Don’t just cook – create amazement!
by Sail LUNA Oct 24 00:13 PDT
Tuna Tartare © Sail LUNA
You know you’ve struck sailing gold when you’re in the good hands of Sail LUNA’s husband and wife team, Captain Nim and Captain Fabiola. Nim is a U.S. Air Force combat veteran, a U.S. Coast Guard-certified captain, and an experienced PADI Divemaster. He has sailed through the famous Suez Canal in Egypt and across the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, the Aegean and the Atlantic. Having lived and worked throughout the Caribbean, he is familiar with the busy ports and local rum distilleries.
Nim’s first mate, cook and wife, Fabiola, is of Puerto Rican heritage. Graduating from college with a degree in business administration, Fabiola worked in wealth management in her earlier life before pursuing her career at sea and also becoming a certified captain in the United States Coast Guard. She grew up on boats with a sense of freedom like an island girl.
Hospitable and welcoming by nature, the couple make voyages around the Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands an enjoyable sailing excursion. Fabiola has a deep-rooted love of cooking and has forged endless connections with local food vendors around the islands. She has explored many local markets to create delicious dishes for her guests using her own recipes. Nim is not only the north in the south of Fabi, but also an award-winning mixologist (BVI Boat Show) who creates sunset-worthy and appropriate cocktails using locally distilled rum, freshly squeezed native juices and fresh home-grown herbs.
What are some of your favorite dishes you create for guests and why?
I love exploring the islands after Essen. The whole process of buying ingredients is part of inspiration. There’s something magical about strolling through the local markets, listening to the sounds of bustling vendors and haggling buyers, the visual appreciation of the raw ingredients and of course the Caribbean scents that tempt you even with your eyes closed. My cooking style is inherently simple; I like to keep the essence of the ingredients. When you want a great-tasting dish, it’s important to have the freshest ingredients.
I would describe my dishes as cosy, healthy and simple. They are all accented with flavors that are synonymous with the Caribbean, such as creamy avocados, sun-ripened tomatoes, garlic and citrus juice. I love playing with fragrant herbs like cilantro, culantro, and oregano.
I design the menus for each charter based on the guest preferences provided at the time of booking. The menu is not static. Sometimes I go to a local market and find delicious fresh fish, meat and vegetables. I will update the menu to incorporate the new ingredients. Occasionally our guests might catch a fish, so I’ll include that in our lunch or dinner menus, or even both if it’s a big catch.
I see myself as a versatile and very flexible chef. I work closely with our guests to create a personalized charter menu. I enjoy using locally grown ingredients and I work hard to incorporate a farm or sea-to-table approach into my cooking. I strive to support local communities and use healthy and whole foods in my meals.
What are some of your favorite/requested dishes from guests?
At the end of each charter we ask our guests about the highlights of their Sail LUNA experience and if they had a favorite dish. It seems like a tricky question; Our guests often say it’s impossible to name just one, so name your top five.
There are a few clear favourites. One that always features in the top five dishes is the fish tacos. I’ve heard many times that these are the best fish tacos I’ve ever had! I make them with fresh mahi mahi marinated in a mixture of garlic, paprika, the juice and zest of one lime, olive oil, salt and pepper. I make a crispy and light coleslaw with shredded red cabbage, diced yellow bell pepper, jalapeño, coriander, some cumin, salt and pepper; it is dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. When everything is ready, I pan sear the fish and serve with chipotle aioli and crispy onions. They are delicious and go down a treat.
NB At the end of this article you will find links to download some of Fabi’s wonderful creations.
Why do you prefer to source healthy, local ingredients and how do you go about sourcing them?
Fresh produce and ingredients are important not only because they taste good, but also so we can support local small businesses. They offer great products and are transparent about their sources. Personal visits are unbeatable, not only for building and nurturing relationships, but also for being honest and voicing any concerns you may have. I always like to go shopping myself; I have very high standards! The choice of ingredients is important to me as I will be cooking during the charter week. I also have a garden on the boat where I grow my own herbs and microgreens. I use them in my dishes and Nim uses them in their craft cocktails.
What relationships have you nurtured as a result of your local sourcing?
We are starting our fifth charter season in the Virgin Islands this year. Over the years we have developed and nurtured relationships with fishermen and farmers from whom we will continue to buy fresh produce. We have excellent communication with them; They love to share their latest catches and finds so I can add them to the menu. We also like to buy specialty ingredients from local businesses; visiting them is always fun. Due to the importance we place on our relationships, we often have to try new products.
In your experience, what are some of the best regions/areas to access local ingredients and what ingredients are best in each region?
It depends on where we work. We operate primarily in the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, but have occasional charter flights to the Grenadines. I love it when the fishermen come to our boat with their catch. It doesn’t get any fresher and our guests love the experience. All islands have fresh produce and fish markets. When you buy what’s in season, it’s deliciously fresh.
Can you explain a little more detail about your cooking style of global cuisine and the influence of a well traveled life? What is your favorite regional influence to cook?
Each meal is designed to be a gastronomic discovery, a journey through refined homemade dishes and genuine ingredients. When our guests are on board LUNA, nothing is accidental. I introduce dishes, ingredients and flavors you’ve probably never tried before. Many of the ingredients are inspired by our Caribbean, European and Mediterranean heritage. I enjoy trying new dishes, discovering new ingredients, visiting a local market, street vendor or restaurant and watching locals prepare their food.
My cooking style is a mix of international cuisine with generous touches of Spanish and Italian cuisine. I tend to showcase light, fresh, tasty and local ingredients in my dishes. I love to challenge myself by playing with different styles and mixing old with new.
Please let us know where you have traveled and which favorite places have had the greatest culinary influence on you. And how does this influencer influence the way you cook today?
I have visited many countries in Europe, South America and Asia. I was most influenced by some of my favorite places like Spain, Portugal, Italy, Argentina, Mexico and Thailand.
Food has always been a passion of mine! Wherever I travel, I’m always looking for good food. It can range from high-end restaurants with white tablecloths to hole-in-the-wall or street food; What matters is the food they serve.
What are some of your favorite culinary/best culinary learning experiences while traveling?
I like to take cooking classes when I travel. I love learning about new ingredients, cooking techniques and dishes. I apply what I have learned and incorporate it into my kitchen. We usually go to the market to buy the freshest local ingredients and then head to the kitchen to prepare a lovely meal.
I’ve been to a restaurant several times and talked to the service staff about the food and the ingredients. They surprised me with a visit from the chef, who sometimes even invited me into the kitchen!
Explain some challenges to becoming an award-winning (BVI Boat Show) chef on the high seas?
On a boat you have limited space, tools, electricity, storage and product availability; You must be able to do magic with what you have. Planning is key. Once chartered, you can’t stop by your local shop for provisions. You learn to be flexible and to improvise.
Have you always loved to cook? Do you remember what sparked your love for cooking?
I have loved cooking since I was very little. It has always interested me and I have great childhood memories of cooking with my father and grandmother. I watched cooking shows like Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and Martin Yan.
My favorite time growing up was planning a special holiday menu and cooking it; I was happy to take on this responsibility in my family. It was therapeutic for me! I work as a yacht cook and can do what I love every day. It used to be my hobby, now I can do it for a living. It’s nice to serve good food that you have prepared with a lot of passion and love and to look into the faces of the people enjoying it. Showing me two thumbs up while eating and even applauding at the end of the meal is a thrill and an honor for me.
Husband and wife Nim and Fabiola Hirschhorn charter the Sail LUNA https://www.sailluna.com/, a stunning custom built 2019 Lagoon 450S around the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. For more information about her charter holidays please contact her via
Download some of Fabi’s recipes: