Under the watchful eye of Head Chef Tim MacDonald, the galley on-board M/Y ELIXIR runs with military precision and is powered by a passion for culinary exploration. Chef and guests alike favour healthy cuisine, with the finest and freshest ingredients used to make innovative dishes. We spoke to Chef MacDonald to find out more about his favourite culinary practices and his experiences on-board M/Y ELIXIR – a stunning 55.0m luxury yacht for charter.
What is your favourite food to prepare for guests?
For yacht chefs, it is important to remember the golden rule: cook what the clients would like, not what you want to cook. But my favourite food to prepare for guests would be a dish from the macrobiotic menu that I have developed on M/Y ELIXIR. Macrobiotic cuisine comprises lots of power grains, nuts, seeds, seaweeds and fruits. As well as this, we prepare lots of seafood, salads, and pasta dishes in a buffet style; dishes such as sushi and sashimi bridges, seafood towers, carrot and beluga, and roasted vegetable salads are particularly popular among guests. I like to cook with locally sourced and organically grown produce – especially concerning seafood. Regardless of the itinerary and country, I am able to offer clients a healthy eating plan while on-board.
A few more of my favourite dishes to eat and prepare are the Australian salads or pressed salads that were all the rage in the 1980s in Sydney: smoked quail, avocado and BBQ peach or Andrew Blake’s sesame prawn salad with avocado and mango. These two are typical salads that I still make today for guests on any itinerary. I like to place a special emphasis on the food’s presentation: these bright, vibrant dishes are very fresh to the eye and are very healthy to eat.
In your opinion, what are the best destinations for food?
I love Italy. While in Sardinia recently, I was offered two local pastas to serve to guests by our provisioner. One was a simple mortadella and pistachio ravioli, and the other was a local hybrid between a Russian varenyky and ravioli, made from buckwheat flour. I was also given walnut, rosemary and cheese culurgiones, which are not typical in other regions, and truffled potato. Each of the foods does not possess a huge wow-factor, but does offer something authentic and delicious. I like experimenting with new ingredients; I am a product of my industry.
If I was to use my ceviche dish as an example, it is best prepared in Antigua – one of my old cruising grounds. In Antigua, you are forced to cook local but things have come a long way since the past. There are a few farms and plantations that are now selling produce. A local American lady even grows a smaller version of Koppet Kress products. Local wahoo and mahi-mahi fish can be found on the docks every evening. Ceviche of mahi-mahi with local avocado and grapefruits – fresh, acidic and pleasing to the eye, it’s a real crowd favourite. It is best enjoyed in true Caribbean fashion – for lunch at anchor. Simply put, all fresh ingredients are diced into edible chunks and marinated for about 4 hours before being freshened by local coriander, red onion and the typical spices of the Caribbean. The salad catches the eye if served with a wheatberry, roasted vegetable and herb salad.
Which are the best sources for ingredients?
The best place to buy ingredients is at local markets. All Captains like this as it saves money and the most difficult guests insist on this. But in reality, we know it’s just not possible. Try telling the sole chef on a busy Mediterranean yacht charter that they have to walk up to the hill and purchase daily ingredients and haul them back, before preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner for guests and crew. It’s just not going to happen.
The provisioner is king! I’ve had a relationship with Vivian Goldsmith from All Services now for 10 years. This season, the Van Gorsel Bros up in Holland have been the key to M/Y ELIXIR’s culinary success. With access to the world’s finest provisions, hot houses, meats and seafood, they ensure we are fully stocked with the best produce.
Our initial order of the seasons is stocked before set off. As we sail, a second local provisioner is used to purchase seafood from the sea, not the tank. This is another core principal on-board M/Y ELIXIR: seafood is all caught locally from the ocean. There is such a big difference between a lobster caught from the sea and one taken from the tank. The local supplier can also recommend such items as the ravioli that was sourced in Olbia.
What are some of the special meals that you prepare for guests?
A few years ago, I won the Antigua Yacht Show’s Chef Competition with my ice sculpture tower dish, called Aki-Maki. It comprises a swan ice sculpture that’s surrounded by fresh seafood. Culinary simplicity. The charter guests love her! I also make a multi-tiered cake for special occasions, which never fails to please. Multi-storeys of polystyrene fakes are topped by one real chocolate cake, dressed in berries, flowers, glitter and gold. Although, on M/Y ELIXIR everything is of the freshest and highest quality, meaning every dish is somewhat special.