Chefs aboard charter yachts take pride in catering to the diverse tastes and dietary requirements of all sorts of guests. The chefs often have to create alternative dishes that are inspired, delicious and beautifully presented.
That was the case during the chefs’ competition at the MYBA Charter Show in Barcelona, Spain, last spring. The theme was vegan and vegetarian cooking, and as one of the judges who sampled dishes aboard 30 yachts, I did not miss the bacon.
For a variety of reasons, meat-free cuisines have gained popularity in recent years. Vegans eat no animal products at all. Vegetarians don’t eat animals, but will eat products that come from them such as milk, butter and cheese. Lacto vegetarians won’t eat meat or eggs, but will consume dairy.
In the MYBA Charter Show competition, yachts were grouped in three categories by size. A half hour was allocated per experience, and the guidelines for each yacht’s three courses included a lacto vegetarian starter, a vegan main course, and a lacto vegetarian dessert. Wine pairing with the main course was judged as a separate category.
Here’s a look at the winners in all three yacht-size categories.
Kelly Rose Minne
Quasar, 94-foot (28.6-meter) Peri
At 26, Kelly Rose Minne is the youngest chef to win the MYBA Charter Show chefs’ competition. “I feel very humbled from this experience,” she says. “I know I still have a lot to learn.”
She has one year of culinary school under her belt. She went to the South African Chefs Academy largely because of her mother’s encouragement. Minne had never considered a career in cooking; she excelled at math and science in school, and both of her older brothers are engineers.
Growing up in Port Elizabeth, on the Eastern Cape in South Africa, she had an early role model for farm-to-table cuisine. “My grandparents were farmers, and my fondest memories revolve around us kids gathering around the kitchen to sample Granny’s freshly baked scones served with churned farm butter,” she says. Her grandmother and mother loved to bake and enlisted her help from an early age.
She says she delights in comfort food: “At home with my boyfriend, we eat very simply and very clean. He is a vegan, and I learned to accommodate. The vegan theme was not far-fetched for me. I simply did a lot of research to bring more finesse to my plates. I spend my nights on board reading recipes online for about two hours before going to bed. It entertains and informs me.”
Her mushroom scallops cooked in dashi broth are melt-in-the-mouth tender. Her arancini is crispy with insides like heavenly pillows. All the judges ate every morsel on their plates, even knowing how much food they would have to taste elsewhere that same day.
Minne says her biggest challenge is the size of her galley: “It is mayhem plating for 12 in this space.” She has worked for three seasons with the same captain and stewardess, and attributes her success to close teamwork.
To blow off the pressure of being a chef, Kelly enjoys running, but during charters, there is no time for anything but cooking. She wakes at 6 a.m. and starts preparing the day’s meals. Early mornings are her most peaceful time. She likes the quiet and having time to think.
Do you listen to music while cooking?
Yes, a vast array from instrumental to indie rock to hip-hop to techno. My fave artists at the moment are Rhye, Dope Lemon, Kerala Dust and The Blaze.
Do you have a favorite herb or spice?
Fish sauce, umami flavor, that I just adore. And, I am also a huge fan of adding sumac for added notes of citrus.
What is the strangest request you have had on charter?
Beef bourguignon at the height of summer.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I am happy working as chef, but I love animals, particularly dogs. Maybe I’d become a vet.
Porcini and burrata arancini, Parmesan and truffle mousse, rocket pesto, pickled shimeji
King oyster scallops, kombu-braised daikon, celeriac, asparagus, spinach
Wine pairing: Batàr by Querciabella chardonnay- pinot blanc
“The Batàr is the first white super Tuscan, and the richness and complexity matched well with the umami flavors of the main course,” Minne says. “My chief stewardess and I found Querciabella to stand out from other wineries, as they have been fully biodynamic since 2000 and are a completely vegan wine farm.”
Poire belle Hélène entremet
For charter information: fraseryachts.com
Oscar de los Rios
Aziza, 134-foot (40.9-meter) ISA
“My mom and dad worked long hours,” says 46-year-old Oscar de los Rios, a native of Madrid, Spain. “My sister and I were left at home to reheat fast food in the microwave. At the age of 11, I asked for permission to cook some real food. I learned by experimenting, then I became the one in the family to make dinner for my sister and my parents.”
From age 17, de los Rios worked part-time jobs in restaurants to make spare cash and to help pay for his education. He obtained a university degree in tourism and hotel hospitality, and got a job as a city tour guide. He also worked as an airplane dispatcher at the Madrid airport.
However, he found that he was happiest when he was cooking. He moved to Ibiza in Spain’s Balearic Islands and got a job in a restaurant. One of his regular customers had a 92-foot (28-meter) yacht and asked him to cook aboard for day trips. At 31, he joined the world of yacht chefs and has since spent significant time on board, interspersed with a few years of shore-based interludes at restaurants in Florence, Italy, and in London.
When he discovered that this year’s MYBA Charter Show competition would have a vegetarian theme, he imagined that the limitations would provide quite a handicap. “Normally, I cook with no or few restrictions,” he says, “but I ended up enjoying the challenge. It was a good exercise for me to squeeze my brain and to become more creative.”
Roasting watermelon seemed like the right thing to do, and he made his fermented “lemon air” by marinating lemon, water, salt and a pinch of sugar for more than a month to add fresh zest to his ravioli. He says that using fruit and herbs in new ways is always a mainstay of his cooking.
Food is not his only creative release. De los Rios also enjoys painting. He uses watercolors and oils (though the captain does not like him to use oil paint on board the yacht). “Painting,” he says, “becomes a filter for really seeing details in the landscape and in my travels.”
His other passion is boxing: “I find it very exciting. It feeds my brain. ”
When is your favorite time on board?
I love the quiet of the early morning, when I fire up the oven and my daily bread is baking.
Do you play music in the galley?
Not much. I prefer the sounds of my knives on the chopping block. I like listening to the natural rhythms of my work to get into the groove of what I am preparing.
What’s the craziest thing that has happened when you were cooking?
Once, a gentleman asked me to bake a diamond into a dessert for his girlfriend. She ate the whole dessert without discovering it.
If you were not a chef, what would you be?
A journalist or a teacher.
What would you teach?
Maybe I’d teach philosophy. I am an avid reader of writers such as Heidegger, Schindler, Spinoza and even classics such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
Roasted watermelon carpaccio with goat cheese cream and radish sprouts
Legumes and veggie ravioli with Vietnamese rice and fermented lemon air
Wine pairing: Gran Caus Xarel-lo, chenin blanc-chardonnay
“We chose Gran Caus Blanc 2017 from Massis del Garraf,” says de los Rios, “Its variety of Xarel-lo and chardonnay grapes bring a lot of flavor and Chenin Blanc the touch of acidity. The floral and slightly mineral aroma harmonizes perfectly with the roasted vegetables and ravioli legumes respectively. Its body and its smoky nuances combine and complete the flavors of the roasted vegetables and the Vietnamese rice.
Cacao, carob and avocado ganache with crunchy saffron crumble, texturized orange juice and Arbequino olive oil
For charter information: burgessyachts.com
Ramble on Rose, 197-foot (60-meter) CRN
If you were to culturally profile Robin Sjöström, you would not peg him as Swedish. “My Swedish parents adopted me from India when I was 8 months old,” he says with a strong Swedish lilt in his voice, “and I grew up in a small town outside of Gothenburg.”
His mother was a dentist, and his father was a civil engineer. During his childhood, the household cuisine was simple. Today, the 34-year-old Sjöström says British television chef Keith Floyd piqued his interest in food. Sjöström’s cousin Erik, who was head chef at the Michelin-rated restaurant Kock & Vin in Gothenberg, was another inspiration.
“I started working in my cousin’s restaurant at the age of 14, then when I was 16 years old, I attended and graduated from a three–year culinary school,” he says.
Sjöström has worked in several Michelin-rated restaurants and with famous chefs: at The Fat Duck in the United Kingdom, at Thörnströms Kök in Gothenburg, with Gordon Ramsay in London, and with Mathias Dahlgren at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm.
In 2008, he found his way on board a yacht for the first time and has since worked on yachts ranging from a 98-foot (30-meter) Benetti to the 300-foot (91.5-meter) Oceanco Tranquility formerly known as Equanimity. He says he enjoys life aboard yachts and loves the places he goes and the people he meets. The owner of his first yacht owned Bequia Beach Hotel in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Sjöström spent time cooking on the Caribbean island, too.
He found the vegan theme for the chef’s competition relatively easy. “I have a vegan and few vegetarian crew on board, so I am used to cooking for them,” he says. “For the competition, I concentrated on insinuating a Nordic theme, which I was sure no one else would do.”
What is your secret weapon in the galley?
My favorite tool is a flexible spatula. I go through quite a few of them in a season.
What hobbies or passions do you have besides food?
I have always been a collector of strange things, everything from a mammoth tusk to Roman silver coins. I also started to collect wines and Champagne when I was 19.
I have quite a big collection back home in a wine cellar. I will probably sell most of them at auction in the future.
If you couldn’t be a chef, what would you be?
I’d be a D.J. I am a big Metallica fan, and lately I have been listening to a lot of electronic music such as house music and hard style while I am cooking. I did some D.J.-ing back home, and I try to keep up with it in my spare time.
Sunchoke stuffed with broccoli cream and smoked yogurt, lingonberry, and ramson oil, on a bed of pickled julienne of broccoli
Cured aubergine, mushroom and beetroot dumpling, nettle, chanterelles, 48-hour onion glaze
Wine pairing: Livio Felluga merlot-cabernet sauvigon
“The chief stew and I thought this light red wine could match the sweet and buttery flavors in this dish,” Sjöström says.
White chocolate bavarois, sea buckthorn, caramel
For charter information: burgessyachts.com