Top Shelf: Get comfortable with Laurel Canyon cuisine

Aug 5, 2020 by Timothy MacDonald

Top Shelf: by Chef Timothy MacDonald

Recently, I ran into a Neanderthal. Not the stick-and-stone variety, but a true dinosaur in the modern healthy green “powerfood” crew food industry. In Dr. Chilton’s immortal words, “It’s so rare to catch one alive” … these days, I’ll add.

The Neanderthal’s palate equated to that of a 5-year-old child. I felt as though I had driven into a backwater county parish and had been pulled over for a busted taillight by Sheriff J.W. Pepper, complete with an antiquated, outdated relic’s opinion on crew food.

The rest of the crew wanting healthy, “game changing”, plant-based cuisine were forced to eat plain lumps of meat lunch and dinner seasoned with salt and pepper, all in keeping with the cuisine requirement of the simpleton’s palate.

It’s an undeniable fact. Crew food has changed substantially, and the hippies are coming. Ignore the movement and you will be swept away in the industry like food scraps on an Atlantic crossing. Years ago, stalwarts in the industry refused to do the Ship’s Cook Certificate and now it’s the standard in almost all applications. The ones who didn’t swallow their pride have been swept away into land-based work.

The Golden Rule in the industry as a food heater on yachts should always be to cook what the owner and guests want. Furthermore, if the crew want “game changing”, plant-based food, give it to them.

It’s all very well to dine and educate oneself in Michelin restaurants but to force feed that creative passion down the throats of the guests like a food pellet down the throat of a Périgord goose is uncool.

It’s not rocket science to understand that affluent people look after themselves and take advice from industry professionals. A quick listen to Teal Swan’s podcast on anxiety and depression and the coping tools will educate any food heater on the facts. The yacht’s owner and guests are probably under advice to follow the same regime from their doctors and shrinks.

Some superfoods tipped to trend in 2020: lemon balm, sea vegetables, hemp seeds, pea protein, dried mushrooms, maqui berry, black garlic, chlorella, nervines and raw cacao.

Creating menus based around Laurel Canyon cuisine is the way forward as the plant-based revolution takes hold, manifesting a combination of power grains, seeds ’n’ nuts, Japanese cuisine, a higher vegetable and fruit count, seafood, etc. Meat is murder. Soy protein replacements — tempeh and tofu — will creep in to replace meat. 

Being able to study and implement the cuisine that the hippies were onto back in the Canyon days will put us chefs two Birkenstock steps ahead of the pack.

Freekeh, Hemp and Basil Risotto

  • 1 cup freekeh, cooked in stock
  • 1 cup soybeans, defrosted and blanched
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup or more basil pesto, depending on taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan


Once the freekeh is cooked and drained, spread it out flat to cool on a sheet of plastic wrap. Work in the soybeans, hemp seeds, pesto and parmesan.

Extra parmesan can be added as garnish.

Timothy 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.