Chef Frederic Kieffer shares tips for entertaining on the water

Take your next onboard get-together to the next level with these simple yet elegant menu ideas from Chef Frederic Kieffer, chef-owner of the Artisan Restaurant at the Delamar in Southport.

Come Sail Away Jim Sawyer and his wife, Shannon, entertain friends aboard a sunset cruise out of Riverside Yacht Club.


From SAINT-Germain to Southport: Chef Frederic Kieffer discovered his passion for cooking early, while working at restaurants in Paris. Years later, a job opportunity landed him in New England, where he fell in love with the unique array of local produce. He opened Artisan Restaurant at the Delamar in Southport, a place to promote sustainable agriculture through a changing menu of seasonally inspired dishes. Here, Kieffer offers insights on entertaining on the water.

What type of dining style is best for a boat party? Rather than serving plated food on a moving boat, I prefer a more casual meal with a beautifully garnished dish. Most likely, on a boat, the guests are friends or close family members, so family style would be the ideal choice. Guests can help themselves, which means no time pressure for the chef or host!

What should be considered when creating an onboard menu? Boats normally have small equipment or sometimes none at all. So that should be a top consideration when planning the menu. Decide on your main dish, perhaps prime rib, roast beef or baked salmon, and try to cook it before boarding the boat, preferably the morning of the picnic, rather than the night before. Prepare a colorful and plentiful dish—something easy and practical.

All Aboard Guests board the Sawyers’ sailboat, Pangaea, for an evening on the Sound.


What types of side dishes lend themselves to easy preparation? Couscous can be cooked prior to boarding and combined with diced tomatoes, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice for an easy and delicious tabbouleh. A cucumber salad served at room temperature makes the perfect dish for spring and summer. Sliced tomatoes with goat cheese can be easily assembled on board the boat, or a Caprese salad with quality extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and mozzarella is also simple to prepare and requires no cooking. There’s no point in stuffing tomatoes for a grand effect when tomatoes aren’t at their best.

Where do you purchase your fresh vegetables? Most of my herbs and vegetables come from Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens or Sport Hill Farm in Easton. I try to buy everything locally through wholesale farms that specialize in USDA-certified organic produce. The term “local” covers a lot of ground. If it’s local, it doesn’t necessarily mean just Connecticut; I embrace other states, too—from New Jersey to Massachusetts.

SEAWORTHY SPREAD Spring crudités with gray sea salt, fresh coleslaw, Artisan bread, marinated sardines and grilled corn on the cob. Raw veggies are served on a wooden board from Bungalow.Slices of rye and wheat germ bread, made exclusively for Artisan by the SoNo Baking Company & Café, are paired with sweet butter. Corn is boiled in salt water, shucked and grilled to perfection.


Where can people buy farm-fresh produce in this area? The Wakeman Town Farm in Westport opens a farm stand from mid-June through the fall, or the Westport Farmers’ Market is a great place to interact with area farmers every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the summer.

What type of cocktail pairs well with a lobster roll? I would choose a peach Kir Royale—a slight variation from the traditional Kir Royale. Rather than a blackcurrant liqueur, start with sliced strawberries in the flute, add a peach liqueur and top with Champagne. Or even an apricot liqueur would be a good option. Either way, it should be simple, light and refreshing.

What is the key ingredient to making entertaining on a boat an elegant affair? The boat and the view of the ocean are beautiful by themselves. The food should be complementary instead of overbearing. Serve Champagne and light hors d’oeuvres. And for dessert, there’s nothing better than a bowl of fresh, ripe strawberries with a dollop of homemade whipped cream and a sprinkle of sugar. Don’t overdo it! Keeping it simple is sometimes the hardest thing to do. But when the meal is straightforward, well prepared and cooked perfectly, it’s most appreciated.


(top, left to right) Pack light with a recycled linen, French drawstring bag from Bungalow. Jim Sawyer welcomes guests. A nautical throw and decorative blue and white pillows from Lillian August give the boat an ultra-comfortable feel.

Canned sardines (bottom) are marinated with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, chopped chives, gray sea salt and piment d’Espelette—a paprika from the Basque region of France—and served on the Wine and Dine plate from Crate & Barrel (middle). Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne is served in Crate & Barrel durable acrylic wine glasses (below right).


roll tide, roll

Pair a lobster roll with a peach Kir Royale: place Champagne with a splash of peach liqueur and fresh strawberries in the flute.

Chef Kieffer showcases a contemporary approach to the classic New England-style lobster roll. Rhode Island hard shell lobster is combined with Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, fresh corn, chives and red-veined sorrel and served in a grilled brioche roll. A sprinkle of red wine vinegar powder on a side of homemade potato chips adds a zesty zing to the meal.

seaside sweets

To wrap up the afternoon’s festivities, mini fruit-frangipane tartlets are served for dessert in a beautiful array of colors.

Frangipane, an almond flour-based custard, provides the filling for each tartlet. Chef Kieffer serves the tasty, bite-size treats topped with fresh strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, oranges, caramelized bananas and kiwi.