The Antigua Charter Yacht Show is one of those work assignments that causes even your nearest and dearest to turn on you with ill-disguised envy. So you can imagine how little sympathy I got last year when I was tasked with having to sample the offerings of three talented chefs who provide exquisite cuisine to demanding charter guests.
When I stepped aboard Ohana, a 43-meter, all-aluminium 2004 Perini Navi designed by Ron Holland, I had a feeling I would be in for something special. The sleek, modern décor was incredibly beautiful yet retained a subtle nautical flavor. The walls were adorned with art that was interesting and personal. And a long table was set, just for me.
Of course, boarding an Italian yacht, with Italian owners, and an Italian chef and assuming you’ll get good food is a bit of a no-brainer. And Antonio Panariello’s cuisine did not disappoint.
The Milan-born chef — northern Italian! Even better! My palate whispered — has been cooking aboard Ohana for three years. It is Panariello’s first experience as a yacht chef and, not surprisingly, he has found it challenging at times.
“The most important difference,” he notes, “is that working ashore you have a number of companies that provide any kind of product or service you need.” Traveling means always having to look for new ones and sometimes being uncertain of just what you’ll get. That’s further complicated by not having much time to spend ashore searching out the best providers. Other drawbacks are limited space for food stowage and cooking on an incline. But Panariello finds at least two things make it really worthwhile.
“Being a chef on a boat gives me the opportunity to be closer to the guests,” he says, and he loves being able to make personalized suggestions. As you might expect, a love of travel is also a huge factor. “Every time I visit a new place, even a small village, to me it is always a thrilling experience, because it lets me learn more about the local culture.”
Panariello’s favorite dishes to prepare aboard are pastas, fresh fish tartares and carpaccios, and any kind of vegetable. Here are recipes for several of the dishes that I had the pleasure of sampling. The carpaccio was incredibly light, simple and delicious, and the semifreddo was a perfect finishing touch, creamy without being dense or heavy, and lightly fruity. Both were served like Italian masterpieces.
For information on chartering the sailing yacht Ohana contact Perini Navi USA, 401- 683-5600; perininavi.com
Try This At Home!
Starter Red Snapper Carpaccio with Arugula Salad, Celery and Lime Sauce Ingredients 1 lb. red snapper fillet 3.5 oz. arugula leaves 2 oz. celery 2 limes ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Preparation Lay finely chopped arugula leaves on a plate. Top with thin slices of the filleted red snapper and thinly sliced and chopped celery. To prepare the lime sauce, squeeze the juice of two limes into a bowl, add salt and extra virgin olive oil, and mix energetically until you obtain a creamy sauce. Dress the carpaccio with the sauce.
Dessert Melon and Mint Semifreddo with English Cream and Strawberries Ingredients 4 egg yolks 2 whole eggs 2 cups whipped cream ½ cup sugar 1 lb. (about 2½ cups) peeled, chopped ripe cantaloupe 1 oz. fresh mint, minced 3 tbsp. melon liqueur
Preparation Beat the eggs and extra yolks. Warm the sugar in a pan of hot water until it reaches 250 degrees F, then add the beaten eggs and leave mixture to cool. Put the cream and cantaloupe in a blender and whip. Add the whipped mixture and the mint and melon liqueur to the egg and sugar mixture, then pour it into molds or ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for 12 hours before serving.
English Cream and Strawberries Ingredients 2 cups whole milk 5 egg yolks ½ cup sugar 3.5 oz. strawberry puree vanilla extract ¼ cup corn starch
Preparation Separate the yolks from the whites of the eggs. Add the sugar and the corn starch to the yolks and whisk till you obtain a thick, pale mixture. Heat the milk until it reaches the boiling point, pour over the top of the egg/sugar/starch mixture, and whisk firmly. Transfer the mixture back to the pot you used for the milk and slowly cook the custard over low heat. Using a wooden spatula, continue stirring until you get a creamy consistency. Then let it cool, adding the strawberry purée and a touch of vanilla to flavorfully decorate.