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USVI Charter Yacht Show: Culinary Winners Plate the Latest Trends BONUS Dragonfruit Panna Cotta with Pineapple Dust Recipe

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An inspired use of fresh local ingredients, which reflect the hottest global cuisines and look as good as they taste. This is what todays guests want from the galley when on a crewed charter in the Caribbean. It’s deliciously exemplifying that these key characteristics earned three chefs top prizes in Appetizer, Entrée and Dessert categories at the USVI Charter Yacht Show’s Concours de Chef Competition on November 11th.

Winning chef Daniela Drescher of Shangri La
Winning chef Daniela Drescher of Shangri La

“Healthy, stylish food … most of our guests love to eat creations that they don’t regularly get in the US,” says Daniela Drescher, chef aboard the Lagoon 52, Shangri La, who received formal culinary training in her native Austria as well as informal yet indispensable kitchen skills as a child from her mother and grandmother.

Daniela’s winning dish
Daniela’s winning dish

Drescher’s winning appetizer was a Caribbean interpretation of the Onsen egg. This is an egg cooked at the low temperature of 145-degrees, such that the white has a custard texture while the yolk is firm yet creamy. She served it on a bed on pumpkin mousse with mustard greens and topped with a broccoli-christophine puree with potato foam. On the side were a variety of accompanying colors, textures and flavors such as beet tarte, mango chutney with curcumin, tamarind puree, dragonfruit and starfruit slices, and an eye-catching scattering of microgreens and edible flowers.

“The Onsen egg is a dish from Japan. They cook the eggs in the hot springs of the volcanos. Currently, the Onsen egg is a very trendy dish in European Michelin star restaurants. When I was on vacation at home in Austria, I ate one in a very good restaurant and knew this is my dish,” Drescher explains.

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Entrée winning chef, Johann Roebert of Lady Sharon Gale
Entrée winning chef, Johann Roebert of Lady Sharon Gale

Rock City Wahoo is the dish that earned Johann Roebert, chef aboard the 111-foot Broward motor yacht, Lady Sharon Gale, Best Entrée. The seared locally-caught wahoo was served with roasted calabaza, ginger caramelized christophine and caramelized whole garlic, which flavored a Thai green curry coconut sauce made with fresh turmeric and tamarind accompanied by a basil oil and mustard leaf pesto. 

Johann’s winning Entrée
Johann’s winning Entrée

“Exotic fresh local ingredients bring some excitement to the plate, but also creates a nutritious balanced, well-presented meal that is not too high in fat. This is what is popular,” says Roebert, who studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch, South Africa, started his chef career aboard a 101-foot ketch in 2005 out of St. Maarten and most recently owned The Stone Restaurant in Simpson Bay, St. Maarten, before it closed following Hurricane Irma. “I wanted to combine my favorite versions of each ingredient on a plate in the simplest way possible. This dish was inspired by Caribbean, Japanese and Thai cuisines.”

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Winning chef Katie Saunders of the S/Y Yes Dear
Winning chef Katie Saunders of the S/Y Yes Dear

The ability to ‘wow’ guests through plating and presentation is just as important as how the dish tastes, according to Katie Saunders, chef aboard the Voyage 58 catamaran, Yes Dear. Saunders championed the Dessert category with her Dragonfruit Panna Cotta with Pineapple Dust. 

“My inspiration was the natural beauty of our locally sourced ingredients,” says Saunders, whose culinary training includes experience working for several cafes, organic eateries and catering companies as well as working alongside many talented chefs in the mega yacht industry. “When looking at my dish, you can see nature’s influences all the way down to the choice of the plate. I was excited to hear the culinary competition would be providing local ingredients to feature in our dishes. In preparation for the boat show, I was able to meet many local farmers and vendors, establish a great working relationship with them and I’m excited for future collaborations.”

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For those who’d like to be award-winning yacht charter chefs, Shangri La’s Drescher, Lady Sharon Gale’s Roebert, and Yes Dear’s Saunders offer a few suggestions as to the most important skill a charter chef can have.

“A good charter chef should be like a mum or grandmother. That is, do everything to make them feel satisfied and loved,” says Drescher. 

Building good relationships with food and liquor suppliers comes in very handy when you’re on the clock,” adds Roebert.

Finally, says Saunders, “is ‘mise en place’. Prepping in advance and keeping an orderly galley is key to having a seamless food service.  When serving ten guests three meals a day in a small galley, gathering all your ingredients and being prepared is the key to survival.”

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Katie’s winning Dragonfruit Panna Cotta with Pineapple Dust
Katie’s winning Dragonfruit Panna Cotta with Pineapple Dust

Chef Katie Saunders, S/Y Yes Dear

Panna Cotta:

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup half and half
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of Caribbean Gourmet Collection vanilla extract 

In small saucepan, combine gelatin over water and let sit for about 1 minute. Heat gelatin mixture on low heat and remove once gelatin has fully dissolved. 

In a large saucepan, combine heavy cream, half and half, and sugar, stirring occasionally. As soon as mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and stir in gelatin and vanilla extract. Divide into small ramekins and cover to be chilled overnight. 

Pineapple Dust:

  • 1 whole pineapple, thinly cut
  • 1/2 teaspoon arrowroot flour

Cut pineapple into thin slices and dehydrate using dehydrator or oven. If using an oven, set temperature to 130 to160 degrees Fahrenheit and lay on parchment paper. If using a dehydrator, stack thin pieces in different levels of dehydrator and monitor for 16 hours. Once pineapple breaks in pieces easily with no sticky residue, use mortar and pestle to grind down into a fine powder, adding arrowroot flour to keep from sticking together. Store in air tight jar and serve as garnish when needed.

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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