122-fOOt (37.4-meter) San Lorenzo Awol international Yacht Collection charter fleet
Twenty-seven-year-old James Wright, a first-time entrant in the MYBA Superyacht Chefs’ Competition, describes his culinary predilection as fresh Mediterranean, or letting seasonal food speak for itself. On occasion, he draws inspiration from his South African roots. Growing up in Cape Town, he cooked with his grandmother and his mother, who had a catering company for corporate clients. (“I helped her prep and pretended I knew what I was doing,” Wright says.) While working toward a degree in marketing management, he took cooking classes. Food preparation was an avocation; his father and brother, both in finance, encouraged him to follow in their footsteps. He instead went off to see the world and landed a job as a deckhand on a 154-foot (47-meter) Turkish gulet, and he has spent the better part of the past five years working on yachts, attending culinary classes and cooking for private villa clients.
What was the biggest challenge with the competition? the judges were diverse, ranging from fourth-generation, old-school french cuisine to new age health food advocates. i wanted to get the right balance in my dishes to appeal to all tastes.
Describe a couple of your canapés. on the savory side, i made a mushroom and goat cheese arancini served on a fresh tomato sauce and a fried basil leaf. For a sweet, I made a traditional Afrikaans milk tart, which is a sweet pastry filled with vanilla- and cinnamon-flavored custard: simple, but always a big hit. What was the strangest food request you ever received? i had a breakfast order for a single hard-boiled egg yolk. I thought the stewardess was pulling my leg, but it was a genuine request.
What is the craziest thing that’s happened while you were cooking? I was working at a hotel restaurant and we ran out of gas 15 minutes before dinner, and we had to turn three of the seven courses into cold dishes.
If you were cooking for prince harry and meghan, duchess of sussex, what would be your main course? The main protein component of the meal would be South African-inspired duqqa-encrusted kudu fillet.
What key spices DO you keep On hand? I always have flash-frozen fresh thyme and peeled garlic.
What is your favorite time Of Day in the galley? I like the time in between the main dinner course and dessert. The pressure is off, and then I can relax into knowing I have achieved my goals of the day.
What’S your hidden talent? I used to play saxophone in a jazz band from the age of 10 to 18.
if you Were not a Chef, What would you be? I would be a pilot.
above and clockwise: Chef Wright and stewardesses aboard Awol; Oysters with Champagne sorbet; Chocolate and pistachio samosa with sweet tahini sauce; Confit duck taco with spicy mayonnaise.