When one door closes…

…another opens. I hope.

It’s with a heavy heart that I sit at Miami International Airport, waiting to hear the call for my ‘repatriation’ flight to London. My time onboard Sirona III has come to an end.  How dramatic that sounds! After eight months, it’s fair to say I’ve come a long way. I think back to those first days, when making the fruit salad and a juice took me a full hour. It would all of a sudden be nine o’clock in the morning, and I’d have three frantic hours to get lunch out. To say that I spent the day chasing my tail would be exactly right. But eventually, over the passing months, my days got smoother, the jobs became easier, and it wasn’t so much of a hectic struggle anymore. But the one thing that never quite eased up was the weekly, daily, heck, even hourly task of choosing what exactly to put on the table. My days off were spent scouring the internet for recipes, Pinterest got a hammering for inspiration, and a collection of cookbooks piled up in my cabin. I’m certainly not one of those chefs (yet), who can simply look at a bunch of ingredients and rustle something incredible up. If I did, the result wouldn’t be anywhere above the skill level of an omelet, or a stir fry. Hopefully improvisation is something that will come with a bit more time, and experience.

My heart is feeling particularly heavy right now, mainly due to the outpouring of love between me and the special people that I’ve just said goodbye to. Now, I know that the boat is affectionately referred to sometimes as ‘the revolving door of Sirona’, and really I am a mere speck of dust in the great scheme of things, but this was my first job in yachting. My first Atlantic crossing. My first real cooking job, which came with a hefty chunk of responsibility compared with what I was used to. Just the fact that it was up to me to provide food for this amount of people, every day, knocked me sideways for the first few weeks when I really thought about it. Most of them are totally used to it, but for me, it felt like a big deal. It taught me an incredible amount, from how to provision like a boss, to keeping your galley clean, and rotating your stock. But there is still a long way for me to go. I am by no means a pro at any of these things yet. Someone still needs to remind me when to deep clean the ovens, when to use up the asparagus that’s ‘on the turn’, and to blimmin’ check the temperature of the meat I’m cooking with a thermometer. I have a substantial way to go yet.

As for my imminent plans, there are a few ideas floating around. I’ve booked myself onto a five day advanced course at Ashburton Cookery School, where I donned my first chef whites all those years ago. It’s mainly directed at yacht chefs (one of which, I am not), to refine your skills and inject some inspiration and passion into your work again. My over-arching goal is to work towards cooking fine dining food. Michelin star standard. One day. To achieve that, my plan is to complete some ‘stages’. My understanding of a ‘stage’ is that it’s the French word for working for free in a restaurant kitchen for a short period of time. So if anyone wants some cheap labour, hit me up. It looks at the moment that my summer will be filled with temporary chef jobs here and there. The most exciting imminent stint will be up in the most remote estate in Scotland, which I’m travelling to on an overnight sleeper train from London. I don’t know what I’m more excited about, cooking at a prestigious shooting lodge in breathtakingly beautiful surroundings, or the mode of transport to get up there! Needless to say, this blog will be filled with food of a newly higher standard, so expect a lot of pretty plates, artistic smears of sauce, but mostly just substantially smaller portions. Now, time for some random photos that have been accumulating.

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I won’t miss the times when this is a sixth of your shopping list.

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Being productive on watch.

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But then your captain moans that it’s not just plain vanilla.

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Ridiculous birthday cake requests.

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Utterly ridiculous.

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Seeing The Chainsmokers opening night of their Memories tour – unforgettable.

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Riding to pilates in style on the back of Rory’s moped. Smile made up of 90% fear.

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Impromptu shopping trips with Heather, my shopping queen, when by some kind of miracle we were allowed to use the crew car.

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Chillin’ with some of the most amazing peeps.

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Post-gay club uber lolathon.

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Putting the world to rights over a much needed bottle of vino with this beautiful girl.

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Sat in the airport writing in my most perfect leaving present from Heather. Feeling a lot of love from the amazing gals I’ve got to know over the past 8 months. They were their usual thoughtful selves and gifted me with an amazing set of hair straighteners and running shorts, left on my bed for me to drunkenly come home to on my last night. I totally wept.

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Ending on my favourite photo. What a ride, I’ll miss you all, but as we’ve said…this isn’t goodbye!

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