Chef Merrilie Insch shocked her competitors at the 2009 Newport charter show by winning the chowder cook-off without any actual chartering experience.
Chef, 88-foot motoryacht Essence
Date interviewed: June 2009
It’s quite a thing you just did, winning the Newport Charter Show chowder cook-off less than a week after the owner of Essence put the yacht into charter.
I know! Can you believe it? I guess the judges really liked my Thai green curry chowder with king prawns.
Even more impressive is that this is the first time you’ve ever worked on a charter yacht.
My partner, Capt. Glenn Brain, and I have just come onto Essence after some years of doing catering and hospitality ashore. We’re excited about lining up our first charters, and it’s really something to see how interested everyone is in Essence based on the chowder contest win.
What kind of catering and hospitality work did you do before arriving here?
At the time, Glenn was working winters as a ski instructor and lodge manager, and he was away about four months a year. In 2007, we got tired of being apart and decided to manage a ski lodge together. It took 22 guests each week, and the two of us were the only staff.
Is that where you learned to cook?
I’d always enjoyed cooking, but that is where I learned my catering-level skills. I was the chef, and we’d start doing the evening meal about 4 o’clock every day. It was a cold climate, so we did a lot of lamb shanks, slow-roasted pork, salmon, that type of thing.
How did you get from a ski lodge to a luxury charter yacht?
Glenn had always been boating and had his captain’s license, and we decided that we wanted to look for work together in the boating industry so that we could travel overseas.
We heard about this boat, Essence, that was finishing a refit and needed crew like us. We did the interview with the boat’s owner over YouTube. He had someone ask us predetermined questions, and we gave answers, all of it on video over the Internet.
Cooking in cold weather climates is a lot different from cooking in yacht charter destinations, which tend to be warm. What are some of your specialty dishes?
I enjoy cooking seafood, and I’m partial to prawns, scallops and lobster. I think those will go well with boating. I also am good at desserts like white chocolate cheesecake and flourless chocolate cake, and I enjoy making fruit desserts like poached pears.
How do you expect cooking for Essence’s six charter guests to compare with cooking for the ski lodge’s 22 weekly guests?
We will be able to cater to whatever dietary requirements people have. It’s only six people, after all. That’s easy for us to do.
Plus, Essence’s owner also owns a restaurant, so he knows about kitchen equipment. The refit that the boat just completed included installing all new commercial-grade appliances in the galley. It’s fantastic.
We’re eager and ready to get into charter. Hopefully, we’ll get our first bookings soon for this summer in New England.
Essence is part of the fleet at The Sacks Group Yachting Professionals. She takes six guests with three crew at a regular weekly base rate of $32,000. The first five charters booked in 2009 will enjoy a discounted weekly base rate of $25,500. Any reputable charter broker can tell you more.