Leading international chef placement agency Amandine has been busy unravelling the ins and outs of the fascinating lives of yacht chefs, getting to know their trade secrets and what makes them tick - from what music they like to listen to in the galley to the most bizarre thing they’ve ever had to cook.
This week, Kate Emery, the founder of Amandine catches up with chef Bianca Jade Murphy to discuss her food heroes, the secrets of cooking exquisite food on board and the ingredients she couldn’t live without.
Who is your food hero (dead or alive) and why?
David Chang because he has brought Asian cuisine to the Western world and has largely been one of the most outstanding influences in Asian Fusion cuisine worldwide. I have eaten at two of his Momofuku restaurants in New York and I have to say that they were two of the most memorable meals I have had in my life. Also, because Asian Fusion is one of my favorite cuisines to cook and his food inspires me.
Which three ingredients could you not live without?
Garlic, olive oil and salt.
What are your three favorite cookbooks and why?
All of the Yotam Ottolenghi books are amazing - I find his food to be very fresh with a focus on the ingredients and making them shine as opposed to masking the natural flavours. I also love Gyoza The Ultimate Dumpling Cookbook by Paradise Yamamoto because who doesn’t love dumplings! And finally Nashville Eats by Jennifer Justus. I purchased this book at the beginning of this year when my husband Daniel and I went on a trip to Nashville and, after eating all of the amazing Southern food, I simply had to have the cookbook. The biscuits and gravy recipe is one of my all-time favourite guilty pleasures.
Which three kitchen gadgets could you not live without?
A stick blender, vacuum pack machine and Japanese mandolin.
What would you say are some of the most overrated ingredients?
What would you say are some of the most under rated ingredients?
That would have to be tomatoes.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Figuring out guests likes and dislikes as often preference sheets are usually not correctly filled out if at all.
What do you see as being the biggest challenge for chefs in the industry moving forward?
Sustainability. I say this because if we as chefs do not all work towards a common goal of sustaining our food sources then soon some of these sources will no longer exist and species will become extinct. If this happens, the meals we can produce will become vastly limited and I would even say dull and uninteresting. We all have a responsibility to only make use of sustainable food sources.
If you were a guest on a yacht, who would you want to cook for you and why?
Ferran Adrià or Heston Blumenthal because every meal would be a complete surprise with theatrics and unusual taste sensations.
What music do you listen to in the galley (if at all)?
It depends on my mood, but Spotify is definitely my best friend. I always have music playing, even during charter but at a much lower volume.
What’s your best galley tip or hack?
Never ever throw any guest food away or give to the crew after a lunch or dinner service until you are absolutely sure that the meal is completely finished. The same goes for desserts - always keep some aside until one day later in case the guests ask for it the next day.
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?
Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands. There are no provisioning agents at all and a very limited supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, which would arrive once a week on a container and go to the only supermarket on the island where I would then have to go to purchase fresh provisions for the yacht guests.
The best advice I have is to ask the locals in remote locations where they go to buy their provisions, and use social media to ask if anyone else has been to that place before as they might be able to share some really useful tips and advice.
What would you say to people who stereotype chefs as being prima donnas with big egos?
I think stereotyping or generalisations are always a dangerous thing to do. Putting a certain group of people into one box is not accurate and is unfair. I think every chef should be taken at face value and assumptions should not be made that every chef is a prima donna with a big ego. Being a chef most certainly requires confidence in oneself and your abilities however there is a fine line between confidence and being egotistical.
I truly believe that I am not a prima donna with a big ego and always have something new to learn. Every day I am still learning and believe that when I stop learning then something is very wrong. As a chef you are constantly growing and if you believe that you know it all, then in my opinion, you should pack your knives away and try your hand at a different career. Staying humble and being grounded is something which I focus on and truly try my best to not become egotistical and arrogant.
What is your attitude toward crew with dietary requirements?
This is a very loaded question and I may offend some people with my answer but here goes! Over the last few years, in general, the sense of entitlement from new crew joining the industry has definitely increased. I mention this as my opening statement because my attitude towards crew dietary requirements is that if someone is genuinely allergic to a type of food then I will go out of my way to take care of their dietary needs. However if it is not a genuine allergy then I do feel that there is no place for special dietary ‘wants’ on any boat that only has one chef, especially on charter.
I say this because it is hard enough to keep on top of guests’ dietary requirements which sometimes change daily, then adding special crew dietary wants on top of that becomes ridiculous. When there is a crew/sous chef the situation is entirely different. I’m not saying that crew with dietary requirements should not work on board yachts, however an adjustment in dietary wants when working on yachts is necessary if it is not a legitimate allergy
What is the weirdest most bizarre thing you have ever been asked to cook?
Baby camel and deep-fried grasshoppers.
Name something you have cooked for guests that you are most proud of?
Very recently we had a charter on board and one of the guests from Israel requested shakshuka for breakfast. I made it and then they proceeded to order it every day for breakfast for the next week, telling me that it was the best shakshuka they had ever had - including places in Israel that they had eaten it.
When you are interviewing a chef to work for you, how do you know if they are any good?
I usually go on my gut feeling as there is no real way to know if a chef is any good before they have cooked for you. References are very important, and I always contact them. I also take special note of how they talk about food as this gives me a good indication as to whether they have a passion for food and cooking or not. Many things can be taught but passion cannot.
What one thing should all chefs do to help the environment?
Reduce the use of single use plastics as much as possible.
What one thing can chefs do to limit food wastage?
Portion control. And where possible, recycle leftovers to be used again for crew.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you want to be?
I have always wanted to be a chef since I was 12 years old and have never really thought about being anything else to be honest. Maybe I would want to be an airplane pilot…
About Amandine International Chef Placement
The leader in international chef placement, Amandine Chefs is the brainchild of food fanatic Kate Emery whose overriding passion in life has always been great food and wine. Kate launched Amandine in the South of France in 2011, subsequently expanding across the globe with offices now in Monaco, London and Fort Lauderdale, cementing her commitment to raising standards in the yachting industry and providing the right support, motivation and inspiration to enable chefs to perform at the highest level.
When she's not working or looking after her two daughters, you’ll find Kate eating her way around the world and working through San Pellegrino's top 50 list.