Keeping it local
Cruising can present challenges for the yacht galley, but with trademark ingenuity and skill superyacht chefs are supporting local producers while creating culinary masterpieces.
For Chef Elisa Eliot, it’s garlic, the real kind with skin on. Tyron Hardie is all about top quality microgreens, while Nadine Imfeld is a cacao queen. “It’s such a versatile ingredient. I’m into baking and desserts but you can go in the savoury direction with cacao chipotle salsa or a balsamic cacao sauce,” she says. Every superyacht chef has a favourite ingredient, but when at sea there’s no guarantee of its ready availability.
Provisioning a yacht is renowned for being a tough job, especially when heading to remote destinations, such as Antarctica. “If a guest asks for fresh strawberries while the yacht is cruising through the Gerlach Strait, even a magician can’t accommodate that!” says Alberto Affer, chef aboard Heesen’s new flagship 80m superyacht Cosmos. After 40 years of cooking his way around the world, he advocates keeping the galley stocked like a small international supermarket to accommodate the changing tastes and requirements of owners, guests and crew. “When working aboard a yacht, especially a busy charter boat, chefs need to be adept at changing from one type of cuisine to another,” he adds. “Keeping the galley stocked with all the spices and ingredients that you may need is a must.”
That said, even the best prepared chefs run into problems during a busy season, and that’s when a little black book of exotic farmers’ markets, local food producers and international provisioners becomes invaluable. “When the yacht is in New England, I love to source fresh produce from Baldor Specialty Foods,” says Elisa. “They offer locally grown produce from various farms in the region, which really helps with that quick one-stop shopping experience, while Shoreside Support is my go-to for high-end specialty items, such as caviar and Wagyu beef.”
It’s a far cry from the image of superyacht owners flying fresh ingredients at vast expense from all corners of the world on a whim – and it also highlights the growing consciousness of superyacht guests to eat more healthily. The additional benefit, of course, is not only supporting local produce growers and suppliers but, in many cases, promoting awareness – or even preservation – of traditional foods and recipes.
For seafood-loving chef Julie M. Vigenault, there’s nothing more exciting than bringing aboard food she has harvested herself. “As a freediver and fisherwoman, being able to offer a reef-to-table experience is what truly makes me happy.”
Fellow freediving chef Nikki Smith also looks to the oceans to source protein and flavour. Reef fish are typically off her menu due to the prevalence of ciguatera in the Caribbean, but her recent hand-caught sea urchins proved a big hit with guests in the British Virgin Islands where everything is imported, including all fresh produce. “In the Caribbean, what you can buy one week you won’t necessarily be able to get the next,” says Niki. “I can’t rely on any one ingredient and always have to be thinking on my feet. Even ordering in advance doesn’t help with fresh salads and meats, especially in the heat and humidity.”
On the flipside, on the island of Grenada, supermarket shelves are laden with locally grown produce, from oranges and guava to grapefruits and lemons – all of which are green skinned, even when ripe. Dubbed the “spice isle”, it’s home to numerous nutmeg plantations – a pastry chef’s delight. “On our last trip we hiked up the mountains with the yacht owner and a local guide to spend the day foraging,” says Niki. “The guide kept shooting off in different directions, digging in the ground to find yams. He picked a huge bunch of bluggoes, which I thought were green bananas, but need to be boiled and served as a side dish to accompany fish and rice. On our return down the mountain, we stopped at nearly every roadside food store where I discovered dried moss. It has little flavour but is packed full of vitamins – perfect for adding to smoothies.”
Finding new foods and applying them in unusual ways is Niki’s signature, which is why her recent discovery of Finnish-based Superyacht Foodie is a perfect match. Founded by ex-yacht chef Titta Uoti-Vaisanen, Superyacht Foodie connects Finnish producers of high-end, sustainable, healthy and speciality food and drinks (many of which are also vegan) to trusted superyacht provisioners who understand how to store, transport and deliver the produce to superyachts globally. “As a chef, you need to be able to taste and touch the food, and have first-hand experience of it before ordering,” says Titta. “That’s why we deliver chef baskets to yachts filled with new products for them to learn about and sample.”
Among the 17 brands carried by Superyacht Foodie are Taiga Chocolate’s vegan, gluten and dairy-free confectionary, Arctic Forest Superfood Bars and Elixi Oil’s flaxseed and fruit crush mixes, which provide a versatile source of protein, fibre and omega 3. Even reindeer meat, which has just 2% fat content and is a healthy alternative to fish-derived fatty acids, is available.
“I think the concept is fantastic,” says Niki, who received her Superyacht Foodie basket earlier this year. “The Elixi Oil flaxseed has revolutionised breakfast time for my health-conscious guests. Pre-ground in a resealable bag it sprinkles over everything, thickens up smoothies and comes in different flavours. I never would have discovered it otherwise.”
And that is the crux of the initiative. As much as it is about supporting independent producers, Titta understands first-hand the time restraints and creative pressures that superyacht chefs are under. “It’s not that everything is expensive or difficult to source, but the promotion of new, healthy ideas that yacht chefs rarely have time to research themselves,” says Titta.
Whether via a provisioner, match-maker or word-of-mouth, the discovery and use of healthy, sustainable foods at sea can only be a good thing for guests, crew and producers alike. Not to mention supporting local growers and communities around the world whose delicacies are intrinsic to the Michelin-level cuisine that the yachting life delivers.