The Spice of Life

27 December 2019 By Laura Dunn

There’s nothing quite as magical as the winter holidays, so we’re running a holiday series to warm you up in the coziest way possible. Tune in as we feature several Christmas holiday beverages that will impress any guest you may wish to share it with. (Or, if you just need a festive breather to drink in some holiday joy.)

In today’s edition, Chef Carlos Concha shares his recipe, Mezcal Spiced Coffee, which is an adaptation of a drink he had while traveling in Tulum, Mexico. “The weather was torrential for a few days, then we had the most amazing two weeks of sun. It’s a destination that must be explored,” says Concha.

Mezcal Spiced Coffee
By Carlos Concha

1 oz cold brew coffee
1/2 oz Mezcal
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 tsp Autumn Bog Cranberry Bitters
Dehydrated mango spiced with Oaxacan salt
Dash of maple syrup

French cucumber
Tajin spice

I always stock an Excalibur® Dehydrator. The mango is dehydrated overnight at 70°C. The mango goes on the side and you bite into it as you sip.

Put Tajin spice on the rim of a short glass. In a mixing glass pitcher, combine ice, cold brew coffee, Campari, maple syrup, and a dash of lemon. In the rimmed glass, put ice sphere, sliced cucumber, and lime-berries. Gently pour three drops of bitters on the ice and pour the rest of the cold mixture. You can also pre-make the mix and infuse all ingredients in a crucial detail porthole.

Christmas Q&A:
What’s your favorite holiday dish that you look forward to having every year?
Stuffing in every version. I have a vegetarian one that I make with corn bread, day-old Italian crust, fresh vegetables, nuts, pears, and truffles. Its flavor profile is fantastic and the textures of all the nuts and roasted root vegetables is unique. To the same extent, I make one for meat lovers with homemade Italian sausage meat, rabbit, apples, hazelnuts, organic dehydrated apricots, and fresh sage. This is all cooked in a double boiler, so it’s nice and mostly like a soufflé technique.

What makes this time of year so special for you?
It is a dish that a lot of cultures have and reminds them of home or an invitation to someone’s house and sharing a meal with friends and family. The technique and time, if done properly, is really rewarding. I’ve seen people asking for leftovers as it’s fantastic the next day — pan fried in a bit of butter.

Any holiday cooking tips for other superyacht chefs?
Plan ahead and be ready for the unexpected request, as usually family traditions have unique ingredients and taste that is hard to replicate. Have an organized list and pay attention to the preferences provided. Also understand that they are mostly for the principal and his family, but they are usually more guests to please with other cravings.

Any holiday/Christmas provisioning tips or advice for cooking for your guests?
As you are now arriving or are full-time on a vessel, it is really important to have your guests’ preference lists and their requirements for the holidays. Provisioners get really busy and it’s really tricky also with suppliers. The delivery companies and couriers are full throttle — if you don’t place your orders on time, they will not arrive or will be stuck in a hot airport hallway with absolutely no refrigeration. The quantities may vary as there are lots of vessels and chefs ordering specialty holiday ingredients. As we know, we are all away from home — do not forget about your crew; they also need a great holiday meal!

What are wishing for Christmas this year as a Christmas gift?
As we are so spoiled, it’s hard to come up with something. I traveled non-stop, cooking for two yachts in November and December, making crew and guests happy. A few days ago, I traveled to Colombia, South America, saw friends and family, and now after 20 hours of travel, I am home in Vancouver, Canada, with my wife. These are those moments that you value as a great gift. It’s great when also other people cook for you!

What’s the best way to come up with a new recipe?
As a chef, you need to explore, travel, get away from your comfort zone, try new ingredients, research, go to markets, work on a farm, value your ingredients, change your approach to food and its execution and techniques, and cooking methods. But do not complicate it so much because when cooking for charter guests, time creeps up on you and it becomes a struggle. Let the ingredients speak for themselves with their true flavor.

About the Chef:
While studying architecture at university in Colombia many years ago, I began working for a very well-known Colombian chef. He encouraged me to move to Canada and pursue my passion for cooking. He suggested Vancouver, as it is well known for its diversity in cuisine and amazing seasonal produce. I attended culinary school and shortly after began working as a chef for an award-winning restaurant.

While living in Vancouver, Canada, six years ago, I started a successful, contemporary farm-to-table catering business. During that time, I received a phone call from a yacht owner. A few days later, I found myself cooking on a yacht up in the Pacific Northwest. What started as one night turned into four months of traveling and discovering the beauty of British Columbia.  

What I love most about my job is working with ingredients from all over the world and having the freedom to create unique dishes. I appreciate all my amazing suppliers who always make sure everything is fresh and delivered on time.

The most difficult part of the job is catering to everyone’s food preferences and making sure everyone is happy on board. Food is the only luxury that the crew have and it’s important to keep everyone well fed.

I would describe my style of cooking as healthy and clean. I like to cook with fresh flavors, using local produce according to regions and seasons.

My favorite dish to cook is pasta! I have worked in several award-winning Italian restaurants and have been exposed to so many kinds that you will never get bored: dry pasta, fresh pastas, egg-based pastas, yolk-based doughs, semolina dough, and more. I only use flour and ingredients that are organic and biodynamic. Think about all the possibilities there are with gnocchi — you can make them with potatoes, flour, truffle flour, pea flour, semolina, and even day-old bread. Plus there are soups, starters, main courses, and much more.

I try to stick to 100-mile menus as often as possible. This has always been my philosophy when I had my catering company and is something I am determined to implement in my menus as often as possible. I like to source my ingredients as locally as possible, preferably within 100 miles — plus it supports local agriculture and artisans. Growing up, my father had a farming estate, which broadened my knowledge of sustainable agriculture — it is our responsibility to respect ingredients and their flavors.

The strangest request I’ve ever received was from a charter client who asked me for cake from a box. Whatever makes them happy, I guess!

You can reach Chef Carlos Concha on Instagram @chefcarlosconcha or at