Two chefs won top prizes at the USVI Charter Yacht Show’s Culinary Competition, held November 12th at Yacht Haven Grande on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Melissa ‘Missy’ Kom, chef aboard the 47ft Leopard catamaran, Pisces, earned first place in the Appetizer category for her shrimp and grits with red-eye gravy. Meanwhile, Rebecca Silva, chef on the 62ft Privilege Catamaran, Anastasia, scored Best Lunch Entrée and Best Dessert with her coffee rubbed braised short ribs accompanied by a spicy roasted coffee glaze and served with truffle garlic mashed potato espuma and roasted veggies and chocolate surprise with espresso caramel sauce, respectively.
Twelve yachts entered the competition where, in a new format, chef’s selected two of three categories to enter and use Virgin Islands’ Coffee Roasters brew as the ‘secret ingredient’. Judging took place on the yachts themselves this year. Jan Robinson, of All At Sea and Ship to Shore cookbook fame, coordinated the competition. Chef judges were Patricia LaCorte, owner of Fresh Bistro and Grande Cru; Julius Jackson, celebrity chef/boxer; and Taj Siwatu, of Buddha Sushi.
Pisces’ Kom – Trained by the Barefoot Contessa
Born and raised in East Hampton, NY, Kom lived on neighboring island St. John for 22 years where she day chartered and completed over 8,000 dives as a dive instructor. She also holds a USCG Master License. Term chartering was the next logical step.
“My culinary experience came from working for Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) and several fine dining restaurants throughout my life,” says Kom, who became a certified wine sommelier in 2010. “For the competition, since we had to use coffee, I thought there would be a lot of meat entries and I wanted to be different. For the red-eye gravy, I ground bacon and chorizo to give it my own spin. Then, I added chicken stock, a little cream and flour to thicken. I poached the shrimp in a crab boil herb mixture and laid it atop cheesy grits.”
Kom isn’t the only chef aboard Pisces. Co-captain Travis Krueger also takes turns in the galley. Krueger, a midwestern U.S. native whose skills additionally include bartending, sailing/windsurfing instruction and scuba instructor, and Kom together created Pisces’ eclectic Caribbean menu.
“Some of our most popular dishes include Local Citrus Mahi-Mahi with Herbed Rice and Sautéed Asparagus, Grilled Jerk Chicken Caesar Salad, and Argentinian Steak Night, a selection of grilled meats served with homemade chimichurri, crispy red potatoes with an avocado crema and roasted Brussels sprouts. We feel great making lasting memories for everyone who has chartered with us especially through our menu,” Kom says.
Anastasia’s Silva – Culinary School Trained
A Chicago native, Silva became a ‘foodie’ when entertaining ad agency clients in the Windy City’s vibrant restaurant scene. A bareboat flotilla vacation to Croatia in 2013 ended with Silva falling in love with sailing, the idea of living on the water and the flotilla captain himself, Theunis Van Schalkwyk, who is now on Anastasia’s helm. Silva first learned the chef trade literally under fire while on charter, gathering and recreating her favorite restaurant-quality dishes. This was followed by professional courses at the Chopping Block in Chicago and the City & Guilds approved culinary school in Langgabaan, South Africa.
“Preparation for the competition started by tasting the Virgin Islands Artisanal Roasted Coffee, and then thinking what would pair nicely with the coffee: something spicy and chocolaty,” says Silva. “I knew I wanted to incorporate molecular cooking into my dishes, which is where my mashed potato espuma (Spanish term for ‘foam’) and chocolate sphere dessert came to mind. So, I took to Pinterest and google to seek out what other chefs have done. That’s when I came across a few recipes incorporating chilis into a BBQ sauce and immediately knew I wanted to braise beef short ribs. From there, the rest just sort of fell into place.”
Much has changed for Silva over the past five years. More specifically, her culinary skills have gone from not knowing how to make lasagna successfully to earning a total of four culinary awards at November’s BVI and USVI Charter Yacht Shows.
“I’m so proud to be living proof and hopefully an inspiration to other novice chefs out there that practice makes perfect. All it takes is one recipe at a time,” she says.
Editor’s note: You can find the chefs’ winning recipes on our website: www.allatsea.net
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.