A Tale of Two Sittings
Antonella della Pietra on creating a fairytale culinary experience for guests…
Antonella della Pietra, managing partner at BWA Yachting Spain, explains how the galley team can be the authors of guests’ culinary fairytales...
Historically, the dining table has always provided opportunity for the exchange of stories, experiences and memories. However, today’s top yacht chefs are dedicated to creating epicurean events that tell their own story, with each sitting being a memorable experience in itself. As such, every element contributes to the tale as the narrative unfolds. Each course should be an act that conveys evocative emotion – be that drama, enchantment or whimsical delight. Each ingredient should play its own role, possessing an engaging back-story that expresses its own rich depth of character as it interacts with the supporting cast.
For the chef in the galley, somewhat divorced from his audience, it’s worth remembering that the service crew play a vital role in communicating these significant plot lines, whether they be local, exotic, romantic or historical, to create an unforgettable experience for the guests. “The shrimp is from that reef just off the headland to port, sautéed in olive oil from a local press that still uses ancient pink granite marble stones (ninth generation of the family apparently). And those herbs? They are wild, foraged from that clifftop by the sous chef during their run early this morning.” If such preamble feels a little stilted or contrived, try leaving a note in the guests’ cabins prior to them retiring to prepare for dinner; this is a nice personal touch that sets the scene, and writing it creatively will have their mouths watering as they shower.
One short cut to acquiring first-hand knowledge and invaluable information on local ingredients, traditional dishes and methods is actually hidden in plain sight – in the menus of the top local restaurants. Discovering those with the best reviews and browsing their menus online is a quick and effective way of gleaning insightful inspiration. Another method, and one which I personally enjoy, is to seek out the often less glamorous underbelly of a port, where the locals and fishermen eat, and spend an afternoon grazing on what they consider to be the most readily available ingredients, often deliciously simple fare.
Getting to know your audience is an obvious prerequisite to artfully crafting a mini-series they want to binge on.
Back in the galley, remember that the less you do with an ingredient the more it relies on quality, whether it is protein, vegetable, fruit or dairy. While locally sourced ingredients add accent and emphasis, no chef has the time to search out baseline products of consistent quality in each and every port of call which is why working with a highly reliable provisioning company you can trust really pays dividends. A company with global representation in the most-visited yachting destinations obviously offers the benefit of providing consistent international service, familiarity with your product preferences and is even able to pass on some of that specialised local knowledge.
Another direct benefit of working closely with a dedicated provisioning specialist is that, by definition, they are required to keep abreast of the latest fads, fashions, galley equipment and techniques – not so easy to do when on board and offshore for extended periods. It’s in their best interest to keep you appraised of these developments and, therefore, from supplier to galley to guest, everyone’s a winner. During each off season, we always recommend that chefs take tours, attend classes and enjoy a ‘epicurean expedition’ through a new region of the world to extend the portfolio of ‘stories’ they are able to tell with their cuisine.
Getting to know your audience is an obvious prerequisite to artfully crafting a mini-series they want to binge on. Obviously, any chef who does not carefully study the preference sheet, noting allergies and intolerances, is not worth their salt, but there are other ways in which you can tailor your menus. One I particularly like is checking with the chief stew to find out the cocktail preferences of each guest, then including the primary liquor in an accompanying sauce during dining – another personal touch that is invariably appreciated.
Finally, I’d suggest that every dedicated chef strives to serve their guests promptly and effectively, while maintaining high standards of quality and reliability in order to earn their trust. When choosing your provisioning supplier demand the same … they are a vital link in the food chain!
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