As more events took place over the last half of 2021, the 2021 Antigua Charter Yacht Show resumed operations once more after canceling the 2020 show due to COVID-19. While the 2021 show, which ran from December 4–9, was smaller than usual with less than 20 vessels in total, it made for a more relaxed experience.
“Even though the numbers were low, it was a wonderful show,” says Chef Elizabeth Lee. “It became very stress free, intimate, and gave everyone ample time to chat and mingle. I thoroughly enjoyed myself!”
And of course, the show must go on when it came to the Concours de Chef. Chef Lee was tasked to organize the contest, which was also smaller than usual. “As a reflection of this number, we only had six yachts competing in this year’s 21st annual Antigua Charter Yacht Show Chef and Tablescaping competitions,” she says. Due to the smaller show, all vessels were placed into one category, regardless of size, Lee says. The judges who scored the vessels took this into consideration — and the smaller yachts were also given a handicap.
This year’s theme was a Diamond Jubilee Celebration and each chef was asked to create a three-course meal featuring Petrossian caviar from sponsor Shoreside Support in at least one dish. Dessert had to incorporate a tropical fruit used three ways. The tablescaping contest had the same Diamond Jubilee theme, and designs had to feature Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut Champagne supplied by sponsor Kennedy’s Club.
Chef Aaron Thomas of 65-meter M/Y Triumph claimed the ultimate win at the show, taking both first place overall and Best Dessert. The British chef is in his eighth year in yachting and came into the industry with an impressive résumé. He qualified at Paul Augier in Nice, France, but also spent time in Japan during his studies expanding his cooking repertoire. He worked in Michelin-starred restaurants, including one Michelin star maze by Gordon Ramsay and three Michelin star La Côte Saint-Jacques in Burgundy, before transitioning to yachts. He’s been aboard M/Y Triumphsince the boat launched last summer.
“The chef competition was great fun and [a] good way to get stuck into the Caribbean charter season,” Thomas says. “The brief was around 60s/60th Anniversary/Diamond Jubilee, so I decided to design a menu themed ‘60th wedding anniversary trip around the world.’ I thought this would be a good way to showcase a diversity in international cuisines.”
As Thomas explains, “I designed the menu so that each course would reflect a stop in a different country.” His menu included “stops” in Dubai, Tokyo, Paris, and of course, Antigua. His courses included a Chickpea and Petrossian Daurenki Caviar, smoky Rainbow Fish Ceviche Mise en Bouche for his first menu stop in Dubai; Lobster, Wasabi, and Petrossian Caviar as a fusion take on a “classic 1960s prawn cocktail” for the Tokyo stop as his first course; plus Butter-Poached Sea Bass, Steamed Asparagus, with Pochouse Petrossian Daurenki Caviar sauce representing Paris, France, for his main.
For his winning dessert, he used Antiguan black pineapple, bringing the menu back to the sunny Antigua shores. He explains that the dessert’s base was a rum baba, soaked in English Harbour Reserve rum and pineapple syrup, filled with rum-roasted pineapple, pineapple crémeux, piña colada sorbet, and a caramelized white chocolate tuile. “I believe my menu was on brief, and that my dishes reflected the countries chosen well and were presented nicely and hopefully tasted great!”
Chef Julian Brown of M/Y Lionshareclaimed second place overall and won Best First Course. The British chef may have gotten a late start in yachting at age 47, but he brought a lot of experience with him — he trained in hotel management at Birmingham College of Food but is self-taught as a chef. He opened his first restaurant at 22, attained three AA Rosettes five years later, and then Brown moved into bars and nightclubs for 15 years. He’s mainly worked on smaller vessels in the industry.
“I’m my toughest critic, so I challenged myself [for the contest],” Brown says. “Plus being up against some big boats focused my mind.” Brown’s Best First Course menu was a Ship’s Caviar Petrossian Ration, with Petrossian Caviar, Crème Fraiche, Crile, and Steak Tartare. “The first course was playful — [I] served [it] in a tin, so [it] had a surprise factor and I hope made the judges laugh,” he says. “The dish was very simple, allowing the quality ingredients to do the work — amazing Petrossian caviar, and wonderful beef in the tartare, crisp chives, and crème fraiche. Simple is best.”
His goal definitely worked to wow the judges. As Chef Lee commented, the judges were very impressed with his winning first course. “This dish was served encapsulated inside a single portion tin can where we peeled back the lid and inside was this wonderful appetizer,” she says. “It was extremely clever and delicious.”
“I really enjoyed the competition as soon as I’d sent the dessert out,” Brown says. “I’m a pretty tough critic of my own food. I just tried my best to cook the ingredients well. And to maximize the depth of flavor without making the dish overpowering.”
Chef Marie Scully, aka Scully, of 47-meter S/Y Hyperion had a hectic start to her contest, arriving on the boat just three days earlier. But her whirlwind arrival and prep won her Best Main Course for her mahi mahi dish, so it’s proof that, as she says, chefs work best under pressure.
The French chef entered yachting about five years ago, but her culinary background includes a variety of experiences from all over the world. She worked in several restaurants in Paris when she was younger before moving to Asia and on to other things. But food called her — “I had a corporate job, but on the outside, I went and just interned in restaurants for fun.” She finally opened a restaurant in Mexico with mostly indigenous food, and “then one day, I got tired of carrying my backpack and I wanted a bit of a holiday, [and] you know, I wanted a low-stress job. I figured I’d be a chef on a yacht.” Scully grew up sailing, so it was a logical leap.
Since this was her first culinary contest (and boat show), Scully had nothing to compare her experience to, but she had a blast. “It was quite fun, and I was lucky because the fun aspect was really emphasized,” she says. “The really, really good thing is that I really like my job. So the conditions — getting on the boat [with] so little time before [the contest] and, until the last moment, not knowing the ingredients I was going to find. But once you get into it, it’s just really, really fun.” Her Best Main Course menu — a Flower Power Fish, Eastern-Influence Nage, Diced Mango, and Pimienton — obviously impressed. The mahi mahi scored her big points, she thinks, although it was a bit of blur until it was all over and she saw her food presentation photos.
Lionshare also claimed the top spot in the Tablescaping contest. Chief Stewardess Alex Lombard, who’s been on board Lionshare since 2019 with her husband, Engineer Adriaan Lombard, enjoyed the competition. “Because of the limited number of vessels that competed, all of the chefs and stewardesses were put in the same category — so boats from 30 meters to 65 meters all competed against each other, which definitely made it a bit more difficult for us little guys,” she says. “All of the vessels that competed did very well and I was very proud to be a part of it.”
The South African chief stewardess, who’s been in yachting since 2015, was proud to represent the yacht’s eco-friendly initiatives for the themed contest. “Wherever possible, we try to think of the environment first and so by using recycled materials on the table (as the centerpieces, no less), I feel that I really represented us well,” she says. “I just hope we can encourage other vessels to realize that there are so many materials already on board that can be reused and recycled to create something beautiful instead of being thrown away.”
1st: Chef Aaron Thomas, 65-meter M/Y Triumph
2nd: Chef Julian Brown, 40-meter M/Y Lionshare
3rd: Chef Pierre Kaivers, 24-meter M/Y French West
Best First Course: Chef Julian Brown, 40-meter M/Y Lionshare
Best Main Course: Chef Marie Scully, 47-meter S/Y Hyperion
Best Dessert: Chef Aaron Thomas, 65-meter M/Y Triumph
1st: Chief Stewardess Alex Lombard, 40-meter M/Y Lionshare
2nd: Chief Stewardess Christelle Ferreira, 48-meter M/Y Vibrance
3rd: Chief Stewardess Sara Toth, 36-meter M/Y Zulu