The top yacht chefs conquered a challenging theme at the 14th annual Concours de Chef at the Antigua Charter Yacht Show in December.
Chef Gisele Lannamann of S/Y Aurelius took top honors among yachts up to 100 feet. But she said it took research to tackle the plant-based theme — “Haute Cuisine Caribbean Luncheon Challenge” — to create her winning presentation.
The road to plant-based food success did not start well for the self-taught chef.
“I checked into tofu; I thought it tastes like cardboard,” she said. “I started to study and the more I looked into it, the less I wanted to do it. But slowly by slowly, I started to taste it and build a menu. What an amazing discovery.”
Chef Anders Pederson of M/Y Altitude, who won among yachts 160 feet and larger, said the theme was definitely a challenge.
“I researched books and shows to learn how to prepare this,” Pederson said. “I developed the recipes and tried them at home with close friends and my wife.
“Onboard we cook for vegetarians and vegans because it is a fashion and people want to be healthy,” he said. “But for this event, you couldn’t even use honey.”
Chef Jake Luke of M/Y Crowned Eagle won among yachts 100-159 feet and was challenged as well.
“I did a lot of research and especially watched the difference between sponsored information and scientific truth,” Luke said.
The event was outside of the typical chef competition with a list of requirements that included 100-percent plant-based ingredients in all dishes. That meant no dairy or dairy-derived ingredients such as cheese, milk, cream or butter; no meat or animal-derived products including eggs or seafood, and a focus on raw dishes.
Competition coordinator and cookbook author Jan Robinson said interest in the annual competition was so overwhelming the online registration filled within an hour.
“This was such a challenge for the chefs,” she said. “Even if they didn’t win, they learned.”
This year’s registration opens Nov. 15 (www.antiguayachtshow.com).
After all the research and work, most of the chefs said they will use what they learned during the event for future charters and in their own menus.
“Absolutely, I will always use this,” Lannamann said. “Although I’m not ready to transition, I will reduce my meat now that I have learned about things like quinoa. This is a new page in my cooking life. It is a good thing. It has been a gift what happened here.”
As to preparing the plant-based diet for the owner?
“The real kicker will be the first meal,” Lannamann said. “I’ll tell them after the first meal.”
The complete list of Concours de Chefs winners include, among yachts 160 feet and larger:
First place to Chef Anders Pederson of M/Y Altitude, second place to Chef David Hawkins of M/Y Sealyon, and third to Chef Tammy Ayers of M/Y Marie.
Among yachts 100-159 feet:
First place to Chef Jacob Luke of M/Y Crowned Eagle, second place to Chef Tracey Ireland of M/Y Safuira, and third to Chef Nathaniel Cox of M/Y Lady J.
Among yachts up to 100 feet:
First place to Chef Gisele Lannamann of S/Y Aurelius, second place to Chef Caro Uy of M/Y Skylark, and third to Chef Adrian Martin of M/Y Matau.
In a concurrent competition, the interior staff competed in an organic table decoration contest that included a Duval Leroy Champagne bottle and Caribbean local ingredients to compliment the luncheon theme.
Interior staff Kasia Jankowska of M/Y Teleost (among yachts 160 feet and larger), Hayley Diskin of M/Y Crowned Eagle (among yachts 100-159 feet) and Audrey Harper of M/Y Aleithia (among yachts up to 100 feet) won the contest.
The theme challenged interior staff and it took some thought for Diskin to come up with a plan.
“It finally came,” she said. “I woke up at 4 a.m. with the Tree of Life theme. We grew the grass ourselves, cut the bougainvillea and went to the local market here on Antigua,” she said of her crew including 2nd Stew Amy Cook and Stew Natalie Fuchs.
Fuchs, born in Antigua, tracked down locals to make the palm frond chargers and decorative birds used in the display.
“Natalie said, ‘I can get local plants’ and she trekked off into the bush,” Diskin said. “So, imagine, we arrive at the boat with bushes, lay out a drop cloth and we cut until midnight.
“All the guys helped, it was a crew effort.”
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at email@example.com.