To coincide with the arrival of Queen Anne and Cunard sailing as four, our employee-led network REACH is shining a spotlight on our talented Cunard Chefs and celebrating cultural diversity through food.

So far we’ve met chefs Roland and Ajith. Our next story is from James Abhilash, Executive Chef onboard Queen Mary 2

Chef James

“I come from Kerala in the southern part of India, known as ‘God’s own country’. After gaining a degree in Hotel Management, I worked in various renowned hotels in India, before joining Cunard as a Commis De Cuisine in 1997 aboard Queen Elizabeth 2. My hard work and passion saw me promoted to Demi Chef de Partie, Chef de Partie and by the year 2000 I was promoted to Sous Chef.

Since then, I’ve moved up the ranks, gaining extensive experience which led to being selected to be part of the team to launch Queen Mary 2 in 2003. With continued commitment to excellence in culinary cuisine, I was then promoted to the position of relief Executive Chef in 2007. Later on I was once again chosen to help bring a new Queen to the world with the arrival of Queen Elizabeth in 2010. I spent around seven years as Executive Chef on Queen Elizabeth, followed by Queen Victoria for six years, before coming back to our much loved Queen Mary 2 in 2023.

When I’m on leave I maintain a farm of cows and a small Cardamom plantation which keeps me busy. It’s very interesting and something very different from life at sea.

My favourite port

I believe each port and country has its own speciality and by sailing with the Cunard Queens I have become very international with my taste buds. I like to experience the food of each place I visit – the most important secret is to avoid where the tourists go and look for the places where the locals dine. I search them out and have been very lucky to experience the best possible authentic food in incredible destinations.

Chef James

A taste of my culture

My favourite dish from home is Fish Molee, a mildly spiced, creamy and rich Kerela style fish stew made with coconut milk, tomatoes, green chillies and pepper. This traditional Kerala dish is one of my favourites from my mother’s cooking as it goes well with aapam (savoury pancake) chapati, poori or rice. At home we prepare it with the freshest fish normally from the backwaters of Kumarakom or Alapuzha, also known as the Venice of the East. It’s simple to make, but it’s important that all the ingredients are fresh, including the coconut milk and oil, local fish, curry leaves and above all, the most important ingredient, my mother’s love.

Chef Ajith’s recipe for Fish Molee:


For the marinade:

  • ½ kg fresh fish (snapper/ pearl spot /pompano)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp pepper powder
  • Salt (as required)

For the molee:

  • ½ inch sized ginger piece (finely minced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 1 medium sized onion (sliced)
  • 3-4 green chillies (slit)
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup thin coconut milk
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 to tomato (sliced to rounds)
  • Salt (as required)
  • Coconut oil (as required)


Fish Molee

  • Clean and cut the fish into pieces. Marinate with lemon juice, pepper, salt and turmeric powder for 15-20 minutes.
  • In a kadai/pan, add little oil and shallow fry fish on both sides. Keep it aside.
  • In a separate pan, add oil and heat on a medium flame. Add curry leaves, ginger, garlic and green chilies, sauté for a minute until its raw smell subsides.
  • Add the sliced onions and sauté until they turns translucent, ensuring not to brown the onions.
  • Follow by adding turmeric powder, pepper powder and thin coconut milk. Close the lid and allow the curry to boil for 5-6 minutes on a medium flame. When the oil starts separating, reduce the flame to a low and add lemon juice, mix well.
  • Now add the fried fish, cover it with the gravy, and allow the curry to blend well with the fish, bring to a boil. Do not stir once the fish is added, instead rotate the pan to mix the gravy.
  • Add the thick coconut milk and cook on a low flame for another 2 minutes, make sure not to allow the dish to boil beyond this stage. Check for the seasoning.
  • Add sliced round tomatoes and more curry leaves, close the lid and switch off the flame. Let the tomato cook in the remaining steam.
  • Serve with appam, idiyappam, chapati/roti, rice or bread.

Thanks for sharing your story and favourite dish with us, James! Missed our first two stories? Click on the links to catch up and meet chefs Roland and Ajith. We’ll be sharing another story from our Cunard chefs next week too, so keep a look out.

Celebrating culture through food in Carnival House

On Wednesday 29 May the team from REACH will be in the Atrium with snacks and treats from different cultures for everyone to enjoy, so be sure to pop along and say hello!

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