This year was the 11th culinary contest and I asked Cara Rogers, a former professionally trained chef, charter yacht chef and culinary contestant winner to join me (Jan Robinson) at Nanny Cay Marina and help co-author this article.
This is a chance for charter chefs to showcase their culinary talents and the theme this year was ‘Eat Smart, Eat Fresh’, with four categories – appetizer, entrée, dessert and the most creative use of the sponsor’s ingredient – Mount Gay Rum. Each dish was to contain at least three vegetables or fruits (or a combination) with bonus points awarded for use of fresh local Caribbean ingredients. The chefs could participate in as many or as few of the categories as they wished. Each category was judged based on a 1-10 system for presentation, taste, use of local ingredients, creativity/originality and overall impression.
Superb culinary creativity made it difficult for the judges but after much discussion and deliberation, the winners were selected.
The Overall winner of the 2015 culinary contest was Chef Richard ‘Richie’ West from the yacht Lady Katlo.
Cara Rogers interviewed chef Richie for All At Sea:
I sat down on a luxurious salon sofa with Richie West and he told me he had some real pressure with this contest – to maintain the title their previous chef had won last year!
I had met Richie on a couple of occasions and heard how he excels in the culinary arts. It was nice to finally sit down with him to find out about his life and how his experiences had bought him to be here, winning a prestigious award for his culinary works.
Richie described how he had started out as a lad in Birmingham, England, with two years of culinary college under his belt. He was immediately hired by the best hotel and restaurant in the Midlands, where he climbed the ranks to junior sous-chef. During this time his head chef and mentor pushed him in to competing and winning various high end culinary competitions such as the Grand Prix.
Outgrowing his role in the UK, he set his sights on an international career and was invited to Singapore by the Mandarin Hotel to promote British cuisine overseas. After his stint in Singapore he moved back to the UK and acquired a serious interest in farm-to-table cuisine, by setting up and running several prominent country house hotels and helping usher in the new age of the Gastro Pub.
In a move to London, Richie found himself cooking under the celebrity wings of Marco Pierre White, dubbed ‘The Godfather’ of modern cooking. After being a part of switching all the classics in to modern dishes, he was chosen to run an acclaimed Mayfair restaurant called HUSH, owned by Roger Moore, where he catered to the glamorous, rich and famous.
Not wanting to cease his love affair with South East Asia, this intrepid chef gained employment in Australia, funding his trip by working in various restaurants across the continent and completing numerous culinary courses along the way.
After more years in the UK, he was called to the BVI to work at the Last Resort, on Bellamy Cay, by a friend, and it wasn’t long before he was head-hunted for a job on board Lady Katlo.
The contest judges did not reach Lady Katlo until later in the afternoon but despite our groaning midriffs, he had us and the photographers fighting each other to lick the dishes clean.
Chef Richie presented us with:
Red Cabbage & Rum Cured Salmon with Cream Fraiché & Caribbean Spiced Piccalilli.
The red cabbage was braised in Mount Gay rum and spices then pureed, the salmon cured in a gravlax style then marinated with some of the leftover braise for 24 hours, which gave the salmon an unusual taste and a brilliant purple coloring. The dish was then garnished with rum-soused baby beets and scotch bonnet oil. When chatting to Richie about this dish, he told me that he and the crew had handpicked the turmeric used in the piccalilli, in the jungles of Grenada.
Rum Glazed Slow Roast Pork Belly & Braised Pig Tail with Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Ginger Puree.
The chef had braised the pork for ten hours in Mount Gay rum before glazing it with the cooking liquor. The pig tail was stuffed with rum flavored figs and wrapped in bacon before being poached and braised. A very fancy Savoy cabbage was stuffed with pancetta and parsnip puree.
Rich Chocolate Rum Cake with Glazed Banana and Mini Chocolate Fondant.
The chocolate and rum mousse was lovingly layered with rum soaked banana cake, rum caramel and marinated cherries. The fondant was molded into a small dot and still warm inside, while pineapple, passion fruit and chili salsa with coconut and glazed banana were placed about the plate for garnishing.
Having a one-on-one session with Richie West was like taking a private culinary class. I learned some exquisite lessons and ways to utilize the classics. Chatting about the technical details of his menu brought to light his passion for food. The awards were very well deserved and I am interested to see what happens next year!
1st: Briar Smith, yacht Akasha (Salty Ling Fish Mousse)
2nd: Jade Rose Konst, yacht Xenia 50
1st: Christine Hedeline, yacht Vacoa (Over the rainbow Mahi Mahi)
2nd: Cameron Rooken-Smith, yacht 19th Hole
1st: Maroussia Gust, yacht London Sky (Selection of hand-churned local ice creams with salty chocolate garnishing tempered in the galley, served in an ice bowl.)
2nd: Richie West, yacht Lady Katlo
Best use of sponsor’s ingredient, Mount Gay Rum
Nicola Jade Feldmann, yacht 19th Hole (Rum-nilla ice cream served in a sugar work basket)
Best use of local ingredients
Philippa King, yacht Flying Ginny (Inventive use of a Triggerfish)
Kristine Andreassen, yacht Xenia 75