If you’re wondering what our mate Mark LaBrooy looks like when he’s in his element, it’s this: barefoot on the back of a boat, in the middle of the Maldives, reeling in a jobfish. Mark travelled to the island paradise to bring a bit of The Ducks laidback flavour to the luxe W Maldives – and between cooking with local produce and getting out on the water, freediving the reefs and having a fish, it doesn’t look like a half-bad gig.
“Being on the water to fish was magic – crystal clear water, 30-degree day and not a breath of wind on the ocean. It was the stuff postcards are made of,” says Mark. “We went for a bit of a fish with the hand lines and went well on the green jobfish and coral trout. These are both highly prized fish from the tropics, delicious firm-fleshed fish.”
But the real show-stopping ingredients the Maldives served up? “Maldivian painted crays and the yellowfin tuna. Also, the papaya was absolutely next level – so so so sweet and with fresh lime.”
When it came time for cooking, Mark wanted to create a menu that was a refection of what the island had to offer. “I did a tuna tartare number, some green jobfish over the coals and a painted cray in a chilli curry sauce. I didn’t have to do much, as the product did the talking for me. We cooked a few pumpkins over the fire and made a few ferments – that’s the foundations of the Ducks flavour. I just tried to keep it a bit tropical and use what was on hand. I was really happy with how it turned out.”
Out of the kitchen, Mark made it his mission to chow down as much flavour-packed food as he could. From a spicy tuna bowl to coal-roasted meats, with freshly-caught fish, cooked on the fire, he loved the simplicity of the local fare. Then there were the egg hoppers with fish curry and black pig: “A chef from Sri Lanka was there and when he found out we have the same heritage, he lost his mind. Obviously, we started talking food and my love for hoppers was raised – turns out, he was a master hopper maker. We had these with spicy black pig curry and HAF fish curry, coconut sambal and all the trimmings… [My wife] Han and I were in heaven.”