SEAsoned: A Chef's Journey with Her Captain
by Victoria Allman

NorLights Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-935-25437-9.
Reviewed by Barbara Heming
Posted on 05/24/2011

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Travel/Adventure; Nonfiction: Food/Cooking/Kitchen

The world of luxury yachts cruising the Caribbean or Mediterranean is fascinating, but foreign to most of us. In SEAsoned: A Chef's Journey with Her Captain, Chef Victoria Allman invites us on board to experience the life of working and living on the sea.

After many years as a first mate, Victoria's husband, Patrick, becomes the captain of a charter yacht in the Caribbean and their adventure begins. Mechanical problems first appear as they sail from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas, a foreshadowing of what is to come. With only an inexperienced couple as crew, Victoria's duties quickly expand beyond the kitchen.

The fun begins as their parade of guests arrives. First, an anorexic diva and her bully husband, who scars the teak deck and wrecks, then abandons, a jet-ski. While on an excursion with a young family, a group of feral pigs swim to their dinghy expecting a handout, and Patrick barely escapes injury. Then, there is the hospitable couple that invites the parties on the other yachts to dine with them, destroying Victoria's menu plans and the budget. On another cruise, a high-powered CEO arrives, bringing a group of friends, and running the onboard schedule as strictly as he does his business.

When the yacht is retired to the shipyard to make extensive repairs to multiple systems, Patrick and Victoria are off to the Mediterranean with a larger yacht and a more experienced, international crew. But the challenges continue. On their initial cruise, the first mate becomes drunk and deserts the ship. An ongoing assortment of guests tests Victoria's patience and ingenuity.

Victoria Allman has written a blend of memoir, travelogue, and cookbook. Her humorous accounts of their travels turn what might be lugubrious into a rollicking read. She closes each chapter with a recipe or two that she served to the guests, 30 recipes in all, that offer us a taste of world cuisine. She also includes a Culinary Glossary for those of us less acquainted with international dishes.

Although there is a common thread throughout the book, each chapter, which recounts one incident with their guests, can be read as a short story. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, especially the humor Victoria brings to many incidents which, I'm sure, were not funny to her at the time. My only warning is not to read this book on an empty stomach. The recipes are so tantalizing, I kept gravitating to the kitchen for a snack.

Victoria Allman has been following her stomach around the globe for twelve years as a yacht chef. Victoria is a columnist for Dockwalk, an international magazine for crew members aboard yachts. Her column, "Dishing It Up", is a humorous look at cooking for the rich and famous in an ever-moving galley. She also regularly contributes tales of her tasty adventures to Marina Life Magazine and OceanLines. Visit her website.

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