Meet Richard Lewis, Head Chef of LILI

A culinary escape with an enthusiast professional

A charter on-board the newly delivered LILI, the latest charter superyacht in the Imperial fleet built by Amels with Imperial acting as Owner’s Representative and Build Supervisor, is not only an indulgence to your senses and exploring a new horizon of superyacht charter: joining the 55m superyacht is entering in a completely new world and opens your horizons to undiscovered sensations, bringing a holiday dream to life.

To exceed your journey on board, and keep a memorable experience of your days with LILI, a superyacht charter trip could not be exceptional without her culinary moments. The Imperial team sat down with Richard Lewis, the very passionate Head Chef on board LILI, to talk about his background, experiences and find out what separates LILI from all other charter vessels. A worthy read ahead of your next charter with Imperial, and as he would say: “A yacht holiday should be amazing beyond all belief and that’s what you will get when chartering LILI.” Discover his enthusiastic interview below.

The Interview

Imperial: What’s your background and how did you get involved in yachting?
Richard Lewis: “The Kitchen Raised Me” this couldn’t be much further from the truth, in the back of my mind I think I was an orphan, found by my farther at the back door of his London kitchen nestled between the finest rib of Grass fed Highland Scottish beef and a perfectly formed lobe of creamy, rich French Foie Gras destined for creativity and greatness. The gateway for a skilled talented but humble working class chef to have a shot at being at the top of their game, taste the world finest Ingredients, eat in the best restaurants around the world and not just cook like a boss, cook like you own it. The yacht industry is the gateway of the rich and famous, those I’ve idealised will now be sitting at my table eating the best of my food. Is that not what being a chef is about, being the best, cooking the best and serving the best to the best?

IY: Your main skills and why are they suited to the industry?
RL: I have a passion to amaze the guests and I have a pleasure in not just the food but the details, the mentality of a student that long to be a master of his craft, it’s the little things that make a difference, “that’ll do” is not in my vocabulary. I refuse to be a jack of all trade’s and a master of none, I will strive to master the skill sets of every corner of the kitchen, every corner world cuisine and every new dietary trend. You will experience this on board LILI when dining in my style, be it from a new style of Brighton brunch incorporating healthy superfoods, the finest smoked fish finished in your preferred way depending of your current desired lifestyle choice. It’s taking the simply ordinary things like a hollandaise sauce straight out of the classic French text book in which we as chef’s were taught as the bible, sous vide (cook under a vacuum) to a precise 68 degrees, place in a siphon and charge with Co2 to produce the molecularly perfect, light, aerated Hollandaise sauce to complement your freshly baked breakfast muffin. This I use as an example to accelerate your understanding of what you are about to walk into. If it’s Roka, a traditional style Japanese Yakatori, experience you’re looking for, you’ll step out from your Master Cabin and into the foot hills of Mid-West Japan. For Sushi, well we’re off the coastal regions of Tokyo’s fish markets, and India, smells of aromatic spices and sophisticated layering of flavour jump from Delhi markets onto your plate if that’s what you desire.

When you’re on board, your satisfaction is my main priority and unfortunately you will have to spend a little time out of your relaxation to humour my overenthusiasm as I take you on a trip through what is planned for your dining experience’s from extravagant brunch options to open beach BBQ’s with the fisherman’s local lobster grilled in the sun, as you’re left to only consider if you have left room for the evening meal.

IY: Your culinary experience whilst on yachts?
RL: If you have been asleep during the evolution of the culinary world in the last 5 years I’ll slow it down, word’s from 3 Michelin Star Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck “molecular gastronomy is Dead”. The Scandinavian’s are at the for front of the catering world, Ren Redzepi (Noma) holding the best restaurant in the world for the past 2 years showing that wild, organic foraged food is the new way of the world- cress from the coast which tastes of oysters; the abundance of wild herbs that soften the richest of seasonal Venison and wild mushroom’s from the hills that need no more love and attention that being tickled with a fine pastry brush- “the food scene in Norway is going off” and the seafood is 2nd to none. Not only that it is sustainable if it’s cared for with master precision from their new young entrepreneur fish giants to their skilled untouched 18th century smoke house methods of which leave a taste sensation which will leaves you only to wish never to see let alone taste a mass produced packet of milky coloured smoked salmon.

I can’t remember the last time I had a tear in my eye like that of the distilled and fermented Bloody Mary beer at ABC 2 * in Barcelona until I hit the shores of Norway. I could carry on about the scenery, the great people, the crisp morning which remind me of my home just across the water but the view from my Kitchen window is just a perk to my amazing job and if you haven’t been why not just charter Lili to take you there on a magical adventure.

IY: Have you always been in the same role?
RL: Yes, bar a 6 month break while I travelled and worked as a Scuba Instructor, great fun but I have Alba Truffle for a heart, cut’s form a butchers chart for Limbs olive oil coursing through my veins and seasoned with the finest Maldon Rock salt from down the road where I was brought up.

IY: What’s been the most demanding part of the role to date?
RL: If you can Imagine pulling off 18 covers (that’s people to none chefs) “Oh and chef they’re hear now and seating, what’s on the menu? Oh there’s 2 x gluten, 1 lactose intolerant and the kids need feeding in 20mins, they want pizza.” I’m a chef- nobody ever said it’ll be easy. All for the pleasure we provide in the only way we know how to the clientele. It’s demanding, It’s sometimes almost borderline impossible but It gets done. NO, isn’t an option, coffee is. I love my job, good days or bad I wouldn’t change it for the world. You thrive off adrenaline and if you would serve that final product to you mother and be proud it’s the best then you wouldn’t do my job.

IY: What’s your favourite charter destination? And where would you like to visit next and why?
RL: Norway! It’s the best I have experienced. Next – for a holiday and to explore, Hike & Dive, Galapagos Islands, I’m off to Iceland in December and really want to get up into northern Japan again. USA tour is also on my hit list. Eat, travel, learn, bring back the experience to the table and evolve my skill set further.

IY: What training and qualifications do you have/required to become a chef?
RL: City & Guilds NVQ 3 professional chef, Level 3 food hygiene, Mathew Kenny Raw Vegan, Dietart Nutritionist, Bachelors Chocolatier L1, Barcelona Cooking academy 4 weeks under El Celler De’ Can Roca. Staged with Gaggan Anand Bangkok.

IY: Why a yacht and not a restaurant?
RL: In a restaurant I would become a Head Chef or just a number. On a yacht, it’s me. It’s like a mini restaurant that the chef gets to choose how far he can push his food to elevated heights, I’m the head chef, the Sous, the Commis and the kitchen Porter, the private shopper and sometimes even the waiter at the table serving and plating. There is never a dull moment even when picking beards from mussels.

IY: What’s your experience to date as a Chef on charter yachts?
RL: I have been in this industry for 6 years (interview made in 2017)now from 50m to 90m yachts, nothing surprises me, reading each client’s needs from formal to family friendly parties is the art of perfecting and your craft to each tailor made trip.

IY: Is there a set menu for each charter or do you tailor each dish depending on the destination?
RL: My food is always evolving – evolving for the better, I discuss with the guests their needs, requirements, and work with the seasons, the availability & supply of the little fisherman pulling up from the local island, change things around all the time, keep people intrigued, pop in an intermediate course, a carrot & ginger sorbet to refresh before your fish course, a mini amuse bouche. I keep people surprised at what’s under that, or what’s coming next, smoke on the table, dry ice infused with lemon verbena sent as your Oysters are introduced in a cloud of dry ice vapour. Enough said.

IY: Do you prefer to source local ingredients or is everything order in ahead of the charter?
RL: I will always strive to use fresh locally sourced produce within reason depending on location. Fresh fish always, beef from Argentinian or Scotch Blood line heritage and as already mentioned Smoked fish from Norway. I create master pieces from the best and finding the best is half the fun because I must taste, sample and check everything before the guest. “That’ll do” is not in my vocabulary and average is not expectable in this industry.

IY: What sets LILI apart from any previous vessels you’ve worked on?
RL: We have a great crew but everybody would say that, we have a better itinerary than most, our crew is littered with individuals which all hold their own skill set, from a Master scuba diver who also is a skilled bar tender, a team of masseuses to pamper your every aching muscle. The team in the wheel house are skilled maritime professionals with our safety always in mind while putting us as close to utopia on a secluded beach as possible and a deck team that will keep you in the water all day with our list of water sports toys and if you don’t know we’re new, shiny, state of the art luxury, here to impress and make your holiday amazing.

IY: Best part of the job?
RL: Apart from the above, the markets on Saturday morning while the crew are off, no staff lunch and I get to walk around sourcing future guests’ little bits. On the hunt for the rare something that elevates a dish for good to great.

Already starving? LILI is available for charter during summer and winter seasons. For further charter information and bookings regarding LILI and explore all the wonders proposed by her talented Chef, please contact Julia Buklina, Charter CA:

Julia Buklina
Charter CA
T +377 97 98 38 80
E j.buklina@imperial-yachts.com

Unique with her fantastic 6-cabins layout and upgraded Sun deck, LILI is outstanding in her charter category: learn here why.

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