Laurel's Matt Dolby takes skills to Caribbean

Former Cultured Pearl sushi chef Matt Dolby is living the proverbial dream.

He’s sailing the Caribbean on a catamaran, working as a chef.

“Me and the captain, we take people all around the southern Caribbean. Most of the time St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but we go all the way to St. Lucia, Martinique,” the 33-year-old said.

Dolby, a Laurel native and Sussex Tech grad, is working for Caribbean Kite Cruise, which provides kiteboarding tours in the Caribbean. Each cruise lasts a week to 10 days for six to eight guests, most of which are European. Dolby’s job is to provide three meals a day using fresh and local ingredients.

Naturally, that means fishing.

“Every single day I’m catching fish off the back of the boat,” he said. “Today I caught a huge barracuda.”

And he has the picture to prove it.

“I’ve always got a line in the water, trying to catch dinner. That makes the experience really special. The guests see me catch it, cut it up, filet it,” Dolby said.

A typical day for Dolby begins early, before 6 a.m. His breakfast menu rotates between fresh fruit, eggs, pancakes and crèpes. After cleaning up he has a few hours to himself, which he usually spends on the island they’re docked at, looking for fresh produce and talking to local fishermen. Lunch is quiche, sandwiches or tacos.

“Lots of carbs and protein because these guys are coming back from kiteboarding, so they expend a lot of energy,” Dolby said.

After more afternoon free time, he preps dinner.

“Last night was seared albacore tuna, creamy zucchini, potato leek puree. Sometimes I’ll do lobster pastas,” he said.

Sailing and cooking have been themes throughout Dolby’s life. His cooking career began at former Rehoboth Beach restaurant Abstractions, where chef Keith Harpster taught him how to make sushi. Later, Dolby followed Harpster to the Cultured Pearl, Rehoboth’s longstanding sushi destination. He worked eight years there, until, one cold, gray and dreary winter day, he decided to fly - or rather, sail - south.

Sailing runs in the family. Dolby learned to sail from his father and grandfather, who both owned boats. After Abstractions closed, Dolby sailed a 26-foot sailboat to the Bahamas for two years. He has his U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license.

Working for Caribbean Kite Cruise, he sails what he calls “real ocean,” frequently in 6- to 8-foot waves and 20- to 30-knot winds.

“My two major passions are food and sailing and I was able to combine them,” Dolby said. “Right now I’m watching the sunset, looking at the mountains. It’s a beautiful place.”

The future is open when his eight-month contract runs out, but Dolby hopes to return to the Rehoboth area.

“My dad has a 25-foot sailboat in Dewey and we’re thinking about starting a sailing charter business for the summer season on Rehoboth Bay,” he said. “Short trips, sunset sails. There’s nothing else like it right now.”

You can follow his adventures @chef2sail on Instagram.