Tonight was the prize-giving ceremony for the chefs’ competition at the 2015 Antigua Charter Yacht Show, and I must say, I am thrilled about one of the winners in particular.
Just yesterday, Churchill Yacht Partners invited me to lunch aboard the 142-foot Palmer Johnson motoryacht Lady J. The yacht has a terrific captain and crew I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in action on charter, along with a chef I haven’t seen in quite a few years, who recently joined the team. The first time I had a meal prepared by Ben Dineen (shown in the photo above) was back in 2010, when he was still fairly new to the industry. I interviewed him back then because I thought he was a star in the making, having prepared a fantastic meal that really blew me away. Yesterday, the Irish native showed just how much more spectacular his chef’s skills have become. He served me unbelievable dishes including a main dish of lobster and wontons in Thai broth, and a dessert of chocolate mousse and passionfruit ice cream in a homemade chocolate bowl.
The flavors that Ben developed in yesterday’s lunch were remarkable. Since I saw him in 2010, he has spent time traveling and taking courses with master chefs in places including Bangkok. He not only learned from them in the kitchens, but also in the local markets.
“It was a lot of ingredients I’ve never seen before,” he told me. “It was the coolest thing ever. Everything I’d ever cooked before, that I thought was good, I’d been doing totally wrong.”
Yesterday’s lunch aboard Lady J was so fantastic that as I walked off the aft deck and said goodbye, I whispered in the captain’s ear that I thought Ben had a real shot at winning the chefs’ contest this year. His work had gotten that good. I was truly rooting for him.
And lo and behold, when they called out the winning names tonight, Ben’s was in first place in Lady J‘s category. The judges, it seems, recognize serious talent when they see it.
Here’s a full list of all the winners in this year’s chefs’ contest:
Charter Yachts 125 Feet and Smaller
* Third place, chef Audrey Harper on the sailing catamaran Bamarandi
* Second place, chef Eric Davis on the Azimut motoryacht Andiamo
* First place, chef Michelle Bonetti on the expedition motoryacht Zeepard
Charter Yachts 126 to 159 Feet LOA
* Third place, chef Jilles Kuppens on the Sanlorenzo motoryacht Scorpion
* Second place, chef on the Royal Huisman sailing yacht Hyperion
* First place, chef Ben Dineen on the Palmer Johnson motoryacht Lady J
Charter Yachts 160 Feet and Larger
* Third place, chef Leishan van den Berg on the Abeking and Rasmussen motoryacht Amaryllis
* Second place, chef Diego Andra on the expedition yacht Seawolf
* First place, chef Scott Dickson on the Heesen motoryacht Inception
In addition to the chefs’ awards, honors for best table settings went to the crews aboard Seawolf, the Burger motoryacht Mim and Zeepard.
Congratulations to all the 2015 winners!