With more than 28 years' experience working as a chef on board superyachts, Mick Carbert knows a thing or two about good food. We talk to Mick to discuss everything from the ingredients he can't live without and the most over-rated ingredients in the galley to the chefs who have inspired him to reach new levels in his career.
What are you doing/where are you working right now?
After four years in a head chef position based in France, I have just bought a house in the UK so I’m currently spending my time working on that.
Who is your food hero and why?
My greatest food heroes are the Roux Brothers because they have done so much for the industry, including encouraging and inspiring young chefs. They are the godfathers of modern British cuisine.
What three ingredients could you not do without?
Butter because while it’s not the healthiest, but it’s unmatched for enriching and giving shine to sauces. I love cooking meat and fish in foaming butter and it’s just such a versatile ingredient in so many dishes. Salt because when it’s used in the correct amounts, it’s the best flavour enhancer you can get. And good quality olive oil - it’s tasty and healthy when used in dressings, it can add a great finish to a dish and it marries so well with other ingredients. Plus I like dipping fresh focaccia in it!
What are your three favourite cookbooks and why?
Formulas for Flavour by John Campbell - his techniques and flavour combinations are inspiring.
Pastry and Desserts by Michel Roux (they’re actually two books) - the best books for basic techniques and recipes for desserts and pastry.
White Heat by Marco Pierre White – this is one of the books that inspired me to become a chef. Plus, it has the best lemon tart recipe!
What three kitchen gadgets can you not live without?
My Japanese cook’s knife, a mandolin and a microplane zester.
What piece of equipment should every yacht have in the Galley?
A Thermomix – utterly invaluable. It’s been referred to as having an extra team member!
What would you say are some of the most overrated ingredients?
I don’t think there really are any overrated ingredients, other than ones that have done a lot of air miles to get to you, resulting in a loss of freshness and flavour, as well as the environmental impact that causes. Most ingredients have a time and place to be used, depending on what or who you are cooking for.
What would you say are some of the most underrated ingredients?
A lot of local ingredients can be overlooked, especially when chefs are used to relying on provisioners. It’s worth taking the time to find out what’s local and seasonal, wherever you are.
What has been the most popular or requested dish on a yacht so far?
Sometimes the simplest things can be the best. The last boat I worked on the boss’s favourite was salmon en croute with broccoli and Hollandaise sauce – a classic for a reason!
If you were a guest on a yacht, who would you want cooking for you and why?
Jamie Oliver because he’s a great chef and I reckon he’d be entertaining as well!
What music do you listen to in the galley if any?
When I’m busy I’m quite focused, so just having the radio on as background noise is great. But when it’s quieter I listen to anything from Mumford & Sons or The Travelling Wilburys to Green Day, depending on what mood I’m in.
Best Galley tip or hack?
Tidy galley, tidy mind! Clean and wash as you go.
What is the most difficult place you have ever had to provision and what advice would you give to figure out where to go?
A few places in Croatia were a little difficult but there were always friendly local people and restaurants who you could ask to find the local markets. I guess the best bit of advice I could give would be don’t be afraid to ask around and talk to people. They’re generally happy to help.
What is the hardest part of your job?
I would have to say provisioning, as you have to get just enough not to run out but not too much so you end up with lots of wastage. It’s a delicate balance!
What would you see as being the biggest challenge in the industry for chefs moving forward?
I think it’s achieving that elusive work/life balance so it becomes a more sustainable trade.
What would you say to people who stereotype chefs as prima donnas with big egos?
To be fair, I have known chefs like that, but they’re not the majority! Most are hardworking, passionate professionals.
What is your attitude to crew with dietary requirements?
Crew with dietary requirements need to be looked after just as well as everyone else, and I never have a problem with accommodating them. Faddy diets that pop up out of nowhere mid-season can be a bit annoying, though!
What is the weirdest most bizarre thing you’ve ever been asked to cook?
Sorry to be boring but the guests I’ve cooked for so far have given me free rein to cook pretty much what I want. I’ve been lucky, I guess!
Name something you have cooked for guests that you are most proud of?
Being a bit of a perfectionist, I always try and send things out of the galley that I’m proud of, although every now and again it doesn’t always go exactly to plan. But a perfect souffle or chocolate fondant is always something to be proud of.
When you are interviewing a chef to work for you, how do you know if they are any good?
I always look for good classical training and experience in high end establishments, so they’ll have a good understanding of the basics. The odds are they’ll also have put in the time starting at the bottom, which teaches you a little humility and a good work ethic.
What one thing can chefs do to help the environment?
Minimise wastage and source locally where possible.
What one thing can chefs do to minimise wastage?
We need to try and take the time to plan and provision efficiently.
If you weren’t a chef what would you want to be?
I would like to design and landscape gardens, because I love being outside.