Judging the Antigua Yacht Chefs Competition

Great food, enormous yachts, wonderful people and sun, sand, and water! And even a bit of sous vide! What better way to spend a week in December!

I recently was lucky enough to be invited to participate as a judge for the 60th Annual Antigua Yacht Chef's Competition. The Chef's Competition is part of the overall Antigua Charter Yacht Show. Chef Elizabeth Lee was the organizer this year and asked me to come participate.

The show takes places on the small Caribbean island of Antigua, which is near the British Virgin Islands, and it was my first time in the Caribbean outside of Jamaica.

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Special Thanks!

I wanted to call out several people that helped make the trip even more special:

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Chef Lee, not only for inviting me, but for going above and beyond to include me in all the activities, invite me (and Jodi) to lunches, dinners, and parties (and COVID tests, haha!) and make me feel incredibly welcome. If you haven't checked out her book yet, grab a copy today!

Her husband, Captain Warren East from East Yachts, for letting me tag along with them the whole trip, driving me around and answering the 10,000 questions I had about yachts.

Captain Jan Robinson, the president/CEO at Ship to Shore, former organizer of the Chef's Competition and fellow cookbook author who brightens any room she's in, always made me feel very welcome.

Martha and Tony Gilkes, who have to be the most bad ass couple I've met. Martha is in the diving hall of fame, a member of the Explorers Club and literally flew into a hurricane while Tony is a highly decorated airline pilot. They both showed me and Jodi incredible hospitality and made us feel like we've known them for years.

And especially the other judges, who made the entire experience very fun, comfortable and educational. It was a joy eating and talking about all that food with them!

Falmouth and English Harbors

I stayed in the Southern end in the Falmouth Harbor, English Harbor area at the Catamaran Hotel. It was a cute, small place with beautiful views and a little beach out front on the harbor.

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Those harbors are also where all the yachts come in and dock for the show. It was a smaller show this year due to COVID, with about 19 yachts instead of the normal 80-100, but it was perfect for me, since I'd never been on a yacht of any kind!

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It was fun seeing the differences in the yachts, from the huge power yachts to the sleek sailing yachts.

They ranged in size from about 65 feet up to 220 feet, and charters cost anywhere from $30,000 a week up to almost a million dollars a week!

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Judging the Yacht Show (and Food!)

The experience of being a judge was amazing. We got to eat 3 course meals on 6 yachts and compare and contrast them to come up with the winners!

I was so grateful to Chef Lee for inviting me to participate, it was such an amazing experience!

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The other judges were great as well and it was wonderful getting to know them and learning from their expertise.

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In addition to me, there was:

Tommy Baldwin III is from Shore Side Support (Instagram) which supplies yachts around the world. It was pretty awesome listening to Tommy talk about the logistics behind supplying yachts with premier ingredients, including the different planes they use, how customs work and a ton of other things I wasn't aware needed to be taken into account. He also hosted a really fun cocktail party the first night with some amazing paella that he gracious invited me to!

Alex Grimley, the Managing Partner of Rocks Group in Antigua. It's the largest restaurant group on the island and includes Sheer Rocks, Rokuni and Catherine's Cafe (see also The Best Place to Eat on Antigua). I loved learning from Alex about how running restaurants works on an Island like Antigua. And as someone without an amazing palate, it was also fascinating listening to him describe the flavor pairings in the dishes we were tasting. You can get more on all the restaurants on Facebook (Sheer Rocks, Rokuni, Catherine's Café, Alex Grimley) or Instagram (@rokuni_anu @sheerrocks @catherinescafe @rocksgroupevents @urchinatelier @rocksboxantigua).

Christophe Jadot is the US Sales Director at Petrossian Caviar (Instagram ). Because Petrossian was a sponsor, every meal had caviar in it at least once, and it was fascinating listening to someone with so much experience talk about how it worked or didn't work in the dishes. Plus all of the Petrossian caviar was amazing and definitely worth checking out!

Shirleen Nibbs is the Managing director of Nibbs and Associates and the Former Director General of Tourism at Ministry of Tourism Antigua. It was great learning more about the island and the marinas we were in from her.

We were also joined by Roddy Grimes who was the photographer and videographer. He is from Acquafilms (Instagram) and we all enjoyed seeing how much we could ruin the light before he got his shots in!

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The Competition Food

Now for the most important part, the food!

Thanks to Chef Lee for letting me use her photos of the food! I took some but she had the presentation plates and the lighting from the photographer...and she's a better photographer than I am :)

Here is what we ate, in order of the meals.

Motor Yacht French West

Coming in 3rd place was Chef Pierre Kaivers from M/Y French West.

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Motor Yacht Triumph

Taking 1st place was Chef Aaron Thomas from M/Y Triumph who also won best dessert.

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Sailing Yacht Hyperion

Best main course went to Chef Scully of S/Y Hyperion.

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Motor Yacht Vibrance

Taking 2nd place in the tablescaping competition was Chief Stewardess Christelle Ferreira from M/Y Vibrance.

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Motor Yacht Zulu

Taking 3rd place in the tablescaping competition was Chief Stewardess Sara Toth from M/Y Zulu.

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Motor Yacht Lionshare

Taking 2nd place overall was Chef Julian Brown from M/Y Lionshare, as well as securing best first course for the inventive take on "Ships Rations". They also took first place in the tablescaping competition.

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The Sponsors

Without sponsors a show like this couldn't happen!

There were some great sponsors of the event including:

Tommy Baldwin III from Shore Side Support provided caviar to all competitors to use in the competition.

Angeliese Weeks & Dionne Francis, Kennedys Club Limited, Piper Heidsieck provided champagne to all competitors to use in the competition. They are a family owned company and one of the leading distributors in Antigua of internationally known brands, specializing in premium spirits and beverages. Also supplying wine, ice cream, dry goods and cleaning supplies. Now extending their services to deliver to professionals within the yachting industry.

And some prize specific sponsors including:

Tommy Baldwin III from Shore Side Support who donated Caviar and Knives to the winners.

Aaron Michaels from Culinary Convenience donated knives to the winners. As Elizabeth said "Culinary Convenience is a store located in Fort Lauderdale that provides chefs and foodies with all of the tools needed to outfit a proper galley, he has all the best toys!!"

The International Sous Vide Association provided tickets to the ISVA Sous Vide Summit 2022 to the competitors and a year's membership in the Champions of Sous Vide Membership to the winners.

South Point donated a 2 nights stay at their location.

Curtain Bluff donated a stay at their location.

Nobu Barbuda donated a dinner for two at Nobu

Angeliese Weeks, Kennedys Club provided Piper Heidsieck champagne to the winners.

Burgess Yachts provided William Sonoma gift certificates to the winners.

The Tablescaping Competition

The tablescaping competition was also really fun to check out, with some amazing place settings!

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Want to Get More From Sous Vide?

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Exploring the Island

I didn't have the chance to explore too much, but I was taking taxis around a lot so I had the opportunity to chat with a lot of locals.

It is a very comfortable feeling place, with friendly, helpful residents who went out of their way to make sure I had a great time...and the food was amazing!

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Jodi also was able to join in on the fun!

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My favorite part of the whole trip was probably the amazing afternoon we got to spend with Martha and Tony.

Elizabeth introduced us at lunch one day then they invited Jodi and me out the next day to visit their house and go out on their boat. So we joined Elizabeth and Jan Robinson for a perfect, relaxing afternoon in an amazing location with amazing people.

And Martha is even a fan of mine and has several of my books, what a small world!

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Want to Get More From Sous Vide?

Do you worry you're not getting the most out of your sous vide machine?

Quickly level up your sous vide game! Make perfect meats, master searing, and discover the sous vide times and temperatures you need to make everyday food amazing and impress your friends and family with the Sous Vide Quick Start Course!

Local Food and the Best Place to Eat on Antigua

When I wasn't busy gorging myself on gourmet food aboard yachts, I was busy... gorging myself on amazing food from local restaurants!

Antigua, especially the English Harbor area, has a great food scene, with a wide range of cuisines cooked mainly by locals and ex-pats from Europe, America, and the rest of the globe.

While I had a few meals that were just ok, and several meals that were really fun because Jodi and I were with Elizabeth and Warren, there were several that really stood out as being exceptional food-wise.

Sweet T's

The first place I ate at was at Sweet T's, a local hamburger joint that is always packed with locals. I was too hungry after my flight to take any pictures though, sorry!

Island Fusion Cafe

The next was from the Island Fusion Cafe down a back road on the water. With great views it had a mix of burgers and sandwiches and a big selection of curries and jerked dishes. I went with the goat curry and it was fantastic.

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Ti Lolo Cafe

Another standout place was Ti Lolo Cafe, close to Nelson's Dockyard. Elizabeth invited me to join her and some of her friends for lunch there because it's a local favorite.

It's run by a local chef who is French trained. I had seared tuna, duck confit, and a rum-raisin ice cream and all of them were amazing.

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Trappas

Jodi and I had a great dinner at Trappas. It had a great vibe and a wide selection of food. I went for the "Phat Pork Chop" and Jodi had Jerk Chicken, both of which were great.

I also like how there are no menus, they just drag the board over to your table until you order.

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Paella in a Private Villa!

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The most unique meal we had in Antigua was an incredible Spanish paella that was about 2 to 3 feet across. It was made by one of the guests staying at the villa Tommy rented.

We got to enjoy it when we had a get together one of the nights. They even finished cooking it after the power went out for about an hour, pretty impressive. And the prawns were the size of my whole hand!

Catherine's Cafe - My Best Meal

But what was the best meal I had in Antigua?

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Even counting the meals I had on the yachts, my absolute favorite meal was a perfect lunch at Catherine's Cafe, run by Alex, a fellow judge.

With a location right on the beach, and a wonderfully casual but upscale vibe, they could probably get away with just so-so food and still be packed, so I was happily surprised when the food was incredible as well.

The dishes were unique takes on beach classics, and introduced a lot of bold flavors that managed to complement each other and balance out perfectly.

I started with an old-fashioned rum punch that was great, then I had the freshly-made linguine with gambas in a fish broth and Jodi had the grouper catch of the day escabeche-style.

All in all it was the perfect lunch after a long morning of looking at yachts and walking on the beach!

He also has 2 other restaurants in Antigua that I've heard great things about and will have to try and hit next time I'm there.

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Want to Get More From Sous Vide?

Do you worry you're not getting the most out of your sous vide machine?

Quickly level up your sous vide game! Make perfect meats, master searing, and discover the sous vide times and temperatures you need to make everyday food amazing and impress your friends and family with the Sous Vide Quick Start Course!

More About the Yachts!

As part of the boat show, I had the opportunity to, not only eat on many of the yachts, but also tour several of them.

I was grateful to the captains and crews for showing me around. It was great to see how different many of them were from each other.

What is a boat without a hot tub?

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Great sun decks, but how would you ever pick a seat?!?!

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A few more controls than most boats I've been on!

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The bedrooms are definitely bigger than mine here in New York!

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Sometimes you just need your own private patio and balcony that opens up to the water...

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Love the galleys, but only got a picture of one of them!

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Sometimes you want a more intimate dining experience for you and your closest friends!

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All in all I had an amazing time! Antigua was a great place to visit, it was incredible being a part of the yacht show, and I loved getting to know Elizabeth and Warren better, meeting their friends, and hanging out with the other judges!

If you like this you can get more than 85 inspiring recipes to get you on your way to sous vide success. It's all in my best selling book Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide - Get Your Copy Today!

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Jason logsdon headshot This article is by me, Jason Logsdon. I'm an adventurous home cook and professional blogger who loves to try new things, especially when it comes to cooking. I've explored everything from sous vide and whipping siphons to pressure cookers and blow torches; created foams, gels and spheres; made barrel aged cocktails and brewed beer. I have also written 10 cookbooks on modernist cooking and sous vide and I run the AmazingFoodMadeEasy.com website.
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