With the opportunity to be creative, use ingredients from local markets and create lasting memories for yacht guests, a yacht chef position can be a truly wonderful job.
But how to get started?
Despite having no previous professional cooking experience, Lorien has a great story of landing a yacht cook position. Here’s what she told us during our chat!
Well, I had no formal cooking experience but I love food and cooking. I was able to start on a small 75 foot (23m), private yacht. The owner had simple taste and in the beginning, gave me her favorite recipes to work from. Over time I began to experiment with my own ideas.
The captain liked what I was doing, so I was able to keep on that path!
Time management was really important. I didn’t like to use any premade food items. I wanted to make everything fresh from scratch and that was time-consuming. It was hard to know what to prioritize in the beginning.
Having all this fresh food also made storage a challenge when we were out at anchor in the Bahamas. I had to plan exactly what was needed for our trip, but not have so much there was nowhere to store it.
Occasionally, when we took on new guests, we were able to fly in fresh food with them, so that helped.
The act of cooking and preparing the meals was really fun 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 fun, and I liked bringing enjoyment to the guests and owners.
Getting to shop in markets around the world as the boat traveled was also an amazing benefit!
Actually, I’ve found that many captains prefer cooks who aren’t formally trained.
A chef trained to work in a 5-star restaurant may create amazing meals, but they aren’t necessarily equipped to work in a yacht and deal with the challenges of a tight space, limited storage, or the lack of available ingredients.
Ultimately, your credentials aren't important. What matters is if the guests are happy with the food and that you are easy to live with on a yacht. In my case, I was able to elevate the owner’s day with my cooking, and this made her happy.
Your ability to get along with other people and work together is critical. As you're all living together in a relatively small space, you'll get to know the other crew and the yacht's owners extremely well, so your personality is important.
You want to be someone who is enjoyable to be around and that's sometimes more important than your level of cooking skills.
It’s so important to know the guests' expectations. Some owners just want steak and potatoes every night and they don't want elaborate meals. Other guests might want international cuisines or 5-star service every single night. You have to know your guests if you want to succeed as a yacht chef.
I’d encourage someone coming into a chef role to ask about the level of service expected. Do they want formal 3-course meals or family-style? What are their favorite styles of food and what do they prefer to avoid? 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 know any food allergies and be familiar with special diets.
You’ll want to know what the expectation is for crew meals. Will the crew have the same food as the guests or something different?
Creativity! Getting creative with the ingredients you have is critical. Knowing how to adapt your menu if you’ve got a surplus of something that might go bad or if you need to stretch out something you’re short on. You'll also want to repurpose extra foods. All of these skills will make your life easier as a yacht chef!
Menus are really important. In the beginning, I talked to other chefs and got ideas or borrowed menus and recipes that were proven in yachting 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. It's important to know you've got all the necessary provisions when you're 200 miles from a store!
Thanks so much, Lorien! We love your perspective and it's so great to have your advice for aspiring new yacht chefs!
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