These superyacht chefs turn a picnic on the beach into haute cuisine – Robb Report
Being a chef on a superyacht is one of the toughest jobs in haute cuisine. Not only are you confined to a mobile kitchen that’s often smaller than most restaurant kitchens, but you’re cooking for millionaire owners who expect exceptional meals. Everytime.
Judging by last week’s Superyacht Chef’s Competition, a flagship event of the annual MYBA Charter Show, the quality and creativity of ocean cuisine is just as sophisticated as the restaurants they compete with on land.
The event took place in Barcelona’s superyacht hub, Marina Port Veil. One of Europe’s culinary capitals, Barcelona boasts 25 Michelin-starred restaurants across the city and province. Four of the judges in this year’s competition are among the most respected chefs in the Catalan region. The MYBA Charter Show also attracts brokers from around the world, who seek the highest standards among yachts and crew, including galley, for their wealthy clients. (Disclosure: Robb Report is a sponsor of the event.)
This year’s theme was “Luxury Picnic on the Mediterranean Beach”. The competition was divided into three sizes of superyachts, with a “Crew Signature Beach Cocktail” competition held alongside it.
The rules were simple: all ingredients had to be prepared and cooked on board the yachts, before being transported ashore where the dishes were decorated, plated and presented, within 30 minutes, to the celebrity judges. The pressure was high, not only because of the experts tasting the food, but also because of the short deadline.
“It’s not an easy task to prepare the food to be transported from the yacht to the beach,” said Antonio Mellino, chef at Quattro Passi on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Robb Report. “Dining on a yacht is comfortable, but on a beach, less so. So we’re looking for chefs who best understand this and create a memorable dining experience using fresh ingredients.
Mellino, whose restaurant has two Michelin stars, is a longtime supporter of the superyacht chef competition.
Other members of the celebrity jury included Oscar Manresa, who opened Torre d’Alta Mar in 2002 and is a mainstay of the Barcelona food scene; the famous Catalan twins Javier and Sergio Torres of Cocina Hermanos Torres, who obtained two Michelin stars; and Romain Fornell from Caelis outside Barcelona. In 1976, at the age of 24, Fornell became the youngest chef to receive a Michelin star for his culinary skills.
Mike Jennings of The Hospitality Hut, a first-time judge who has worked under some of the UK’s most decorated chefs, underlined the high expectations. “We’re looking for innovative ideas, something that’s more than just picnic sandwiches,” he said. “We want chefs to think outside the box and come up with something really special.”
The winners have thought outside the box, serving up gourmet dishes to create the ultimate beach feasts. Unlike cook-offs on television, where the chefs work in the same kitchen, this competition took place over three days, with one day dedicated to each category of yacht. The judges chose the winners and revealed the results last Thursday.
Anders Pedersen, leader of the 203ft Romatook first place in the 48 meters (158 feet) and over category.
Pedersen created a wild sea bass tartare with citrus, topped with sea buckthorn caviar and pomegranate that delighted the judges for its epicurean touch. The main course was flame-cooked scallops and langoustines served with sweet potato mousse and crumble. This flame cooking was unique among competitors and gave the Norwegian-born chef an edge. He snagged first prize with a trio of Mediterranean desserts, including a Catalan-inspired lavender custard presented in an edible almond ramekin.
“I wanted to bring fine dining to the beach,” Pedersen said. Robb Report after the victory. “I had irons specially made to mark my scallops with the name of the yacht, Roma. When you charter a boat for nearly half a million a week, you expect Michelin-level cuisine, even on a picnic.
The yacht also won a double prize list: Fabien and Vesna from RomaThe crew of ranked first in the cocktail category with their creation “Honey. . .it’s Thyme. The refreshing concoction was made with honey grappa, gin, lemon, ginger, kombucha, prosecco and, of course, thyme.
In the 42 to 47 meter (138 to 155 ft) category, Anthony Fossani of the 150 ft Pisces took first place with its very creative collection. Almond, mint, charred octopus, Ikejime seared tuna, Galician blond carpaccio and Mediterranean lemon have been brought together in a collection of delicious dishes artfully presented in a mosaic ceramic bowl. Fresh out of a refit in 2021, Pisces is a popular family charter boat that will cruise the Mediterranean, which has been reflected in Fossani’s choice of local ingredients. Chief hostess Leah Efraimov also presented the winning cocktail in this category.
Also celebrating a double win in the 41m (135ft) and under category, the 128ft Snowbird. Chef Michael Hobbins delighted the judges with his fresh take on Catalan ingredients.
Hobbins, who had joined Snowbird just three weeks before the competition, was inspired by head hostess Chloe Maloney’s winning limoncello cocktail. He served poached lobster with Perlita caviar, a trio of salads, fresh gazpacho with aged Spanish olives and a basket of mini fennel pollen rolls.
“I designed the picnic so that guests could enjoy it as a salad or a lobster roll, accompanied by a lemon that serves as a palate cleanser,” Hobbins said. Robb Report. For dessert, the chef served a Valencia lemon sorbet with raw boba praline.
The three winning chefs received a premium box of Silencio cigars offered by Robb Report.
The judges also awarded the Heart and Sole award to Chef Shay van der Kraan of the 136ft sailboat Shenandoah of Sark for its potpourri of marinated Mediterranean products.