Top Shelf: The Birth of Aki-Maki

Jan 14, 2018 by Timothy MacDonald

Top Shelf: by Chef Tim MacDonald

Many years ago on Huntress, I was taught about the theory of “POP”’ on a yacht. The owner insisted that at least once a day there must be POP – a dish or an event. Thus, I combined them both, and nowadays at least once a charter I use an ice sculpture of some sort to make a difference.

Back in the day, as we restaurant chefs flicked through Marco Pierre White’s first book, we mocked the hotel boys for their margarine carvings of Mickey Mouse and ice sculptures. Many,  many years later and full circle, I have realized that this kind of POP is what the guests want.

More and more, I have learned that buffet work is more relevant to keeping charter guests happy than plated Michelin food. I am not saying that plated food is less important – it’s just that in my experience, the bigger the POP, the happier the guests.

Aki-Maki ice swan

Aki-Maki, the frozen 3-year-old swan, is a prime example of what works. She has never failed to deliver the goods. Other sculptures I have used in the past include the fresh seafood frozen Dolphin on Huntress that was pivotal in winning the chefs concours many years ago. Frozen fruit bowls are also a great way for the stews to become involved.

Search for “The Birth of Aki-Maki” on YouTube for a look at the ice swan in the making. The video is testament to the teamwork needed on a charter yacht to  make things happen.

Tim MacDonald ( has more than 20 years experience as a chef. He was named Concours de Chefs winner for Yachts over 160 feet at the 2011 Antigua Charter Yacht Show. His recipes are designed for the owner and guests. Comments are welcome below.