Meet North Star’s talented chef, Leigh Kooiker photo 1

Meet North Star’s talented chef, Leigh Kooiker

Eating in is the new eating out, and where better than onboard a luxury yacht charter. With an acclaimed yacht chef, North Star’s head chef tells us why eating onboard is the best choice.

What inspired you to be a chef?

After school I got a degree in media and journalism. However, I have always been passionate about cooking and instead of pursuing a career in journalism I decided to go to chef school. A few weeks into my course I completely fell in love with all aspects of the food world and haven’t looked back since.

Is there a chef you admire the most?

I have always been a huge fan of Jan Handrik van der Westhuisen. Being the first South African chef to be awarded a coveted Michelin star, he has inspired a generation of young chefs in my home country. He also worked on yachts before opening his Michelin star restaurant, which inspired me even more. I love how he embraces the South African culture and cuisine at his restaurant Jan in Nice.

Favourite cuisine?

I love Asian cuisine – specifically Thai food. Having been fortunate enough to travel to Thailand a handful of times, I have enjoyed a variety of authentic Thai cuisine. I love the intense aromatic flavours, the emphasis on using lots of fresh herbs and the fine balance between sweet, salty, spicy and sour that is found in many of their dishes.

Are there any trends you’re noticing surrounding wine and food pairings?

I have noticed that rosé has become increasingly popular in general throughout the year. Also, with veganism being one of the fastest growing consumer trends, the wine industry has jumped on board, offering a lot more vegan-friendly wines as well as a more sustainable wine production.

A lot of restaurants are also introducing new exciting pairings with ciders, craft beers, spirits and more.

What type of menu would you prepare for a spring charter?

Grilled asparagus, lemon oil, quail egg, hazelnut crumb & shaved truffle


Seared Hake, pea purée, braised English peas, new potatoes & a herb emulsion


Creamy lemon orzo, roast Bresse chicken, stuffed zucchini flower, citrus jus


Mini pavlovas, berry coulis, lemon curd, chantilly cream & fresh berries

With healthy eating being such a priority these days, what’s your go to for keeping your recipes healthy, but still abundant in flavour?

Herbs and spices! I am a big fan of healthy low-fat food so this would not be too challenging. There are so many different herbs & spices available, each with their own unique flavour and, when combined with fresh, good quality seasonal ingredients and a squeeze of lemon, maintaining flavor in a healthy recipie is made easy.

Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you stay up to date?

I do a lot of research – there is an abundance of amazing instagram pages and most of my favourite restaurants around the world have dedicated Instagram pages. Being fortunate enough to travel, eating out in restaurants all over the world is also a good way to keep up with ever evolving food trends.

Talk us through where or when you are happiest?

I am happiest after a busy night of service – dessert has just been served, guests are happy, galley is clean, tomorrow’s prep list has been done and I am all set to repeat another busy day in the galley tomorrow.

To find out more about NORTH STAR, please contact us.


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