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The life of a Superyacht Chef

I started off in the industry in 2012 on a 28m Sunseeker which was an extreme learning curb as I’d come from a very tough London restaurant culture. Here, I ran a team of nine at a high-class city brasserie and by the age of 23 I was broken in and hardened by the industry. With this in mind I believe I entered Yachting with the wrong attitude, my first season was difficult in many regards, but the hardest part of it all was learning to work together with a seasoned Chief Stewardess. We operated in the same space (galley/pantry) and at times I reverted back to how I was trained in the Restaurant industry and there were also times when we did not agree on things. Now, looking back I know this was not the right attitude and thankfully I have grown as a Chef and as a person over the last seven years!

The way I run the Galley now is very calm and fun as I am surrounded by professionals. We enjoy listening to techno and the strokes as loud as we can all day while hard at work. It is really important in order to keep a smooth running of the department to have the whole team on your side, from cooking for the crew and the captain, to supporting the engineers and most importantly maintaining a good relationship with the service team.

I have found that the Yacht owners themselves are looking for Michelin trained Chefs, but don’t require this level of training within the Interior Service team. So, at the end of each season we brought in external trainers and team builders like Peter Vogel as a reminder that we as a unit can always improve and that there’s always more to learn. In addition to this, we have different systems onboard that allows us to run the department to a Michelin level for every meal that we put out and we are also very lucky to have almost free rein of the menus and no set budget from the boss with minimal dietary restrictions on board!

In 2017 Sarah Sabastin invited me to judge the MYBA Chefs competition in Port Vell, Barcelona. This was an all-round amazing experience. Previously, I had placed 1st and 2nd in the past two competitions that I entered so I was in an ideal position to relate to the chefs! Back in 2017 the other judges with me where Antonio Mellino of the two Michelin star restaurant Quattro Passi and Fran Agudo the Head Chef of Tickets with one Michelin star and under the Adria brother umbrella, it was interesting speaking to the judges back then and as a whole I believe the general consensus was that the competition has been improving year on year.

I have seen over the last 7 years a new breed of yacht chefs coming in to the industry and the majority of them that are getting the good jobs are coming out of fine dining and Michelin Restaurants – This is a good base level of training as the restaurants teach you discipline and a real eye for detail and almost all of these chefs have a built-in 17 hours a day work ethic – As we all know though this is just the start of being a seasoned yacht chef as you have to be able to cook across the board to a really high level. I see it as if my owner was eating at Nobu, we’d have to provide that level to him and his guests and the same goes for any other world-renowned Restaurant and cuisine / style.

For this reason, I particularly love this job as you are always looking to improve on a large range of culinary style. On board the yacht we are so lucky to have worked with the boss for a long time and can now fully understand what he likes – When it comes to chartering this is where the rest of the styles really play a massive part to the success of the charter – I have found if you can understand the client within the first day and they are happy, you are going to have a great trip.

15 months ago, I set up the galley on a 77m new build which has been really rewarding from the purchasing and leasing side with the guys from the yard to sourcing a great Sous Chef which I have been really lucky to find. I wanted someone who was hungry to learn, as I went through the CV’s I found the one that stuck out. Dom was already five years in to the industry and had worked in many fantastic fine dining restaurants around the globe, Cutler and Co, Melbourne – Australia, Dinner by Heston (Two Michelin star) London – UK, La Villa Madie (Two Michelin star) France. We hired Dom mainly on his stage experience and in the interview, he came across as passionate and hard working.

I try to Stage at least two restaurants a year and this has led me to work in many of the world’s top restaurants with 21 Michelin stars between them  – I am very proud of this and have realised that Staging has really shaped me in to the chef that I am becoming now  – With one eye on the past I am also always looking for the next challenge.

Having just been up in Norway for a week of research and development at Maaeno (3 Michelin star) which is currently 33rd in the world on the San Pellegrino World’s top 50 list and Restaurant Kontrast (one Michelin star) Restaurant in Oslo – In doing Stages like this every year, I believe we can bring fresh styles and techniques to up our game season upon season and also keep me and the team interested which also is very important.

We work very closely with a few selected provisioners and in this I find it allows them to get to know us as we are very aware of their product ranges!

There is still lots we can improve on, one of the things I want to try and do this year is work on my southern Chinese cuisine.  In addition, another thing that has been very rewarding recently has been teaching a two-day advanced plating and presentation course at mymuybueno cookery school for Yacht chefs – It was really nice to design the course based on my past experiences and to see the students coming away happy with their new skills that they had acquired which will stay with them for life.

If I could give any advice for new Chefs coming in to the industry it would be to get away and travel and learn as much as possible on your rotation or holidays to keep evolving as a chef as the learning never stops.



The life of a Superyacht Chef

About the author

Charlotte Flake

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