You would think that the last thing I’d want to do on a day off was jump on a boat. For the past fourteen years I’ve lived onboard various yachts, but my days are busy inside the boat cooking for guests and crew, so when we arrived in Costa Rica the first thing I did was look for a guide with a boat to show me all I’d missed.
We hadn’t motored more than 100 feet from the black volcanic sand of the beach into the bay when Herardo pointed over the water.
“¡Mira!” He swung the bow of the boat toward the mouth of the bay. Two islands covered in a vibrant green canopy of trees blocked the waves of the Pacific and view of endless blue but I doubted the serene beauty was what had the man excited.
The flat-bottomed aluminum boat glided through Bayou Savage, parting the sea of emerald green and leaving a trail of muddy brown behind us. Overhead, sprays of Spanish moss hung like tinsel from the Cyprus and tupelo trees of the bayou. The zit-zit-zit sound of thousands of dragonfly wings flittered through the thick, muggy air.
We’d already passed half a dozen alligators out sunning themselves under the broiling heat of the day, but they were not what we hunted that day. We were going mud bugging, or searching for crawfish as it is more commonly known across the country. But here in lower Louisiana the Cajun call it mud-buggin’.
This article originally appeared in MarinaLife Magazine
It was time to get off the boat. Sometimes, the small confining space gets to me. It was time for wide-open sky, endless miles of land, and long white beaches. It was time to go camping.
Leaving the constricting space of the boat behind, Patrick and I loaded up the Jeep and headed west to a secluded campsite at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico.
It was inevitable. When I looked up at the menu board above the counter and saw a dozen different types of poke--Hawaii’s favorite dish of raw--marinated tuna listed, I knew by the end of our stay on O’ahu I would have tried each and every one of them.
The first taste came as an appetizer to our hike through the Manoa Valley. The large chunks of fresh ahi had a thin sheen of soy sauce, or what the Hawaiians call shoyu, folded with slivers of green onions and a spice paste that might have been the Korean gochutgaru. It was soft in the mouth and fire on the tongue. With the first bite, my earlier decision took on new determination: I HAD to try each and every one.
But first, Patrick was pulling my shirtsleeve to start our hike. Hawaii is like few other places in the world. It’s a place where you can stand on the beach, throw a Frisbee, and hit the sheer face of a cliff in the mountains that shoot skyward in dramatic cuts and folds. Too often a mountainous hike is far away from the port we are docked, but in Honolulu you look up from the waters edge and can take your pick of peaks to summit.
***This article first appeared in MarinaLife Magazine
I don’t know why I followed the drunk down First Street and around the corner. It’s not something I would normally do, but the more I listened to the man slur and watched him stumble over loose bricks, the more I was certain he was leading me to the right spot.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Patrick asked.
“How could it not be?”
“It’s a long way to go for pie.” Patrick cautioned as we bumped our way along the long stretch of Bahamian road from South Eleuthera to North.
“Yes, but it's worth it.” I spoke with authority. It would be our third pineapple pie this week.
Our first day on the island, we’d hiked over a scruffy hill down a crater maze of a road to Surfer’s Beach. As the turquoise water curled under Patrick’s board, I struck up conversation with a deeply tanned group of surfers who, by sheer appearance alone, looked like they were apart of the Bahamian island itself.
Posted in Mississippi on December 17, 2011 by Victoria Allman
We drove through the pecan colors of the Mississippi Delta in late fall. We passed the barren cut remains of cotton fields that were in bloom as recently as last week and dried rusted oak trees that shed their leaves as fast as the levees had broken. Although the skies were bright blue, the scenery was brown.
We were on our way to Memphis in search of blues music and barbecues. I wasn’t sure which Patrick was more excited about. The week before, we’d seen a sign reading Caution: You are entering a Ribs and Biscuit Zone, but really, that warning could apply to all our expeditions in the south.
The plan was to eat nothing but barbecue for four days.
Posted in Tahiti on December 04, 2011 by Victoria Allman
“Iorana, Victoria. Mahi today?” Nunu, a dark Tahitian man with tribal tattoos of tikis, turtles, and rays wrapped around his bicep and stretched down his muscular calves, dropped a blunt-nosed fish on the back deck. The iridescent greens and blues still flashed on its silver skin indicating it had just been caught.
“Thanks, Nunu. Will you stay for lunch?” Nunu had been bringing me mahi each time we anchored in the South Pacific lagoon of Maupiti. With guests on board, I rarely had time for more than a quick hello and to ask about his family, but today it was just the crew.
His face lit up like our navigational spotlights. “Me? On here?” He looked up at the towering levels of teak decks and polished stainless rails. Pangaea was quite different from the fishing boats he was used to seeing come through the pass in Maupiti.
There is a certain time of year when hopping a flight out of Florida and heading to New England seems like the thing to do.
Last weekend was that time. The golden yellow of poplar trees and cinnamon reds of the maples glowed out the window of our rental car as we headed out of Boston. The smile on my face grew deeper as the car rose and fell over the undulating hills—a vast difference in topography from our home in flat, tropical Florida.
The late-in-the-year heat of the day made for the perfect afternoon to go boating. The colors along the riverbank championed the decision to stray from the normal hues of blue of our ocean home.
Posted in charter yacht chef on November 13, 2011 by Victoria Allman
The hour before twilight in the Bahamas is magical. The robin’s egg and baby blues of the ocean slide to royal, peacock and sapphire. The fierce sunlight of day gives off a golden glow. A slight breeze cools off the heat.
We’d been cruising the Bahamas with the guests for the past few days. Each evening, as the light began to change, I would step out the galley door; bucket in hand.
“Is it time?” The missus pulled her Chanel glasses lower on her nose and peered over the rim at me.
Posted in Life of a Yacht Chef on November 05, 2011 by Victoria Allman
I have been blessed with an exciting job and adventurous life. I am a yacht chef that has traveled the world in search of new foods and recipes. I live my life through food and love every minute of it.
I am thrilled that the editors at Boca Life magazine thought so, too. They sent the up-and-coming talented writer Melissa Pender to interview me this month. Her look at my life made me sound so glamorous...especially when paired with the gorgeous photography of Steven Martine .
Thank you so much to Boca Life, Melissa and Steven for showcasing how exciting being a yacht chef can be.
Check it out!
Posted in Savannah-Georgia on October 29, 2011 by Victoria Allman
Whenever we pull into a port, I always like to get to know the local foods. I want to meet the people at the markets and see what they are cooking. It is my way of soaking up culture. In Savannah that meant shrimp.
It was early morning as we cruised the river of marsh grass. A local fisherman had agreed to take me out on his shrimp boat to see how they were caught. Sunlight filtered through the leaves of large live oaks. They looked like they were about to topple from the weight of the Spanish moss hanging from their limbs. A cool breeze blew off the water, rustling the palm fronds and causing me to don my sweater.
Bo-Nita was a fifty-two-foot trawler. Like most shrimp boats, she was rugged and well worked in appearance, her wooden hull battered from hauling equipment.
Splash! Splash! A tarpon jumped and flopped back into the still Intracoastal waters to the left of us. I could barely avert my eyes from the food in front of me to see the ripples in the water. On my plate, sat six more succulent stone crab claws. The juice of the first crabs rolled through my fingers, their shells piled high in a bowl by my elbow. Patrick and I did not speak, could not, we were too busy sucking the sweet meat from the cartilage. The river was quiet that night, devoid of the normal yacht and dingy traffic cruising past. The only sound that filled the air after the splash was the continual zit, zit, zit of the cicadas in the mangroves across the water.
It is stone crab season in Florida, a time that makes me thankful the yacht has returned to this part of the world. We have spent the last few years in the Mediterranean, and although seafood abounded, I had missed stone crabs. When most people think of Florida, they think of Disney, the beaches, and the endless strip malls. But, when I think of Florida, I think stone crab.
The day sweltered like only a day in Mississippi can. There was not a single whistle of wind. I felt like Spanish moss on the live oak trees, drooping over the branches, unable to move. I dragged my feet across the open parking lot to the farmer’s market, feeling my skin sizzle with each step.
In the shade of the Ocean Springs-Biloxi overpass, a woman sat on an overturned orange paint pail, protected from the suns rays burning between her tight cornrows. Her shoulders hunched forward, and her elbows rested on her knees. Her fingers were thick and cracked with years of hard work, yet nimble as she used her thumbs to split apart dark purple bean pods. She ran her index finger down the pocket, extracting the green-tinged beans. The same deep purple color marked the center of the bean surrounded by a pink oblong splotch.
“Are these black-eyed peas?” I asked.
Posted in charter yacht chef on October 06, 2011 by Victoria Allman
Amy winced the minute I uttered the words.
“Shh!” She hissed waving her arms in front of her like a traffic cop in Piccadilly Circus. “Don’t say it out loud.”
“What? Why?” I asked.
“They never end well,” she whispered. Her chestnut brown eyes shifted from left to right to see who might be listening. “They are cursed.”
Posted in SEAsoned Reviews on September 03, 2011 by Victoria Allman
Once again, I am thrilled...and this time amazed at the review in the Miami Herald of SEAsoned. Not only was I splashed over the front page of the section, but the article was syndicated all over the country! An author couldn't ask for better than that.
Check it out!
Thank you, Ana Veiciana-Suarez!
There is even a recipe for a late summer Corn and Tomato Salad
Photo by Partick Farrell
“Are they still there?” I asked Patrick as he walked through the galley.
“They haven’t left.” Patrick grabbed a slice of pineapple from the platter in front of me. “We’re surrounded.”
I swatted his hand as he reached for another slice. The fruit tray was for the guests on Pangaea, the 185-foot yacht I was chef of, not for the crew, whether he was my husband or not.
We were only going to be in Bimini for two days. There was no time to waste. I wanted Bimini Bread.
Trouble was, we were anchored two miles off the east coast of the island and the tender was broken. Harry, our engineer, was busy trying to fix it. But by the descriptive words coming out of his mouth, I held little hope it would be functioning in time to get me to the craft market and to Natalie’s stall before it closed.
Patrick came into our cabin as I stuffed a few loose bills in the pocket of my swim shorts.
“The best Key lime pie is the one you are about to eat.” David Sloan, author of the upcoming The Ultimate Key Lime Pie Cookbook, told me.
I was in Key West on an odyssey. Instead of doing the Duval crawl, I was in search of the taste of Key West. In the past six days, I had tried eight key lime pies; each one different from the last. I was overwhelmed and confused.
“What about traditional versions?” I asked as I dug into the ninth slice a hint of cinnamon in the crust stood out as unique. Next to us, a woman with Medusa-inspired blond curls cocked her head to reveal a red, green and blue phoenix-rising from ashes-tattooed up her neck and across her throat. It had been hidden in the tangle.
My mother is a trouper. Over the years, I have dragged her to dinners that consisted of raw tuna, when she had never had anything but canned before, and spicy curries from countries she had never heard of. She would smile and eat what was in front of her, when I knew she would feel more at ease with a chicken breast or a plate of spaghetti. And although, it all seemed normal to me, the meals tested her comfort level. Now, she was in France for ten days and we were stretching all of her boundaries. I had signed us up for a day of cooking lessons in a French home. We had started early that morning at the market in Nantes, Brittany. Lars wound us through stalls pointing out baskets of mushrooms cultivated in the surrounding caves and misshapen pumpkins with popcorn bumps blistering their skin. The cheese stalls held enticing, yet unknown varieties for mom.
“These are the last of the summer peaches,” Lars told us. They were smushed as flat as a skipping stone; a different variety than mom bought at home, but not so foreign that she couldn’t recognize it. So far, it had all seemed familiar and mom was enjoying herself, that is, until we got to the corner stall.