With 18 years’ culinary experience, the Hugarian/Irish chef has a wealth of experience cooking aboard superyachts. From the ingredients he can't live without to the gadgets that take pride of place in his gally, here's all you need to know about head chef Sabi Csitari.
Where are you working right now?
I’m the head chef on M/Y Skyfall at the moment and we’ve just finished the busy charter season. I’m now going to help a friend out in the Middle East on week’s charter over there.
Who is your food hero (dead or alive) and why?
Thomas Keller because he is the history. Bjorn Frantzen because he is the best. And Josh Niland because he is the future.
What three ingredients could you not live without?
Spanish Smoked paprika, rendered chicken fat and fresh gambero rosso.
What are your three favorite cookbooks and why?
1. Momofuku from David Chang for the classic Asian recipes and tastes.
2. The Nomad Cookbook from Daniel Humm because of the plating style.
3. Sergiology from Sergio Herman for blowing my mind.
What three kitchen gadgets could you not live without?
A thermomixer, a sous vide circulator, a food dehydrator, paco jet, kitchen aid, robot coup, steamer and microplane and Japanese mandoline. Was this three you said?
What piece of equipment should every yacht have in the galley?
The above plus good ovens and good cooktop. A real-deal BBQ would be just the cherry on the top.
What would you say are some of the most overrated ingredients?
In my opinion, I’d say truffle, caviar and foie gras - they are all nice to use but I wouldn’t lose my mind over them just because they are expensive. Where I grew up we had goose farms around the town and we had foie gras way too many times.
What would you say are some of the most underrated ingredients?
Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac and fish bones.
What has been the most popular (or requested) dish on a yacht so far?
Salt baked sea bass, lobster spaghetti and wagyu beef.
If you were a guest on a yacht, who would you want to cook for you and why?
My friend Nathan Clements (he is a yacht chef as well), because I like the way he cooks and presents his dishes.
What music do you listen to in the galley (if at all)?
Limp Bizkit, Jay Z, Chris Brown – sorry!
What is the most difficult location you have ever had to provision in? And what bit of advice can you give to figure out where to go?
I haven’t worked anywhere like Alaska or the South Pacific, but I do remember parts of Sardinia were not easy. I use Google maps, and I seek advice from other yacht chefs and local agents.
What is the hardest part of your job?
The shopping is the best and worst part. I personally prefer to go shopping myself and pick out the ingredients I deem perfect but then I have to carry a lot of stuff back to the yacht. I feel like I’m on a CrossFit training programme when I have to do a “farmers carry”!
What do you see as being the biggest challenge for chefs in the industry moving forward?
I’d say the prejudice of your name and your looks. I think the most important thing is how you actually cook, but how many times does a yacht chef have to cook for the captain or the boss prior to be hired?
What would you say to people who stereotype chefs as being prima donnas with big egos?
Most of the time they are right! There are a few exceptions but most of the chefs are prima donnas. Sometimes I tend to behave like that, but when I’m aware of it I try to go back to normal ASAP.
What is your attitude toward crew with dietary requirements?
On a normal level it’s not a problem, but when they change from one day to another, that I won’t tolerate. For example, there was one crew member who was vegetarian but suddenly gave it up when burgers were served as the crew food. Then I stopped doing veggie dishes for that person individually.
What is the weirdest, most bizarre thing you have ever been asked to cook?
Lambs brain, tripe, suckling pig and baked fish head.
Name something you have cooked for guests that you are most proud of?
Perfectly executed beef wellington, roast suckling pig and chocolate spheres.
When you are interviewing a chef to work for you, how do you know if they are any good?
I’ll ask them how would they do this and that, and make them go into detail. I would ask about the smallest things. I would also ask which restaurants are their favorites and what cookbooks they read or who they follow on social media.
What one thing should all chefs do to help the environment?
Use less plastic wrap, don’t waste too much and never do anything unnecessary.
What one thing can chefs do to limit food wastage?
Re-use leftover crew food and keep an eye on the fruit and veg in the fridge. Check to see if something needs to be used up first and don’t just ignore it and throw it out later - create your menus around what needs to be used up.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you want to be? A chef!
First published in The Islander Magazine.