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HMY Yachts recently caught up with Frank Rodriguez, a longtime HMY customer and the owner of the world-renowned 2015 Viking Yachts 92’ Enclosed Bridge named The Fa La Me. Frank and his wife Mary Ellen travel the world on board their yacht, cooking and fishing all along the way. On a boat of this size you might expect a professional chef to be part of the crew but Frank, who has a passion for cooking, manages all things meal-time on this 92-footer. We spoke to him in great detail about his love of yachting, fishing and good food, which left us craving crab enchiladas and wishing we could tag along on the next Fa La Me adventure.
Frank and Mary Ellen at a cooking class in Tuscany.
HMY Yachts: Frank, what is your background and how did you end up as the owner of The Fa La Me?
I’m in the Automobile business owning 52 car dealerships in the USA and China. I started out selling cars in 1979. Through a great deal of luck and a bit of hard work, I managed to buy my first dealership in 1994. Since then my business partner and I have acquired 45 dealerships in the USA and 7 dealerships in China. My love for boating and fishing started when I was a kid. My Dad raced speedboats back in the early 50’s and our weekends were always spent at the waters edge. I began fishing when I was 3 years old with my grandmother on Indian Shores Beach. We would wade into the Gulf and fish with Cane Poles. My wife Mary Ellen and I bought the first Fa La Me in 1983. A dilapidated old sailboat we never sailed. Then we graduated to a 27’ Searay, then a 30 Searay, then a 48 Searay then a 56 Searay. These were through the years when our children were young and our time was not spent fishing but more family cruising. We bought our first Viking, a 65 Enclosed Bridge in 2002 from Dave Berard at HMY and owned it for 10 years. Then in 2012 we built a 70 Viking EB, and in 2014 ordered and built the 92 Viking EB.
Pictured above is The 92' Fa La Me after her first fishing trip. 3 Blue Marlin were caught and released.
HMY Yachts: You have some serious culinary abilities, were you a professional chef in a past life? How did your love for cooking begin?
No formal culinary training. My love and passion for cooking came from my Mother and both of my Grandmothers who were all excellent cooks. I was the oldest of 7 children so I was always the one in the kitchen with my Mom. My wife Mary Ellen is also an excellent cook, her soups, stews and slow braised Greek style lamb shanks are to die for along with her Osso Bucco.
HMY Yachts: What is your philosophy when it comes to cooking for guests and crew on board your 92 foot Viking?
Simple good food with a great bottle of wine is always perfect. When it comes to tournament time we try and make it as easy as possible and to eat early and not a lot of cleanup in the galley afterwards because the crew has put in extra long days. We do a great deal of slow cooker meals also that are simple one pot stuff.
BBQ pulled pork sandwhiches with Frank's secret coleslaw.
Cornmeal fried Tuna sandwhiches with Siracha mayo.
HMY Yachts: What type of preparation is involved to properly stock your yacht for a longer journey?
Provisioning has always been something I enjoy doing. I grew up in the wholesale grocery business working along side my Dad. There’s one thing for sure I’m not afraid of and that's the grocery store. The crew always kids me and says something isn’t right if I haven’t been to the grocery in more than a couple days. I have a list of must have items in my head and anytime we are going on an extended deployment out of the country, I will make three trips. First trip all the dry and non-refrigerated items. Bring that back to the boat and stow. Second trip all the wet stuff refrigerated and or frozen foods and produce. Third Trip to the butcher to pick up the meat order I’ve preciously called in that they freezer wrap and freeze for me before hand. The crew handles all the bulky stuff beer, sodas, paper products, bottle water, wine, and liquor.
HMY Yachts: What essential ingredients must you have on hand at all times?
Sorry but this list is endless, and ever changing. I always kid the crew about their tackle storage being White’s Tackle Shop Annex and they always tease me about the food storage areas being Publix Supermarket. I am normally prepared to pretty much cook anything at any given moment.
HMY Yachts: You do a lot of fishing on board the Fa La Me. What is your favorite way to incorporate your catches into your meals?
The four ‘S’s” Simply Said Sushi and Sashimi. We love our Wahoo and Tuna Sashimi and Sushi on the Fa La Me. That said though there’s always Blackened Mahi and or a good old Fish Fry with my secret recipe Cole Slaw and Baked Beans in the repertoire.
(Left) Fresh caught Yellowfin Tuna. (Right) Spicy seared Wahoo and sesame crusted seared Tuna.
HMY Yachts: You travel the world on your yacht, do different destinations and local ingredients ever influence your meals?
Somewhat but not necessarily so at the moment we might be in a locality. For example we might eat something for the first time at a restaurant in a foreign place that everyone says wow that was good, then I might try and bring that to our dinner table at a later time. For example we started traveling to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic several years ago everyone onboard fell in love with Churasco Steak with Chimichurri Sauce. Ever since then I started adding Skirt Steak to my provisioning list so we have it from time to time.
Skirt steak and mexican chicken with peppers on the grill of the Fa La Me.
HMY Yachts: Do you plan any special, celebratory meals if you win a tournament?
Not normally as we usually attend the awards banquet when a tournament is over. But we always have a team meeting after every day of fishing be it tournament or fun fishing. Mary Ellen nicknamed our afternoon round of Tequila shots many years ago as time for a “Team Meeting”. We’ve actually had guests on the boat for the first time and Mary Ellen might say time for the “Team Meeting” and the guest get a concerned look on their face and ask if they should excuse themselves while we have our meeting thinking it’s a real business type meeting.
Frank and Mary Ellen's grandaughter with her first Blue Marlin.
HMY Yachts: Does anyone else do the cooking on board the Fa La Me, or is that strictly your department?
Mainly 95% but I’m happy to move out of the galley if Mary Ellen wants to make her Linguini and Clam Sauce, or her Yellow Rice and Chicken with Black Beans, or her Chicken Soup
HMY Yachts: Does there ever come a time where you don’t feel like making a brilliant meal and you opt for PB&J’s for everyone?
Our usual go to when I feel like that is let’s go out to dinner, or order some pizzas
HMY Yachts: What is one of your all-time favorite dishes to make while on The Fa La Me? Can you share the recipe?
Wow so many answers, but I’ll say that one of the most favorite meals aboard the Fa La Me is our traditional 4th of July meal, which my family has been enjoying for over 60 years. It’s a Tampa favorite that brings back memories of summer at my grandmothers on Indian Shores. Here’s the recipe:Crab Enchilada.
I make this for a large group normally so govern yourself accordingly. I adjust as I go to achieve the right flavor and thickness consistency so as to not be too watery and not stick to the Rigatoni.
4 large cans Whole Tomatoes2 large cans Chopped Tomatoes1 small can Tomato Paste4 cloves Garlic finely minced1 large Onion chopped1 Bell Pepper Chopped2 Bay Leaves1/2 bottle Dry Red Wine3 Tbs Olive Oil4 Tbs Ground Cumin or more to taste2 tsp Dried Oregano2 - 3 lbs White Lump Crabmeat drained (refrigerated fresh)4 cans of White Lump Crabmeat drained reserving two cans of the juice2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
In a large soup pot heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, peppers and sauté until softened, reduce heat to medium then add garlic and continue cooking for another couple minutes stirring constantly careful not to burn the garlic or it will be bitter. Add the bay leaf, oregano, cayenne pepper, and cumin and continue to stir until very fragrant.
Add the cans of Tomatoes and tomato paste stirring to incorporate all the ingredients, bring to a slight boil and stir frequently for 5 minutes add the wine and return to a slight boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes then add the four cans of white lump crabmeat and the 2 cans of reserved crab juice stirring while adding to incorporate completely. Bring back to a slight boil for 10 covered. Uncover pot and reduce to simmer and cook for several hours stirring occasionally about half way through this simmering take a potato masher and mash all the whole tomatoes to help thicken the sauce.
One hour before serving add the fresh Lump Crabmeat reserving enough for a dollop on top of each bowl. Serve with Mezzi Rigatoni that is a bit al dente so they hold their tubular shape. Serve Tobascco on the side with crusty bread.
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