Click Here To Purchase SEAsoned - A Chef's Journey with Her Captain

Author:Victoria Allman


Even though the setting is generally considered the most trite way possible to begin a story, this seafaring adventure with Victoria, the chef, and Patrick, her husband/captain actually does start on a dark and stormy night. Fortunately, that's where the triteness stops. Once the night and the storm are over, it's relatively clear sailing for SEAsoned's title characters as they allow the reader to stow away on a series of yacht charters where they travel to faraway lands, from the Bahamas to Africa, meet a wide range of passengers, from grotesque Americans to gallant Italians, and are exposed to an even wider range of recipes and menus expertly conceived and prepared from super scratch by Chef Victoria.

The book's dominant focus on food and food preparation compels a comparison with Anthony Bourdain's best selling, Kitchen Confidential. Bourdain and Allman, clearly master chefs both, share several characteristics: a passion for freshness, a toleration for dealing with food in its most primitive forms, and an adventurous striving to discover new raw materials and modes of preparation. Of the two, Allman is the more willing to share her culinary secrets (one of which is apparently never to use salt other than sea salt). Both chefs come fully equipped with a facility for speed and organization that enables them to respond efficiently to the often irrational demands of their customers and clients.

And demands there are, sometimes self imposed but more often those of the yacht's affluent passengers. The self-importance, egocentric carelessness, and total disregard for the convenience of others displayed by the idle rich in SEAsoned bring to mind the anti-heros in The Great Gatsby. On a rare occasion of complaint, one crew member notes privately that the yacht is not a restaurant. Indeed, it's not; it provides service far beyond what any restaurant customer would ever reasonably expect to receive. Victoria smiles through it all, suggesting she might do as well in the theatre as in the galley.

In non-culinary areas, Victoria skills are less remarkable. She's an ineffective rear-view mirror when it comes to docking, and her forgetfulness in feeding real pigs almost costs her husband his rump.

Most of the story's excitement depends upon the conflicts between the paid crew and the paying clients. Indeed, at the end of the season when the chef and captain are more or less on their own, the story sags, as does the dough of one of the chef's few failures. At this point, the memoir becomes more of a cookbook, albeit a really good one. The tensions that are inevitable with people living for extended periods in a confined space are identified but scantily explored. The emotional relationship between the title characters is also a bit undercooked.

The author does not stint on similes, and they are imaginative and apt. Her culinary focus manifests itself in such charming observations as the "steam mushroomed out."

Dan Brooks' drawing, which is reproduced at the beginning of each of the book's 26 chapters, captures the mise-en-scène delightfully, even to the point of suggesting but not saying that our Chef is a mermaid. It's too bad Mr. Brooks couldn't have been coaxed into producing a few more illustrations.

Sad to say, the book is not without its cosmetic impurities. Even with two attempts, hors d'oeuvre is misspelled; so, too are pina colada and sieve. The lie/lay and effect/affect traps are not wholly avoided, and occasionally hyphens and apostrophes are errant. Victoria waffles on her garnish for the smoothie that gets her first charter off to a hilariously bad beginning. At one point, a broad smile is described as leaving "no teeth uncovered," and at another it seems like a single life jacket is snatched out of Victoria's hands twice, without intervening repossession. Finally, I think the manufacturers of Sub-Zero and KitchenAid appliances would appreciate initial capitalization of their brand names and, in the latter case, having it spelled correctly.

None of these cavils will interfere in the slightest in the pleasure of joining the Chef and Her Captain in their geographic and gastronomic explorations.

Click Here To Purchase SEAsoned - A Chef's Journey with Her Captain