It’s no secret that here in the Galapagos, the stars of the show are the unique and incredible flora and fauna that thrive on and around the islands – sea lions, sharks, giant tortoises, an abundant array of birdlife and many endemic plants and other animal species, to name just a few. But no trip to this wonderful part of the planet would be the same without the skill, enthusiasm and warmth of our crew members. Here, in the second of a series of posts designed to introduce you to some of our key personnel, we spend a bit of time getting to know Estuardo Vilela, chef on board the Theory.
Estuardo was born in Milagro, in South West Ecuador, and lived there with his family until his teens, when the family moved to Duran, across the Guayas River from Guayaquil. He studied in Guayaquil and it was there, in Ecuador’s second city and home to the country’s largest port, that he started out on his career as a chef.
Estuardo joined us at Ecoventura five years ago, keen to capitalise on an opportunity to expand his knowledge and professional experience working for such a high-end company.
Taking a few minutes out of his busy schedule, we sat down with Estuardo to talk to him about life on board and the challenges of producing Relais & Chateaux-worthy meals in the confines of a ship’s kitchen.
We start by asking him what drew him to Ecoventura, and how it differs from other companies operating in the Galapagos. “The difference is the talent and quality of its team, its human talent – the staff, who are always focused on providing quality and warmth and making the passengers on board feel like they are in a family atmosphere” Estuardo replies.
So what makes Galapagos cuisine unique? we ask. “The fact that we are in the Galapagos and enjoying the sea breeze and wonderful landscape is inspiring while I work on creating my next dish.”
The Galapagos has exceptional ingredients for chefs in the same way it has unique species for tourists, not that the tourists are always aware of this fact. “The cherry tomato, for example, has a unique appearance and flavor” Estuardo explains.
Ingredients for Estuardo and his team are sourced from farms based on various islands on the archipelago, ensuring produce is fresh and locally grown whilst providing a source of income for local producers.
Is it challenging cooking in a limited space on board a yacht? we wonder. Estuardo ponders the question, gazing towards an island on the horizon. “Cooking on a yacht that has a small kitchen is not a limitation, as long as there is a passion for cooking. The quality of the dish will express the dedication and effort put in to it, as well as the quality of the ingredients themselves. In addition, listening to passenger satisfaction is highly motivating for me, and helps me, and the team, to continue delivering the best of us in our dishes.”
“Many dishes have captivated me and I have never been able to choose between them” Estuardo replies, when we push him for a favourite recipe. “I do, however, love working with seafood, and combining a multitude of delicate flavours in to one dish”.
We finish by asking Estuardo where is next on his bucket list of places to visit. “One goal I have is to visit Spain. It seems like a country that has a lot of connections between cultures”.
The Ecoventura yachts Origin and Theory are the only vessels in the Galapagos that are members of Relais & Chateaux, ensuring our guests of a world-class level of food and beverage delivered by Estuardo and his team and all of us on board.
We are running a special Culinary Cruise in October with a 10% discount for the week of 27 October – 3 November: click here for more information and please contact us to book your unforgettable gourmet cruise.