An endless summer
WORDS: Jemma F. Harrison
Pippa Crowley is quite the paradox; a young, fresh and exciting chef who is also something of a galley veteran.
British-born Chef Crowley has already been in this notoriously exhausting industry for over 12 years, despite having just hit 30. But she is as enthusiastic and in love with sailing life as much as ever. The reason for this seems to be her commitment to the work-life balance, which if her Instagram account (@pippacrowley) is anything to go by, is happily tipped to the ‘life’ part of the equation. It’s an enviable scroll of blue seas and epic kite-surfing shots. What is clear from this endless summer footage is that Pippa is seizing every opportunity that being a yacht chef has to offer, alongside some hard hours in the galley.
“I get outside as much as I can but being creative and cooking for owners and guests is the main reason I do this job,” she says. “I love it. I wouldn’t have stuck to this career and lifestyle if I didn’t.”
A good work/life balance is food for the soul. Prioritizing mental health is something Pippa feels strongly about, not just for herself but for her crew, too. Whether serving up healthy food to sustain them or comfort food to lift them up, it’s this passion to please that has ensured she’s a sought-after freelance chef. Her Lebanese chicken, noodle and coconut curried soup packs a spicy bowl of feel-good richness, guaranteed to “make you feel warm and fuzzy”. But her favourite culinary serving is homemade fish tacos, using 1000-layer scallion pancakes and freshly-caught seasonal fish served with “all the toppings and tasty nutritious sauces”.
Keeping a support network of close friends around is also key to her staying sane at sea. “I’m lucky enough to have an incredible friendship group of amazing people I’ve known for years. The superyacht sailing community is actually quite small, so we end up in the same areas of the world at the same time, often working on the same boat.”
At the time of TIDE going to print, that area of the world is the sailing hub of Antigua aboard S/Y Unfurled. These days, with a resumé comprising big named sail yachts, such as Hyperion, Aquarius, Athos and J8 Topaz, Pippa is renowned in yachting circles. But in 2008, when starting out on her gastronomic adventure, it was a bit more of a struggle.
“I was living in a little hut in Antigua, surviving on $200 a month and scrabbling around for day work because no-one really wanted to employ an 18-year-old. It was great fun, but I was broke. Going to a road side snack shack was an exciting, big meal out.”
Her love of eastern Mediterranean food is born from her extensive travels, which continue to expand her culinary horizons. She infuses nutrient-dense foods with a blend of bold world flavours to create vibrant, colourful dishes. “My signature dish is a tender octopus salad with a za’atar and sumac dressing, lots of fresh herbs, fennel and a delicious local olive oil. Za’atar and sumac are hard to get hold of so it’s a treat to cook with.” She’s also a dab hand at producing freshly baked bread. The heady aroma of her cocoa sourdough or turmeric and pumpkin seed loaf are a welcome mid-morning distraction for all on board.
Food presentation and creative plating feature high up on her list. Both are skills acquired from stints working at restaurants like London’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant, The Ledbury. She likes to stay current with the latest food trends, too, pushing herself to complete training at least once a year. Recent tuition in some of the UK’s best culinary schools dovetails nicely with her highlight experience of one-to-one sushi classes in Japan. High-end cake decorating in Russia is next on the list.
Until then, Pippa is enjoying island life in Antigua where she can see herself settling in the future. The pace is slow, the breeze is consistent, and a roadside vegetable roti is still only a few dollars. Long may the endless summer continue.