cellar & galleY a charter chef and a master sommelier serve up the perfect pairings
M/Y Frisky Lady
Throughout his career, chef Daniele Messina has made carpe diem an unspoken mantra. While most of his colleagues began their careers by attending renowned culinary schools, Messina, chef on the 112-foot (34.1-meter) Westport Frisky Lady, began by washing dishes—the quickest way he could get into restaurants and follow the passion he’d felt even as a child.
“I was always standing on a kitchen chair to watch what was happening on the stove,” the native Italian recalls. “I remember the smells … the pasta, the herbs, even the boiling water. I would tell my mom if there was too much or not enough salt just from the smell of the water.”
Messina’s parents preferred for him to study banking instead of cooking, but he enrolled in a few culinary courses in Milan for fun. He found his way to Spain and took a job washing dishes at an Italian restaurant in the Canary Islands. It was a foot in the door. Then, things started happening.
“One day, we were down a man in the kitchen,” he recalls. “My boss asked if I could help with salads.”
Thrilled to do something besides wash dishes, he jumped at the opportunity. But at the end of the day, it was back to the dish room.
“Another day, our pizza guy left. My boss asked if I could do pizza. I’m like, ‘I’m Italian—of course I can make a pizza.’”
Messina’s big break finally came on a day when the restaurant was closed.
“I was always first in, last out,” he says. “I’d wake up and head straight to the restaurant to start the daily preparations. On this day, a family came by looking for pasta. I said, ‘I’m sorry, we’re closed.’ They asked if I could cook, so I made them pasta. They loved it so much they raved to the owner, and that was it. He finally said, ‘Okay, okay … no more dishwashing. You’re a chef.’”
Messina suffered a motorbike accident and ended up at another restaurant, seizing another opportunity. He worked for a French chef and learned about slow cooking, sous vide and desserts. His zest for travel then took him to Sint Maarten, where he opened a few restaurants of his own.
And, as one tends to do on a Caribbean island, he spent a lot time looking to the water.
“I’d see these huge boats coming and going,” he says, “so one day I was like, Maybe it’s time to hop on one and see the world.”
Messina trained to become a qualified yacht chef and, after working a few freelance jobs, landed a full-time position on a 97-foot motoryacht in Turkey. While working on a boat was different and harder than what he’d expected, he fell in love with the lifestyle.
“Wow, so different,” he says. “You have to produce food to the same standards as a top restaurant, but you’re doing it all by yourself—even the cleaning. It’s funny in a way. You spend so much time over a career learning how to be a top chef. You make it onto a boat and it’s back to things like dishes. In charter it all looks so easy and fantastic, but behind the scenes, it requires a ton of hard work by the crew. You can’t be here to feed your ego; you’re here to feed your guests. I love that part of the job.”
The owner of Frisky Lady has tastes that mesh with Messina’s training in Western Europe, he says.
“The owner is really food oriented and health conscious,” he says. “He’s into Mediterranean cuisine.”