With the opportunity to be creative, use ingredients from local markets and the freshest foods from around the globe, and create some of the most lasting memories for yacht guests, a superyacht chef position can be a truly wonderful experience. But how to get started?
Lorien has a great story of becoming a superyacht chef, despite having no experience. Here’s what she told us during our recent chat!
How did you get started in yachting?
I first learned about yachting by happenstance, when I met a guy who worked as a superyacht engineer. My curiosity got the best of me, and I reached out to him to meet for a coffee. He told me more about his work, and we ended up getting to know each other. At the same time, I was looking at medical schools in the Caribbean, but ultimately decided that just wasn’t the right fit. Through my network and friends, I was able to get hired as a stewardess on a 75’ yacht.
Well, I had no formal experience, but I was working on a small boat, so as the stewardess I also was expected to take over the chef duties. The owner had simple tastes and provided me with recipes, so at first I just followed those. Over time, though, I began to experiment and start using my own recipes and ingredients. The captain liked what I was doing, so I was able to keep on that path!
In my experience, since I was filling both chef and stew duties, time management was really important. I was essentially doing two jobs! And for me, I didn’t like to use any premade food items, I wanted to make everything fresh, chop it and prepare from scratch. This also made storage a challenge. From time to time, when we took on new guests, we’d be able to fly in new ingredients along with them.
Another challenge for me was more mental. At first, I told myself, “You have a B.A., but you’re working essentially as a maid.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I felt I should be applying my education into a more academic field. But, I also had incredible moments in places I would never have experienced if I hadn’t taken this path.
The act of cooking and preparing the meals was really gratifying for me. I liked to make an art of it and would spend hours preparing meals. The creative process of combining flavors and creating a nourishing dish was very fulfilling, and I liked bringing enjoyment to the guests and owners.
Actually, I’ve found that many captains prefer chefs who aren’t formally trained. A chef trained to work in a 5 star restaurant may create amazing meals, but they aren’t equipped to work in a yacht, to deal with the challenges of tight space and limited storage, or ingredients that can’t be purchased on a whim. Ultimately, your credentials don't matter -- what matters is if your owner, or your guests, are happy with the end product. In my case, I was able to elevate the owner’s day with my new recipes, and this made her happy.
It’s so important to know the expectations. Some owners just want steak and potatoes every night, and they would actually be unhappy if you’re preparing fancy dishes that don’t meet their tastes. Other owners or guests might seek a unique experience every single night. You have to know your owner, and your audience, if you want to succeed as a chef.
I’d encourage someone coming into a chef role to ask about the level of service expected -- do they want 3-course meals or family style? What are their favorite flavors and styles of food? Once I know these things, I can take that as a starting point, and then perhaps offer something in addition.
It’s also absolutely critical to be current on food allergies or aversions, and you’ll want to know what the expectation is for crew meals - if they will have the same food or different meals throughout the day.
What is the most important characteristic for a successful chef?
Creativity! Getting creative with the ingredients you have, knowing how to respond and adapt your menu if you’ve got a surplus of one item that might go bad or if you need to stretch out something you’re short on, repurposing something into a few different meals -- all of these are skills that will make your life simpler as a superyacht chef!
Menus are really key. When I was getting started, I talked to other chefs and got ideas or borrowed menus and recipes that were proven in the yachting world and I knew would work.
I also took advantage of their expertise for building provisioning lists and learning how to shop for the menus I’d created. After all, you’ll need to know you have what you need when you are 200 miles from a store!
Thanks so much, Lorien! We love your perspective and are so happy you had this chance to become a superyacht chef!
Are you ready to start your own career in the galley? We’re going to take you there!
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