Behind the scenes with the chef of 180-foot Amels Elixir

Tim MacDonald, chef aboard the 180-foot (55-meter) Amels Elixir, grew up in gritty downtown Melbourne, Australia, where his father was a city engineer.

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“I never understood what he did exactly, but something to do with putting humps and roundabouts in streets,” MacDonald says. “I was not interested in following in his footsteps.” However, for amusement, he often accompanied his father to job sites in the suburb of South Yarra, and those forays presented to him a new world of possibilities.

“The suburbs had posh patisseries and glamorous stores with fancy food,” he says. “I was mesmerized by the window fronts. I went home and tried to make my own sweets with what was in the pantry. I got creative with cornflakes.”

Throughout his teenage years, he set about learning every recipe in his mom’s Woman’s Weekly cookbook. He remembers the book as being the basic cooking bible given to Australian mothers to inspire them to feed their families dishes from around the world. The U.S. recipe, the Aussie says, was “Chicken Marry-land with corn fritters.”

Upon finishing high school, MacDonald apprenticed in restaurants, starting with salad assembly and moving up. He attended culinary school while working in upmarket pubs and restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney. He then ventured to the Mediterranean.

“My wife and I worked aboard those horrible couples cruise boats,” he says. “After several years working together, those gigs finished off the marriage.”

In his late 30s, he started working on yachts. He is now a youthful looking 50-year-old. For a high-powered chef, he is quite personable and playful. He has an easy breezy manner and likes to listen to American singer/songwriters Ryan Adams and Alicia Keys while he prepares everything from macrobiotic to vegetarian fare to Aussie barbecues. He believes the key to good food is simply to source the best in local produce and provisions.

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“You want to eat burrata in Sorrento,” he says, “not in the Caribbean.” When he is not involved with food, MacDonald engages in remodeling and woodworking projects. He owns a beach shack in Koh Samui, Thailand, and a house in Kiev, Ukraine. He hopes to buy a fixer-upper in the Med.

His go-to meal for dinner with friends is “chook in a bag”—Aussie slang for chicken wrapped in prosciutto and cooked in its own juices. Who knows? Perhaps the dish hearkens back to the “Chicken Maryland” that he perfected as a kid.

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Chef MacDonald’s Caribbean Menu

Pressed salad of Antiguan papaya, avocado with pomegranate, and smoked chicken

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Local poached lobster with spiced pumpkin mash, black quinoa macro salad, organic baby nasturtiums and kaffir lime oil

Coconut snowball with chocolate mint and passion fruit pulp

Perfect Wine Pairings | Master Sommelier Virginia Philip

The first course of pressed salad of Antiguan papaya, avocado with pomegranate, and smoked chicken requires a wine that is tropical, yet on the lighter side. Ponzi Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, 2016, is the perfect match. Pinot gris is the same variety as pinot grigio, yet has a rounder, richer style than its Italian counterpart. Aromas of fresh peach, floral and citrus make the wine perfect on its own, yet even better with the papaya and pomegranate combo.

The entrée of poached lobster with spiced pumpkin mash, black quinoa macro salad, organic baby nasturtiums and kaffir lime oil calls for a bottle of Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet from Burgundy, France, 2016. It is a wine of great structure, depth and intensity. Made from 100 percent chardonnay, the wine is full bodied with notes of hazelnut, lemon and citrus, and just the right minerality for the dish.

For dessert, the coconut snowball with chocolate mint and passion fruit pulp is an interesting combination of ingredients. The coconut snowball is the main component, so try a bottle of Lions de Suduiraut from Sauternes, France, 2012. Made predominately from semillon, the wine has overtones of ripe apricot, yellow apple, honey and mineral. A hint of sauvignon blanc adds a bit of lift, so as not to weigh down the dish.

The Wines

Ponzi Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, 2016, Oregon, $22

Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France, 2016, $160

Lions de Suduiraut, Burgundy, France, 2012, $16 (half bottle)

Virginia Philip is one of only just over 200 professionals worldwide to hold the title of Master Sommelier. Her discerning palate and encyclopedic knowledge also earned her the American Sommelier Association’s title of ‘Best Sommelier of the United States.’ She owns Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy in West Palm Beach. virginiaphilipwineshopacademy.com

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