Justine Murphy is a phenomenal businesswoman and talented chef who spent years cooking for the rich and famous onboard their super yachts. She's written a recipe book, and it's brilliant - but as she explains, it wasn't always plain sailing
Based in Palma de Mallorca with her husband and their two sons, Justine runs the Balearic island’s Mymuybueno cookery school and delicatessen while heading up one of the biggest private-chef agencies in the world. With her tanned skin, sun-bleached hair, floaty dresses and plates of colourful, super-healthy, locally-sourced food, Justine looks every inch as wholesome as her food; in fact, she's the best advert for it.
Prior to setting up her businesses on dry land, Justine travelled the world as a chef on super yachts, cooking for the rich and (very) famous. Sadly Justine respects her clients and won’t gossip about who her crew attend to, but I do imagine them bringing an enormous platter of fresh lobster and langoustines to Amal and George Clooney while Oprah polishes her diamonds and Meghan Markle spells out ‘YOU ARE LOVED’ with some scallops and asparagus tips before launching them at some fishermen on a nearby ratty trawler to the horror of *the-artist-formerly-known-as-Prince* Harry. If she hasn't cooked for J-Lo or Tom Cruise I'll eat my slippers.
Justine is what you might call a high-achiever - she didn't stop at training chefs, she created new divisions within the company for butlers, elite concierge services and bespoke luxury catering - all the things most of us mere mortals can only dream of. Put it this way, if you win Euro Millions, call her. I know I will. By now you're probably making the assumption that Justine was born into a world of celebrities air-kisses and billion-pound, diamond-encrusted sea houses, but her past couldn't have been more different to her present. Growing up with parents who were violent towards each other, Justine lived through an extremely unhappy and isolated childhood, one in which she had 'no friends' and was subject to a perpetual cycle of emotional and physical abuse. ‘Food played a very negative part in my life during those early years,’ she explains. ‘We never ate as a family; I was often forced to eat yet never fed properly, existing on a diet of deep-fried foods and little else.’ Unsurprisingly Justine developed an eating disorder, resulting in her being malnourished. Her relationship with food reflected her relationship with her parents. Her father left the family home when she was nine, but things didn't improve.
Says Justine: 'Instead of it bringing relief, my mother’s behaviour became increasingly worse.' Her survival instinct kicked in, and she began to plan a way out.
During a spell working weekends at a shellfish bar in Cornwall, Justine’s boss recognised how troubled the 13 year-old was and invited her to spend more and more time with her own family. Her saviour loved to cook, and it was there that Justine at last felt a sense of belonging. The negativity that Justine had understandably associated with food gradually dissipated as she enjoyed home-cooked meals with her new family.
'I realised the positive impact good food can have, especially when enjoyed with those you love,' she remembers. This turned out to be pivotal moment in Justine’s future; by the age of 16 she had left home and would not contact either parent again.
Fast-forward nine years and Justine's lightbulb moment came as she chatted to someone who worked as a chef on a super yacht. She knew that's what she wanted to do, so spent every penny she had training as a chef and booked a one-way ticket to Palma de Mallorca to begin her astonishing journey. She has just launched her first recipe book, and he reason I'm telling you about it is because it's really, really good.
While I’m not one of those terrifying clean-eating fanatics, I do like to cook healthy food (apart from when I bake - I’ll be the first to admit I’m of the old-school refined sugar and butter brigade). Due to ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel disease) I can’t tolerate many of the ingredients used in ‘alternative’ baking, such as coconut/coconut flour, nuts in large doses (such as for a cheesecake base) nor can I digest much in the way of fibre. This probably explains why nobody invites me for dinner. Justine’s recipes, however, make me wish more than ever that I still had a colon because I want to EAT IT ALL. The good news is that while I can't, you can, so I’ll be running some of her delicious recipes over the coming months to give you an idea of what the book is all about. They are all refined-sugar free, which is just what we need after months of burying our heads in the biscuit tin. They're also very easy to follow, so there's no getting your knickers in a twist over complex and befuddling instructions.
What you'll love about this book the fact that it’s so versatile – there’s everything from simple flatbreads that you can make in less than an hour to beautifully vibrant paella that looks so good I almost ate the page. Oh, and there’s pizza, slow-roasted lamb shoulder (I don’t eat lambs because I love them too much so you’ll have to cook that for me) and whole roasted sea bass that makes me want to slap myself for not choosing to cook for a living. There’s pistachio ice-cream, dulce de leche cheesecake (you'll put on two stone just thinking about it) and a blueberry tart that’s the most goddamn beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Go and buy it. Now.
WIN A COPY OF MYMUYBUENO! All you need to do is comment below and tell me what meal you’d ask Justine to cook for you if you won Euro Millions and the four celebrities you’d most like to be lounging on a yacht with while you eat it. I’ll choose a winner on 30 June. Go!
The Mymuybueno Cookbook: 160 Refined Sugar-Free Recipes for Everyday Eating in Your Busy Life’ by Justine Murphy is out now (Meze Publishing, £25) on sale at Waterstones
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