The Charter File: Dine With the Best

The finest cuisines can be found while cruising on a charter yacht.

Caribbean surf and turf, as a theme, might be executed in any number of ways. It could involve ­SpongeBob SquarePants place mats or a beach barbecue of shrimp and burgers or an evening of lobster and steaks on the aft deck. At the recent Antigua Charter Yacht Show culinary competition, chefs and crew brought the Caribbean surf-and-turf theme to life — with memorable table settings and mouth-watering meals. Here’s how some of the winners embraced the challenge.

M/Y EXCELLENCE

Chef Eric Davis

The goal for chef Eric Davis on the 150-foot Richmond Excellence is to "be on the other side of what's normal." He assumed his competitors would hear "surf and turf" and think of ­typical ­combinations, so he broadened the definition. "The elements from land don't have to be a protein; it could be a vegetable that was grown," he says. "We tried to deconstruct it."

His appetizer was uni sashimi served with beef belly that he had slow-cooked for 16 hours, then seared in duck fat. His main course was lionfish ravioli and venison short ribs, cooked in Jamaican jerk style.

“My thought was trying to use sustainable food items,” he says. “There’s a huge [overpopulation] problem with lionfish in the Caribbean. So I wanted to do that.”

Excellence, Charter, Food
Chef Eric Davis and the crew on Excellence can take 10 guests at a weekly base rate of $145,000.Courtesy RJC Yachts

Davis also showed off some impressive molecular gastronomy skills: The Excellence crew gave judges a glass of fresh blackberry, guava and passion-fruit juice, and Davis added 150-proof English Harbor Rum — that he had turned into a solid and then diced into tiny squares, like confetti. Quite fitting for a celebration on any charter vacation.

M/Y CALLISTO

Stew Olivia Cserjen

Olivia Cserjen, Callisto
Chief stewardess Olivia Cserjen and the Callisto team take 12 guests at a base rate of $415,000.Quin Bisset

Tablescaping, to some people, may sound like a fancy way of describing the arrangement of plates, napkins and forks. But for superyacht crew, tablescaping is serious business, an element of every meal that must be as perfect as the lighting, background music, wine selection and chef’s seasoning.

"It's often the first thing a guest will comment on when they are seated, and it starts the meal with a very positive atmosphere," says Olivia Cserjen, who earned first place for the 214-foot Feadship Callisto. "It shows the guests that there has been thought put into every aspect of their meal."

Cserjen involved the entire crew, starting with all five stewardesses. They created an “Under the Sea” theme, building and hanging jellyfish made from paper lanterns and streamers above the table.

“To add to the experience, we decorated the rest of the bridge deck aft,” she says. “We also created a shell carpet leading the judges from the passerelle up to the main table, ensuring their ‘Under the Sea’ experience started as soon as they stepped on board. The judges were greeted on the dock by deck crew dressed in boardshorts and rash vests, with masks and snorkels. We also had deckies on the main deck aft dressed in full scuba gear, including wetsuits. All five of us girls were dressed up as mermaids to serve the judges, and we also had a Poseidon watching over his ‘Under the Sea’ subjects.”

Charter guests can expect similar experiences during theme nights aboard ­Callisto, she says. Some of the most popular are Wild West, Venetian and White Party.

M/Y TRENDING

Chef Charlie Blacker

Most chefs entering the culinary competition at the annual Antigua Charter Yacht Show start by thinking about the ingredients. Charlie Blacker started by thinking about the plates.

Since the competition’s theme was ­Caribbean, and he was required to make a surf-and-turf main course, he figured it might be smart to plate the food in a way that honored the regional culture.

"I had the plates made from Antiguan clay, by a wonderful lady called Nancy Nicholson," says Blacker, who earned first prize for the 164-foot Westport Trending. "The designs in the center of the plates were from the Arawak Indians who passed through Antigua in 840 A.D."

Trending, Charter, Food
Chef Charlie Blacker and the crew on Trending welcome 12 guests at a base rate of $198,000.Courtesy IYC

Atop those plates, he served a main course of local lobster poached in a beet liquor, braised pork belly, callaloo purée, soused cucumber and turmeric onions.

“Artisans devote their whole career to one discipline within the cooking spectrum,” he says. “A yacht chef has to try to encompass all these disciplines within one working day.”

Feast Your Eyes

Hungry for more? Here are a few more food-focused charter yacht options for you to feast your eyes upon.

Admiral Yachts, Cacos V, IYC
The 131-foot Admiral Cacos V, part of the IYC fleet, has this upper-deck dining space. Another outdoor dining area, with barbecue, is on the sun deck.Nikos Reskos
Rox Sta, Edmiston, Bodrum Oguz
Dining on the 131-foot Bodrum Oguz Marin Rox Star, with Edmiston.Mark Sims
Codecasa, Double Down, TWW Yachts
The chef on the 214-foot Codecasa Double Down, with TWW Yachts.Courtesy TWW Yachts
Codecasa, Double Down, TWW Yachts
Fine food on the 214-foot Codecasa Double Down, with TWW Yachts.Courtesy TWW Yachts