Thursday, March 30, 2006

Time Flies When You're Drinking Rum...

Well, I got the job that I had previously written about – as sous-chef aboard a 175 foot motor yacht heading to the Mediterranean. It is a $40 million dollar yacht, privately owned and can be chartered for a mere $230,000.00 plus food, beverages and incidentals… There are 14 crew and we will take up to 12 guests – so each guest has 1 and 1/14th crew member waiting on them; including someone to unpack your bags, a Michellin star chef, and little ol’ me at your beck and call… On the yacht you will find gold and Lalique fixtures right down to the toilet bowl brushes and doorknobs! The dishes are Lamouge porcelain, the glassware is Lalique, the beds have duck down comforters and Egyptian cotton sheets. There is a sky gym with a 360 degree view, a hot tub, pop-up flat screen tv’s in almost every room (plus a “Personal Viewing Area” in the master bedroom), a massive dvd and music collection and top of the line hi-fi equipment. Should you decide to actually get off of the boat – there is scuba equipment, two speed boats with water-skiing and wake-boarding equipment, a hobbie-cat, a laser (single-person sailboat), kayaks, mountain bikes and a ton of other toys… And the great thing is that the crew gets to play with the equipment when we aren’t on charter.

The galley is quite big, probably close to 12 ft. by 15 ft. or there about with granite and stainless countertops; a combi-oven which can be used either to steam, roast or a combination of both (it is also a convection oven) which is excellent when you are cooking for large groups of people. We have a walk-in refrigerator and freezer and a 6-burner induction stove. Most of the boats that I have worked on have electric stoves which are complete junk. But the induction stove is definitely the best stove I’ve worked on in the boat world and out.

Induction stoves look much like electric – smooth, glassy top – but are as responsive, if not more so than cooking with gas. An induction stove has a power coil that produces a high-frequency electromagnetic field. The field penetrates the metal of the cooking vessel (a pot or frying pan) and sets up a circulating electric current, which generates heat. The heat generated in the cooking vessel is transferred to the vessel's contents and nothing outside the vessel is affected by the field and as soon as the vessel is removed from the element, or the element is turned off, heat generation stops. This means that you if you leave a spoon next to the stove, it won’t ever catch fire. If you leave the stove on, but there is no pan on it – nothing will ever burn because there is nothing to generate an electrical current. It’s really quite amazing. I can get a large frying pan smoking hot in less than a minute and I can bring a large pot of water to boil in less than three minutes. Also, the handles of the pots and frying pans never, ever get hot and the kitchen doesn’t get too hot either because their is very little residual or excess heat being given off.

Our crew quarters are very comfortable. There is a large crew lounge with a kitchenette (the majority of the food comes from the galley, the kitchenette is for midnight snacks, etc.). The stews do all the crews laundry so if I drop my clothes off in the morning, I get them back the next day washed, drip-dried, ironed and folded. We have satellite internet access, satellite tv and satellite phone so basically, we can surf the web even in the middle of the ocean. Our rooms are actually built for human size people instead of midgets like the quarters on the other boats I’ve worked. I have adequate closet cabinet space and a nice size bathroom and my roomie is a really cool girl from Australia, a bookworm and a runner. Our captain is British and a real joker, always having fun with the crew. I went out with everyone on Saturday night to bid farewell to the sous-chef that was leaving. The captain dragged us all out on the dance floor and did something he called dancing but it was more like Repoman vs. Bruce Lee (YIKES! I hope he never reads this!!!). As we were dancing to bad 80’s tunes, he said welcomed me to the boat and guaranteed me that I would never get a warmer greeting on whichever boat I went to next… Our captain has a house and wife and baby in Antibe, France, where our boat will be based out of for the summer and he promised us a big crew party.

Oh yes, so we’ll be based in Antibe, France for the summer and we leave for France on April 28th. We have about 6 charters for the summer, our first one being in Monaco for the Grand Prix and then we’ll be doing the French and Italian Riviera for the season. I can’t wait to see the markets in the south of France and Italy. I have a feeling the season is going to be spectacular.

We’re on charter presently in St. Barth for the St. Barth Bucket – a big regatta – really just an excuse for people to party and go sailing. But who am I to complain, our charter guests are taking us all out on their sail boat!!!

Cheers everyone, more soon…

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Life's a beach...

It's not that there hasn't been much to write about - just a little crazed at the moment. A big post is in the works.

In the meantime, I have back-to-back interviews all day today for yacht chef positions heading to the Mediterranean. The most promising so far is a sous-chef position aboard a 55m (175 ft.) super yacht leaving for Monaco in just a few weeks. The boat is one of the busiest charter boats in the Caribbean and Med. (meaning lots of big tips) and has an excellent reputation in the industry for treating the crew well. There are 14 crew which I would be cooking for and then assisting the head chef with the preperation for up to 12 guests. Since I've never worked in the Med before this would give me the opportunity to learn how and where to provision, build up my confidence, learn from an experienced mega-yacht chef how the big yachts really work and it would be an excellent stepping stone as after this I would be able to basically choose any boat I could possibly want to work on. I meet the rest of the crew and the chef this afternoon (I interviewed with the chief stew and captain yesterday) and see the galley...

Other than that - been snorkeling in St. Barth and Anguilla, went to Moonsplash (a big reggae fest in Anguilla - and if you like reggae you should definately check out Muju Banton and Bankie Banx!). Averaging 3 calls a day for chefs jobs... So yeah, life's a beach...

More food posts coming soon.

Peace out.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

What a week!

I jumped on another boat for the delivery from Grenada to St. Martin and what a week it has been. The weather was as good as can be sailing up wind, and the crew are great.

Our first stop was Martinique, about 9-hours from Grenada. We anchored in Les Anses-d’Arlets and with no other boats around we had the pristine waters to ourselves. In a 30 foot anchorage I could look down from the boat and make out clearly purple, yellow and green coral. The captain and mate went diving and saw moray eels and said the dive under the boat was close to the best diving they’d ever done (and they’ve both done the Great Barrier Reef). I went snorkeling for the first time which was absolutely exquisite; there were fish that sparkled like disco balls, trumpet fish, giant sea urchins and beautiful corals. The waters were by far the most crystal clear I’ve seen in the Caribbean and I’m inspired to go for my diving certification before this adventure is finished.

After Martinique we set sail for Dominica, another 10-hour trip, anchoring in Prince Rupert Bay where, again, we ran into my friends from Safari – the 62’ catamaran whose captain and chef have become my guardian angels throughout the course of my Caribbean adventure. And of course, running into them meant another on-the-fly dinner party lasting well into the night…

Coco Pod:
Dominica is known for its tropical rainforest and much of the island is a nature preserve. Our captain arranged a tour for us and we hiked Syndicate rainforest and swam in the falls… Our guide was a wealth of information pointing out every plant and tree along the way, giving us their names and uses (building, medicinal, etc.). He pointed out and picked for us wild lemongrass, nutmeg, ginger, coffee, cacao and fresh fruit. I’d never seen cacao in its natural state before. A large pod that turns yellow when ripe, it is filled with a sweet, white fruit which we sucked off of the seeds. Neither the fruit nor the seeds tasted anything like chocolate. The seeds have to go through a process of fermentation, drying and roasting before the cacao is edible. Cacao is commonly grown in the Eastern Caribbean, although not as an export. The majority of the cacao is processed by the islanders for their own use; the end result being a hard and bitter ball of chocolate which is usually grated into hot milk or water and combined with sugar for drinking.

Eating the fruit from the coco pod:
The captain is an amateur photographer with lots of equipment so on our passage up we were sailing within a half mile of all of the islands along the way so that he could take pictures. It was really magnificent to see the coastline of every island that we passed. We sailed within a half mile of Montserrat where there is an active volcano that smothered half of the island in 1997 when it blew. As we sailed past we could see smoke billowing from the top of the volcano and ash slides coming down the sides. We could fallow the path of the ash flow from the eruption in 1997, as well as see the ruins of homes and buildings that were abandoned.

In Antigua we met up with more friends from St. Martin and spent a day relaxing before the home stretch to St. Martin…

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