Nigel Hilton, Head Chef of Spirit, on life as a Superyacht chef and going the extra mile for guests on charter.
Q. WHAT SIGNATURE DISH DO YOU PREPARE ON BOARD?
A. IT’S SIMPLE,BUT IT’S A HIT WITH GUESTS EVERY TIME I MAKE IT: fresh seabass, roasted with fennels and lemon and served with potatoes. Good food, done well.
Q. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL FOOD SERVICE ON CHARTER?
A. WE ASK THE GUESTS TO TELL US about the foods they like and dislike in as much detail as possible before a charter, so when it starts, we are already prepared and have the galley stocked with all their favourites. For me, the best dishes are those made with fresh produce and the best-quality local ingredients from the charter destination, so every morning I visit a local market to select food for the day. There are incredible markets in many coastal towns selling great meats, cheeses and locally grown fruit and veg. Often the guests come along too, to choose ingredients and soak up the traditional culture.
Q. TAKE US THROUGH A TYPICAL DAY ON BOARD.
A. EVERY YACHT CHARTER IS A BESPOKE EXPERIENCE, SO EACH DAY IS DIFFERENT AND LED BY THE GUESTS – where they want to go and when they want to eat. One of my specialities is homemade bread, so often I make that for breakfast, which, of course, can be at any time in any place on board.
Some guests like to spend the day on land, so lunch might be a sumptuous champagne picnic on a private beach or fresh seafood at a restaurant we’ve reserved.
Pre-dinner cocktails and canapés are a great chance to mingle with fellow guests or entertain friends, and for dinner our team of stewardesses can create any atmosphere you want, from an intimate romantic setting to a fun family meal or a themed evening where the crew get dressed up.
We can organise pizza-making parties where the kids get involved and Hawaiian-themed barbecues on the sundeck. Just like your home chef, we’re here to make food any time of day – if guests need hamburgers when they come back from clubbing at 4am, no problem!
Travelling the World
Q. WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
A. I SPEND MY LIFE TRAVELLING AROUND THE WORLD, discovering great ingredients and offering guests bespoke, high-end service. Every day, the guests and crew are somewhere new and for me that means new local ingredients to discover. I’m lucky enough to have been almost everywhere with my job on various yachts over the years, cooking for guests using the best produce from all over the world – the South Pacific, Australia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Solomon islands, Scandinavia. The best food I’ve ever found was in New Zealand: a true foodie paradise.
Q. WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE MEAL YOU’VE PREPARED?
A. A CHARTER GUEST LOVED FRESH STRAWBERRIES AND ORDERED THEM FOR BREAKFAST, but this was during a summer heatwave off the coast of Greece. All the crops on land had died and there were none to be found within miles. We arranged for a box of fruit to be flown in from Paris, and by the morning the Guest was enjoying sweet fresh strawberries and oranges in the sun.