day in and around the galley and the crew’s quarters. I like it at the end of the evening after the galley is completely cleaned up, everyone has gone to sleep and it is quiet. I can then write my notes about what transpired during the day’s meals, and make my menu for the next day.

What’s your hidden talent?

I have a pretty good voice and like to sing and write cheesy love songs.

If you were not a chef, what would you be?

Maybe in another life I would be a neuroscientist. I am fascinated with how the brain works.

Gallery | Sample Chef Lauren Everet's competition tasting menu here:

For more information: mybashow.com

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