Be Our Guest: Onboard Host Eva Mulligan Sets the Table for S.A.L.T. Debut
Chef and culinary educator Eva Mulligan shares stories about her 25-year culinary career on the high seas, and why she’s excited to embark on a new S.A.L.T. adventure across the Mediterranean aboard Silver Moon starting on June 18th.
A passion for gastronomy ranging from the Ancient Greeks to indigenous Peruvians and a curiosity and gentle dynamism in the kitchen—these are some of the qualifications and enthusiasms that Eva Mulligan brings to her new role. As Silversea’s first S.A.L.T Host, Eva will serve as the onboard coordinator for the new Sea & Land Taste project, leading cooking classes and demonstrations in the S.A.L.T Lab, as well as accompanying guests on food and wine related shore excursions. Drawing on her background as both trained cook and chef-instructor, she’ll help decode the cuisine and traditions of the region, always with an eye on deepening the guest’s appreciation and understanding of the food culture of places they’re visiting.
Eva’s love of food and cooking runs deep. Raised on her grandparents’ family farm in Ottawa, Canada, Eva spent her childhood running, horseback riding, plucking fresh eggs from the hen house and helping grow her grandfather’s garden, snacking on raspberries and strawberries straight from the fields. These early memories of eating fruits and veggies from the backyard, tasting new foods on family trips and, later traveling and working in shipboard kitchens and learning from award-winning chefs around the world influenced her approach to teaching others. On top of spreading her adventurous spirit, Mulligan strives to make cooking relatable and fun for everyone—even those who “can’t even boil an egg.”
“For me, I never want to stop learning. With food, you can cook all your life, be a top Michelin-starred chef and never cease to learn. I love that about cooking. It’s a sensual activity—to taste, to listen, and to touch. Your whole being is involved. There’s always something fascinating. For example, in some cultures, flatbread represents the sun because of its round shape. That’s very beautiful to me. Food brings people together from different cultures. It’s so integral and so enjoyable—the history, the culture and the sheer darn fun of eating it,” she says.
Celebrating connections between the food and culture—and having fun while doing it—is at the heart of Eva’s new role as S.A.L.T. Host. While eagerly awaiting the beginning of the Greek sailings, we checked in with Eva on what she’s looking forward to about life on board Silver Moon, her favorite Greek dishes and how her twin passions for food and travel prepared her for this new role.
When did your culinary career on yachts begin?
A friend once asked me, “Why are you going to culinary school? You’re going to have to peel potatoes for a lifetime before becoming an Executive Chef.” That scared me a little bit. Luckily, that didn’t end up happening at all. Straight out of school, I skipped the potato peeling lineup to do something exciting. I went to the yachting industry in Florida. I started off as a crew chef. Then I was a sous-chef, and later I freelanced.
Looking back, what are some early childhood experiences that led you to pursue a career in the culinary arts?
Thanks to my grandma, at the tender age of 3 I had a special stool in the kitchen that I would stand on and help her bake cakes and cookies. I adored spending time baking with her. I loved the sound of sugar being scraped off the bottom of the ceramic cookie dough bowl. That was the beginning. Those experiences awakened this passion for food. Also, my mom and dad were great home cooks and I learned a lot from them. I started in my first restaurant at 14 years old, prepping food, being in this dynamic atmosphere, and enjoying the social aspect of a chaotic kitchen, while learning the basics. I started to travel with my dad when I was 5 years old. We went to Spain and then when I was 12, we went to Ireland and England. My dad was a real explorer, so he wanted me to experience that too. I remember when he took me on a weekend trip to New York City at 10 years old – it seemed larger than life, going out on the town and having sushi (that stuck to the roof of my mouth!) for the first time. For me travel and food will always be indelibly connected.
What do you love most about cooking on the water?
I love sailing and I love beautiful ships. I find them very sleek and architectural. My father was a woodworker, and he really instilled in me an appreciation for quality craftsmanship. Yachts have gorgeous high-end sculptures, art, ostrich leather bars, crocodile tables and the most exotic wood furniture you could ever find. I find that very appealing– the luxury aesthetic, the blue ocean, tropical weather, the water, and grocery shopping for the most exotic ingredients with someone else’s credit card – haha! You have a chance to design your own menu, be creative, challenge yourself and help the guests create new food memories and experiences. You travel to new ports all the time and no two ports are the same. I have a wild and restless nomadic heart. I’ve been home for a year during the pandemic, which is one of the longest periods that I’ve been home, and I was missing new adventures and my fellow sailors so much, even though I was in my home city.
Can you describe the most mouthwatering bites of recent memory?
I made a mole sauce that was a real success. I enjoyed the complexity of all the flavors melding together. It had dark chocolate, peanut butter, and orange zest, so it was a deep and rich flavor profile. One of the most interesting things I tried recently was a candied radish at the ARC Hotel in Ottawa. It had a sweet and crunchy sugar coating like a candy apple. As well as smoked hollandaise sauce! Both were completely unique, and I’d never tasted anything like it.
What is your approach to teaching and appreciating gastronomy?
I want to make cooking relatable for people. I especially want those people to feel comfortable in the kitchen–even if they feel intimidated and fear failure. I hope they’ll become adventurous, throw caution to the wind and not overthink it. I want them to have fun! Once, I was teaching a class on tofu and one of the students had never used it before and felt apprehensive. By the end of the class, she was super excited about tofu, whereas before she had avoided the ingredient altogether and even stayed clear of the tofu aisle. When someone gets excited about trying new foods, I feel like I’ve gone down the right path in my career.
What excites you about sailing to Greece?
I love the people and the language, the beauty of the blue water and the white-stone buildings —it’s all just breathtaking. I also love Greek food– it’s one of my favorites. When you read the history of the Ancient Greeks, you learn that the cuisine was influenced by many different cultures. The ingredients can be so simple and rustic, yet absolutely delicious. I’m excited to have people experience new dishes from the different ports around Greece that we visit. Dishes that they’ve never heard of or tried before. The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world that everyone wants to emulate. Olive oil, wine, fish, lentils, beans and vegetables. All of those things that are integral to a very healthy diet and quintessential to the Greek/Mediterranean food pyramid.
And more specifically, what Greek dishes?
Greek moussaka, homemade filo pastry and a goat cheese fig & honey tart! Seriously delicious, sweet, sour, tangy, complex flavors that we get to make in S.A.L.T. Lab with our guests. My mouth is watering by just talking about it! I also love saganaki– Cheese is life! Saganaki is that pan-fried warm cheese, sometimes flambeed with alcohol drizzled over it, typically served with lemon juice. Eat it with crusty bread and a glass of wine. Again, these are “simple” foods, but really exciting flavors to share.
What do you hope S.A.L.T. travelers will learn from cooking and eating with you?
I want people to feel that spark and excitement about learning new things. When that happens I feel successful and happy that my extreme passion for food, ingredients and history rubbed off on them. I really love meeting new people and learning about them. As a culinary instructor, I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve been able to inspire people to eat more healthily. A few times after my classes and demonstrations, people have approached me and said that they only came because they were mildly curious. But because the recipes were so accessible and the demonstration was delivered in an entertaining and humorous way, they became excited to cook the recipes at home.
You set sail on June 18th, what are you looking forward to?
We’ve all been cooped up for a year at home, not doing the things that we love the most: traveling and cooking for or with other people. It’s a very special and unique experience, being part of this new adventure and being able to travel to new places again. And, of course, I look forward to the social aspect, because part of this job is meeting people from all over the world. Last night, we just sat and talked for hours on the outside deck and that was edifying. Food is necessary for our survival, but it also creates these human connections that are invaluable and indelible.