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Interview: Charter Yacht Chef Ben Davidson

He is cooking aboard the 130-foot Westport motoryacht Amarula Sun

That was a fantastic lunch that you just presented. I especially enjoyed your seared scallop with cauliflower puree, pine nuts, drunken raisin sauce, and curry vinaigrette. What a unique combination of flavors. Is that one of your specialties?

I don’t really think of myself as having specialties. What I think I can offer is a reasonably well-rounded skill set. I like cooking good-quality ingredients and not overworking them. You should know what you’re eating, and it should taste great.

The thing that I get the most compliments on is my seafood. Really fresh seafood, basically caught and cooked within the same day, or within the same few hours. I do sushi, braised, pan-roasted, all kinds of techniques. I like to see what I’m working with and then make a decision on how to cook it.

How did you become a chef?

I’m from New Zealand, and I just always had it in my mind that I wanted to cook. I didn’t enjoy school very much, so I left at age 16 to work as a dishwasher in a restaurant. I worked my up and then did formal training in Christchurch. By the time I was 20, I had moved to Australia to live in Sydney and cook in restaurants doing fine and semi-fine dining.

How did you make the jump from restaurants to charter yachts?

A motoryacht called Kokomo came there, and that was the first yacht I ever worked onboard. My older brother was working at the time on boats in the Caribbean, and he got me a job as a sous chef aboard the yacht where he was the head chef. That boat was Floridian.

My goodness! Your first-ever mainstream charter yacht was the 228-foot Oceanfast Floridian? That’s a massive boat to start aboard.

It was, and after my brother left, I ended up being the head chef there. I also worked on a number of other really big charter yachts, including the 183 Benetti Galaxy, the 231-foot Amels Boadicea, and the 230-foot Benetti Reverie. What I’m trying to do here on Amarula Sun is bring the superyacht quality from that class of charter yacht to this one, which is obviously in an entirely other size range.

What do you find most challenging about moving onto a 130-foot yacht from a 230-foot yacht?

The size of the galley is dramatically smaller, and I’m the only chef, whereas there used to be a team. So I can’t always do all the details that I’d like to do, and the space can be a challenge in some respects, but so far it’s been great and I’m having a really terrific time.

Amarula Sun is part of the charter fleet at Northrop and Johnson. Any reputable charter broker can tell you more about her or help you book a week onboard.

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