The Winners of the MYBA Superyacht Chefs' Competition

17 May 2024 By Holly Overton
Credit: Stuart Pearce

Holly is the editor of Dockwalk. She grew up racing sailboats in England before switching to the world of superyachts and moving across the pond to Fort Lauderdale.

This year the MYBA Charter Show made its anticipated return to Italy, and what better way to celebrate than with the finest Italian cuisine — served with a side of friendly competition.

The annual MYBA Superyacht Chefs' Competition saw 27 culinary maestros sharpen their knives and deliver their best interpretation of An Italian Fusion Dinner Party. The brief asked chefs to proffer their finest Italian fare with a twist, combining the classic cuisine with flavors and techniques from another country of their choosing. Competing across three size categories, each chef had just 30 minutes to prepare a three-course menu. And the winners are...*drumroll*

Yachts 56m and Over: Chef Andrew Durham of Naia

// Crab cappelletti with pickled mushrooms and a hot and sour broth
// Bistecca alla Fiorentina with larbs-style panzanella and coriander salsa verde
// Mango, coconut and sticky rice

Credit: Stuart Pearce

Traditional pasta dishes with a twist were a go-to for many of the chefs and Andrew’s crab cappelletti starter helped Naia secure the win in the big boat category, as one of three dishes in his Italian-Thai presentation. “The inspiration for my menu comes from my wife who is a very talented Thai chef. I’ve learned a lot from her in the last 12 years,” the British chef explains.

His first course of tom yum crab cappelletti was inspired by a dish from the menu at his restaurant, using white and brown crab meat for the filling and the shells to create a stock for a hot and sour broth. “Then I add lemongrass, lime leaf, Galangal tomatoes, mushrooms, and coriander and passed it through a very fine strainer to clarify.”

Credit:Stuart Pearce

To follow was florentine steak and panzanella served with a coriander salsa verde. “The steak is seasoned with a Thai larb mix which consists of toasted and ground sticky rice, lime leaf chilli, mint and coriander. The panzanella is tossed in the larb mix and the salsa verde consists of anchovies, capers, olive oil, garlic, and lots of coriander.”

For dessert was Andrew's spin on a traditional Thai dish of mango sticky rice, with a white chocolate and coconut panna cotta filling. “I made the flavors of this into an entremet-style dessert, which consists of panna cotta filled with a melting mango center and black sesame sponge, glazed with a shiny mango jelly topped with black sticky rice, ice cream and a mango biscuit.”

Credit: Stuart Pearce

Andrew’s colorful cooking career has come full circle after starting at sea as a chef in the Royal Navy. No stranger to competition, he competed in several armed forces competitions before joining cooking show Masterchef: The Professionals, finishing in an admirable fifth place out of 48 chefs. Captain Alex Whitty of Naia spotted his talents on the show and offered him a role on board, which he turned down to open his 12-cover restaurant in Cornwall, UK. After three years he decided to close the restaurant and contacted Captain Alex. “Behold just a couple of weeks later, I was flying to Barcelona to join Naia, which was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” Andrew says.

Second place was awarded to Chef Lee Easdon of Lioness V, and third place was awarded to Chef Michael Mathieson of Aquila.

Yachts 36 to 55m: Chef Mykhailo Chekan of Nuri

// Artichoke, green curry foam, fermented tomato-cured egg yolk, peanuts
// Short rib tortelli piacentini, tom kha gai, truffle, oyster mushroom, stracciatella
// Mascarpone cream, coconut milk soaked savoiardi, ginger butterfly pea fermented tea, coconut and lemongrass ice cream, mango and amaretto gel

Credit: Stuart Pearce

Chef Mykhailo also opted for Thai-Italian fusion and served the judges another winning blend of east and west. “I wanted to create a menu that felt like a graceful dance between Thai and Italian cuisines, where each dish showcases the best of both worlds.”

The humble Artichoke — a staple of Italian cooking — was the star ingredient of his first dish, paired with a Thai green curry foam. “The artichokes were cooked “Italian style” in white wine for a subtle tang. To add complexity, I caramelized some peanuts for crunch and sweetness, and topped it off with a pecorino tuile dusted with asparagus powder for a hint of bitterness.”

Credit: Stuart Pearce

For the main course, Mykhailo wanted something “hearty yet refined” opting for a short rib pasta dish with tom kha gai, a traditional Thai coconut soup. “I smoked then marinated the short ribs in tom yum paste and slow-cooked them for 24 hours until they were melt-in-your-mouth tender. I paired them with a buttery tom yum sauce and delicate ravioli filled with fresh stracciatella and grated black truffle."

"I found Nuri's menu very innovative, very fresh and of great quality and research into the raw materials" – JUDGE ANTONIO MELLINO

The grand finale was a “boat” filled with mascarpone cream and savoiardi — Italian “lady fingers” used in tiramisu — soaked in coconut milk. “I added a mango amaretto gel for sweetness, coconut lemongrass ice cream for freshness, and finished it off with a touch of butterfly pea and ginger fermented water for a whimsical touch.”

Credit: Stuart Pearce

Mykhailo’s culinary journey started in Ukraine where he honed his skills in Italian cuisine working at a renowned Italian restaurant, before spending four years on cruise ships and working for royalty. “A pivotal moment came when I joined a two-Michelin star restaurant in Paris as a chef de partie. There, I learned that culinary excellence isn't just about mastering a particular cuisine; it's about the quality of ingredients and the art of blending different flavors harmoniously.”

Credit: Stuart Pearce

“Navigating the competition was tough; the biggest challenge? Staying focused and calm amidst the pressure, especially with Michelin-starred chefs judging my dishes — a first for me. Competing against larger boats with more staff wasn't easy either. Our team was small compared to others, but we held our own.”

Second place was awarded to Chef Tom Van Zeller of C and third place was awarded to Chef Beth Howard of Anya.

35m and Under: Chef Nicolo D’Urso of South

// Arancino with scorpionfish, raisins, wild fennel, and pine nuts on a cream of saffron piacentino cheese
// Fish and seafood soup flavored with almond cream on a couscous tabbouleh
// Sicilian cassata cake flavored with rose and cardamon

Credit: Stuart Pearce

Chef Nicolo D’Urso wowed the judging panel as the only chef across all three categories to present Italian-Arabic fusion. “I was inspired by the dishes of my land, combining the Sicilian style with the Arabic culture,” he says. His decision to showcase Sicilian cuisine was deliberate, as the island boasts a distinct sub-cuisine influenced by Spanish, Greek, and Arab culinary traditions, lending itself well to the brief, but it was also where Nicolo started his career as a chef.

The first dish put a Middle Eastern spin on the classic Sicilian staple arancino. He chose rockfish and saffron rice as the base, using the bones of the fish to create the broth for his second dish. “I toasted the pine nuts, soaked the raisins in dry marsala, chopped the wild fennel for the sauce.” The arancino was served on a dollop of saffron and Piacentino Ennese cream.

Credit: Stuart Pearce

A secondary fish dish followed — this time a seafood soup flavored with almond cream on a couscous tabbouleh. “I cooked the mussels and clams and used the broth to cook the couscous. I prepared the almond cream with the clam broth."

“A very well executed menu with interest that delivered a great representation to the combinations not only a great use of the spices but a balance in flavors” - JUDGE MIKE JENNINGS

Completing the trio of dishes was a Sicilian cassata — a sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur — with an Arabian twist. “I started by removing the whey from the ricotta to make it dry. I seasoned it with sugar, cinnamon, candied fruit, and by incorporating a part of whipped cream, I obtained a ricotta mousse. I prepared a pistachio crumble, some green marzipan in the shape of disks and composed my cassata, flavoring it with chopped cardamom and rose distillate.”

Credit: Stuart Pearce

Nicolo started cooking at the age of 16 and after graduating culinary school moved to Sicily for his first chefs’ gig before discovering the world of yachting four years ago. “Today I am very happy to be able to make people from all over the world taste my traditional dishes revisited. Finally I'll tell you a secret but don't tell anyone: I do all this with love!”

Second place was awarded to Chef Marisol Alvarez Guzman of EM3 and third place was awarded to Chef Candice Potgieter of Heavenly Daze.

The judges

Mike Jennings, Michelin-trained chef and founder of Hospitality Hut
Romain Fornell, Michelin-star chef and founder of Goût Rouge
Antonio Mellino, three Michelin-star chef  
Oscar Manresa, chef, restaurateur and author of Mi Boqueria


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