The Second Annual Sunset Soirée & Yacht Chef Competition

4 November 2019 By Laura Dunn

This year, Chef Danny Davies of M/Y Excellence took home the title of “Best Yacht Chef” at the 60th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show on day three of the show at Superyacht Village, one of the newest additions to FLIBS this year.

Three other chefs and their sous chefs competed for the title of the Second Annual Sunset Soirée & Yacht Chef Competition: Chefs Andrew Siebert, Alex Forsythe, and Jarle Saupstad. On top of everything else, the event also doubled as a relief effort.

A New Format

Unlike the previous year’s competition, more than 300 guests were able to try each of the four dishes at their leisure. Also new was the preparation process. This year, each yacht chef was allowed to start preparing the week before — as opposed to cooking several courses on the spot with no lead time.

“We all had three to four days lead-time to prepare. I started on the first day of the boat show, baking the chocolate fudge cake, chocolate cookies, and making the chocolate soil,” says Davies. “I ran through the dish a couple times and had the crew taste it.” To him, it was important that each of the 400 portions were “complex enough to wow the judges. I wanted to make something that would really pop and capture [everybody’s] attention.”

And it paid off.

Earning his win was a delicious chocolate fudge cake with fudge sauce, which came complete with dry ice chocolate ice cream, a sour apple cotton candy tree top, and a little serving shovel and situated in a mini plant pot. “The chocolate soil had chocolate cake crumbs, chocolate cookie crumbs, mango and raspberry pearls, chocolate chips, [freeze] dried raspberries piece. I mixed this altogether with a little dry ice to make it fizz, [which makes] a little smoke come out of your nose.”

Each chef had two hours to create 350-plus portions of their competing dish. All of the judges visited each station at the same time. “They asked questions about the dish and took photos. Chef Paula DaSilva spoke to me about the dish and asked me to explain every element,” he says, adding that she seemed impressed and told him that it tasted delicious.

In the middle of all the festivities was a live concert put on by the Wheeland Brothers, a Southern Californian band that got the crowd dancing and singing along. At the end of the night, Miami Heat DJ Dale announced the winning chef. Shortly after being presented with his medal, Chef Davies was still in disbelief: “I'm like, I can't believe it. I can't believe I've won,” he says. “I was really nervous about doing a dessert, but I felt that it went really well. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it.”

An Excellent Team Effort
When Dockwalk got the chance to speak with Chef Davies, he was fast to praise his sous chef, Ratu Dawai. “Ratu is the best sous chef ever. He is our temporary deckhand at the moment on M/Y Excellence, but looking for a yacht chef job,” says Davies, who adds that Dawai studied culinary arts for five years in Fiji. “I wish I could keep him as a permanent sous chef — he now cooks crew food at least once a week. He has such a cool friendly temperament, a good understanding of what needs to be done, and works hard every day.”

Chef Davies says he enjoyed all that went with competing. “The best part was service — I love the pressure and buzz. Getting to explain my dish to people and have instant positive feedback was awesome. Plus, all of the Instagram posts and videos of me and Ratu made us feel like stars! When I heard we won, I couldn’t really believe it. It was literally the icing on the cake,” Chef Davies says.

Beyond being a luxurious five-day boat show, there were several support efforts in honor of The Bahamas after the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

The crew of Excellence has never shied away from helping their beloved Bahamas, according to Chef Davies. “I’m always keen to take part in things that help people. Motor Yacht Excellence charters heavily in The Bahamas — it feels like our backyard. The people are so friendly and it [is] terrible what the hurricane did there,” says Davies. “We took supplies and water with us to donate the last time we crossed back after the hurricane. When I heard they were raising money for The Bahamas, I asked Capt. Tom if I could take part.”

In partnership with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina, and the Superyacht Builders Association, it benefitted two Bahamian relief organizations, including Mission of Hope and ONE Bahamas for Hurricane Dorian disaster relief efforts.