There’s a saying: Do what you love because that is what you will do well. This certainly holds true for Louise Langello, charter chef aboard the 47ft Leopard, Pisces. Langello, who has cherished cooking since she was a child, ultimately proved her prowess in the galley by winning the Culinary Contest at the Virgin Islands Charteryacht Leagues’ Fall Yacht Show at Yacht Haven Grande, in St. Thomas. Her dish? The Grand Mariner’s Spoon, a savory sweet combination of top sirloin and tropical fruits flavored with the requisite ingredient, Grand Marnier cognac, in beautiful white ceramic utensils.
Born and raised in central Pennsylvania, Langello was the first of her siblings to volunteer to help her mother in the kitchen. This culinary keenness led her into the food industry. In high school, she first worked at an ice cream parlor where a menu of over 30 crazy sundae combinations appealed to her creativity. While in college, she took a semester off to work in a resort kitchen at Zion National Park in Utah. Here, she helped to serve over 900 people both breakfast and lunch. The Park also gave Langello the opportunity to indulge her tandem love of the out-of-doors via rappelling, rock climbing and hiking. Fast forward a couple of years and it was definitely fate that while working as a massage therapist and day charter yacht hostess, Langello met kindred spirit, Capt. Stephen McCauley. The two have worked together as the term charter crew aboard Pisces for nearly two years.
“Others in the industry shared their recipes with me when I first started,” says Langello. “They were delicious but many of them included heavy sauces. I found that guests would become sleepy and inactive after meal time. Also, who wants to eat heavy while wearing a bathing suit all day? Now, I cook the way I really like to. That is, fresh, flavorful and healthy.”
Veggie frittatas, homemade corn pancakes topped with smoked salmon, and cut fresh fruit are all staples on Langello’s breakfast table while on charter. Lunch could feature signature blackened fish tacos topped with a homemade mango-pineapple salsa or a lemon garlic chicken served with a green salad blooming with fresh spinach, kale, avocado, sliced apples and grapes. Mid-afternoon, a quick bite snack may be a refreshing watermelon cube marinated in lime and olive oil, topped with feta cheese and a jalapeno pepper. One dinner favorite of many guests is Langello’s almond encrusted grouper accompanied by a spicy coconut-lime flavored kale and brown rice. A new entrée that is guaranteed to get guests lip-smacking is the one Langello debuted as an entry appetizer at the VICL’s Culinary Contest.
“I felt like everyone was going to use the Grand Marnier in a dessert, so I wanted to do something different and came up with the Grand Mariner’s Spoon. In the future, I plan to serve larger portions as a dinner entrée over mashed butternut squash,” Langello explains.
Langello serves about 35 meals and snacks during a week’s charter with eight to ten brand new selections. She admits using Pinterest as a source of ideas, which she morphs into her own style of cooking that best compliments an active life on charter. She sources the freshest ingredients by shopping in four stores on St. Thomas, as well as a local farmer who grows the most fantastic fresh spinach. Also, she restocks perishables in Soper’s Hole and Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor when chartering in the BVI.
Langello continues to love her time spent out-of-doors. In fact, she and McCauley enjoy treating their guests to fun activities like yoga, paddle boarding and snorkeling.
“Steve has made over 1,000 dives while earning his Master’s Degree in Marine Biology,” says Langello. “He’s a really fun snorkel buddy.”
THE GRAND MARINER’S SPOON
2 Top Sirloin steaks
6 tbs Grand Marnier
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbs of honey
2 tbs Asian chili sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 tbs finely minced orange zest
1/4 cup of finely minced ginger
1/4 cup cupped fresh basil
2 minced green onions
Plain Goat cheese
Sea Salt and pepper
1. Marinate two top sirloins for 4 hours.
2. Take top sirloins out of marinade, set side. Then transfer marinade into a small sauce pan. Simmer on low for 20-25 minutes or until marinade has reduced to 1/3 of its original volume.
3. Meanwhile, mash avocado with fork and lightly season with sea salt and pepper. Place a large dollop of mashed avocado on each spoon for bottom layer.
4. Cube mango into small pieces.
5. Grill steaks to medium rare, then placed them in foil for 5 minutes.
6. Slice the two sirloins into very thin slices. Wrap one piece of steak around one or two small cubes of mango and place it on top of the mashed avocado.
7. Top the steak and mango piece with a small crumble of goat cheese.
8. Take less than a teaspoon of the marinade reduction and drizzle it over the goat cheese. Serve.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.