What are you doing / where are you working right now?
I’m currently Head Chef on M/Y Ecstasea which is a Private 86m Feadship, worldwide itinerary with the dream 2:2 rotation.
Who is your food hero (dead or alive) and why?
My food hero has to be Gordan Ramsay, not only an incredible and talented chef having been awarded 16 Michelin stars but he also once worked on a yacht. He left for France to learn from the likes as Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon. He also did a stint in the French Alps at a 2 star Michelin restaurant. He gives me inspiration daily and shows that through hard work and determination anything can be achieved.
What three ingredients could you not live without?
Butter. I love butter, whether it’s in a cake, in a butter cream, on a freshly baked croissant, in a sauce… I just love it. My favorite has to be a salted butter like Lurpak, President and particularly, when in France, you have to buy the “Grand Fermage Sel De Mer De Noirmoutier” its simply delightful.
Cream has to be number 2… I love preparing sauces and desserts… it’s so versatile and it makes food taste better. It may not be a healthier approach however who doesn’t like a lovely whipped chantily cream, whether its piped into a chocolate éclair, broken down into an Eton mess or reduced in a white truffle parmesan cream. Hell Yeah.
Salt. I love all varieties of salt, I love Maldon, Himalayan, Cornish, black salt you name it I love it. I love course flakey salt. It is so versatile and brings a texture in its self. For example, Amalfi black tomatoes with Himalayan salt is incredible. If I am cooking a nice piece of meat it needs to be seasoned to perfection with the right salt for the right job. I love smoked salt when I prepare a wagyu beef tartare, I add Yuzu sesame seeds, shallots, capers, a few flakes of Maldon smoked salt. It compliments the dish, then a confit smoked egg yolk on top with a pickle dressing on the side. Yum
What are your favorite cookbooks and why?
Simple – Ottolenghi
In yachting we are faced with constant dietaries and this book is perfect for salads, meats, light tapas, the use of middle eastern herbs and aromatics allow me to think out of the box and produce some great dishes whether it’s for the crew or for the boss. I love the use of tahini, sumac, harissa, za’atar, chickpea, lemon…. The list goes on. For me it’s a great cookbook as it has interesting flavor combinations and fresh flavours.
Eleven Madison Park – Daniel Humm
This book has elevated me as a chef… It was a friend of mine who’s a yacht chef (Clyde May) who recommended it. My first techniques I learnt from the book were the gels for both sweet and savory. It was at a time when gels where more prominent and this book just opened my eyes to it. I love this book as it breaks down every component and the recipes are not too difficult. I love everything in this book and look forward to eating there soon.
The French Laundry Cook Book – Thomas Keller
When I first started on the yachts I used this book a lot, definitely some interesting flavour combinations yet this book allowed me to step up. The book breaks down every element and texture and offers the reasoning to why food is so delicate and how to pair foods and experiment. It helped me push my plating skills, allowing me to order all of the ingredients and test them whilst the yacht had no budget limitations to work with. My favorite has to be the white truffle custard in an egg with truffle ragout & chive chips. I would do this occasionally as an amuse bouche. Yum! Also great for stocks & sauces. My favorite recipe that I still use a lot now is the chocolate fondant recipe. It will not let you down!
Ramen by Tove Nilson
It’s a great cookbook, it teaches you how to prepare all sorts of different broths, preparation of noodles, pickling etc. and gives a thorough description of Asian ingredients and how to step up and prepare the best Ramen. It also tells the story of the introduction of Ramen and how it’s evolved into culinary perfection since the 1950s.
What 3 kitchen gadgets could you not live without?
My razor-sharp set of Japanese Miyabi Knives
What piece of equipment should every yacht have in the galley?
Water circulator/ water bath
Walk in fridge/freezer
What would you say are some of the most overrated ingredients?
Caviar, it’s so expensive and is it worth it? Yes, there are some lovely varieties out there but spending thousands on it…I don’t think it’s worth it.
What would you say are some of the most underrated ingredients?
Flank meat (skirt)
What has been the most popular (or requested dish) on a yacht by a guest so far?
Salt Baked Dorade… Guests love it being presented at the table. I’ll crack the salt crust off to then show off the lovely white meat delicately cooked & then de-bone it and serve it piping hot to the guests. They love it!
If you were a guest on a yacht, who would you want to cook for you and why?
I would have to say my good mate James. Not only is he an exceptional chef he also owns a 1 Star Michelin restaurant in Bristol. Equally we both like to eat very similarly and he’s also very passionate so locally sourced is fantastic but also equally a marbled wagyu steak, moules frites, decent sushi, pulled meat Bao buns, ceviche and many other exciting dishes would span the menu. A chef who loves to cook what you like to eat.
What music do you listen to in the galley (if at all)?
I listen to all sorts, but I do love hip hop, dance, pop and generally any music with a beat. I’m loving Ed Sheeran at the minute with his collaborations with 50 Cent, Eminem & Stormzy. I also love Spotify as it generates playlists from all of my favorite songs throughout the year!
Best galley tip/hack?
Always give yourself plenty of time when preparing your mise en place and always leave 15 minutes before you start service… it allows you to relax, gets some fresh air and ease into a stress-free service
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?
Tobago Cays and St Lucia. Last year on charter it was very difficult to get anything. We had our charter stock but as you are aware there will always be normal / weird requests and without the help of the agent we would have been in trouble. So, if ever in Tobago Cays just deal directly with the agent.
What is the hardest part of your job?
It can get frustrating dealing with certain crew politics or sharing cabins with crew with bad habits! But mostly it’s being away from your loved ones. I’ve just returned back to work after 10 weeks off paternity. We have a beautiful daughter – our first of many. I can’t now see her and my family for 10 weeks so that’s the hardest part of my job.
What do you see as being the biggest challenge for chefs in the industry moving forward?
The biggest challenge will be getting all of the finest provisions to all parts and even small remote locations of the world. Time must be invested in the sourcing of great produce to stage the success in the galley.
What would you say to people who stereotype chefs as being prima donna with big egos?
Not accurate one bit. I think people think this because shows such as Gordan Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and Costa del Sol nightmares have massively dramatised that all chefs are like that. I have worked in some tough kitchens in the past and each chef is different. Working on a yacht is a lot different to working back home in a Rosette or Michelin kitchen where you all run a station. In yachting you are every station.
What is your attitude toward crew with dietary requirements?
We are chefs and we here to cook. I like to provide variety and options for any crew with intolerances and a happy crew is a happy boat. I used to get the hump when I was young and naive and new in the industry but it’s normal for crew to have dietaries. Although it’s frustrating when they’re not actually genuine intolerances and you see someone eating something when they’re out that they’re supposed to be intolerant to!
What is the weirdest most bizarre thing you have ever been asked to cook?
We had a charter in the Mediterranean with some lovely Asian guests and one of their requests were 24 tuna eyeballs to be accompanied in a Ramen and as sashimi. Yeah it was a very odd request, but they loved it.
Name something you have cooked for guests that you are most proud of?
I cooked a barbecue in the BVIS 2 years ago. We had flaming lobster, T bones, tiger prawns and I prepared ceviche with wahoo. The sun was shining, white beaches, clear blue water and a cold beer in the hand. The guests loved it and although it was so hot, it was their last day and is a memory I will forever have.
When you are interviewing a chef to work for you, how do you know if they are any good?
I think it’s very difficult to know how good they are but generally you listen to them, ask them questions on food knowledge, what they can bring to the job, why do they want it. I look for many things when I’m interviewing. I love a great personality, someone who loves their job, passion on every level. Someone who is confident and happy to jump in any area to help out and to get their hands dirty. You can tell a lot about a person just by talking to them. You get one chance to impress. Nowadays some people believe that a chef must have tattoos and having tattoos shows off creativity. Total nonsense… every chef is different and putting ink on you doesn’t change you as a chef or your ability to cook.
What one thing should all chefs do to help the environment?
Recycle. I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s true. It might not affect us in our lifetime, but it will affect our children and our legacy. Please segregate and help our environment. Also, if you see anyone littering, report them.
What one thing can chefs do to limit food wastage?
Be conscious of what is being thrown away. If you can break it down chuck it in a stock, grind it up. Today I made a cheesecake and had egg whites left over… that’s tomorrow’s dessert now. Eton Mess.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you want to be?
I would be a sponsored snowboarder travelling the globe, competing in the competitions, riding the fresh powder & carving fresh lines.
Chef’s Personal Profile:
Name: Sebastian Amberville
Years’ Experience as a chef: 18 years
Nationality: British ( My mum’s Czech & my father’s Italian but I was born in the UK )
Interview by Amandine International Chef Placement