Currently working onboard the busy 50m charter yacht MY Endeavour II, Bianca Jade Murphy boasts 14 years’ experience as a chef onboard, and here’s what she has to say about her experiences in the industry…
Who is your food hero (dead or alive) and why?
David Chang, because he has introduced Asian cuisine to the western world and has been one of the most outstanding influences in Asian Fusion cuisine worldwide. I have eaten at two of the Momofuku restaurants in New York and they were two of the most memorable meals I have had in my life. Asian fusion is one of my favorite cuisines to cook and his food inspires me daily.
What 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.
• Gyoza The Ultimate Dumpling Cookbook by Paradise Yamamoto because who doesn’t love dumplings?
• Nashville Eats by Jennifer Justus. I purchased this book at the beginning of this year when my husband and I went on a trip to Nashville and ate so much amazing Southern Food. I especially love the biscuits and gravy recipe which is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures.
What three kitchen gadgets could you not live without?
A stick vlender, vacuum pack machine and Japanese mandolin.
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/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 just 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. They would arrive once a week on a container and go to the only supermarket on the island so I’d have to be sure to get there 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, or use social media to ask if anyone else has been to that destination before as they might be able to share some really useful tips and advice.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Figuring out guests likes and dislikes, especially when using preference sheets that 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?
It has to be sustainability. If 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.
What would you say to people who stereotype chefs as being prima donnas with big egos?
I think stereotyping or making generalisations is always a dangerous thing to do. Putting a certain group of people into one box is not accurate or fair - I think every chef should be taken at face value and assumptions should not be made that we are all prima donnas with a big ego. Being a chef most certainly requires confidence in oneself and your abilities, however there’s a fine line between confidence and being egotistical. I truly believe that I am not a prima donna with a big ego and I always have something new to learn. Every day I’m still learning and believe that when this stops 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 grounded is something that 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, and the reason why I mention this as my opening statement is 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’s 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. It’s hard enough to keep on top of guests’ dietary requirements which sometimes change daily - adding special crew dietary ‘wants’ on top of that becomes ridiculous. When there is a crew and sous chef, the situation is entirely different, and I’m not saying that crew with dietary requirements should not work onboard yachts. However an adjustment in what you want to eat when working on yachts is necessary, if it is not a legitimate allergy.
What is the 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 onboard, and one of the guests from Israel requested shakshuka for breakfast, which I made. They then proceeded to order it every day for breakfast for the next week, and told me that it was the best shakshuka they had ever had, including places in Israel where 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’m always sure to make contact. 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 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’ve 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!