One of our favorite things here at FreshYacht is sharing success stories from our students!
Today, we’re talking with Vicky. She launched her superyacht chef career (in 2020, no less) after completing our course Superyacht Chef Academy, and has not looked back since.
If you’re on the fence about making a career change or feeling paralyzed by the need to learn about a new industry, Vicky’s story should inspire you to make the leap!
I was born in Kenya and grew up in France where I attended culinary school.
After I graduating, I had a summer job cooking on a 35m yacht in Corsica, France. Looking back I didn’t realize yachting was something I could actually pursue as a career, so I walked away and took other jobs mostly within the restaurant and hospitality industry - serving and bartending.
A number of years later, I started thinking about yachting again. Once I completed the process of getting my U.S. citizenship and made arrangements for a safe space for my dog, I was ready to focus on making the move to working on a yacht as a career - not just a seasonal job.
I started the process in earnest in January 2020. I completed my STCW safety training, ENG-1 medical certificate, and took food safety & hygiene level 2 - but all of the paths I saw were to become a stew/interior crew, and I didn’t think that was what I wanted. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next.
I ended up getting a job with National Geographic in a stewardess position, hoping to just gain some experience on their circuit from Mexico to Alaska - but then the COVID-19 lockdowns started and that job was put on hold.
It ended up being an opportunity to look at my options again because I knew I didn’t want to become a stewardess. I started researching other options, and decided I really wanted to become a yacht chef - but I didn’t know how to get there. That’s when I discovered Tracy Ireland’s Superyacht Chef Academy.
It was a scary decision! I’m older than many people making this kind of career change, and stepping away from everything I’m used to, starting a new career, managing the finances - it was scary.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I could do it - but I found like anything, if you are thrown in and work hard, you figure it out.
It was difficult, though, especially in the beginning. My first job was on a large yacht, cooking for crew in the shipyard. The sheer volume of food needed - I was preparing meals twice a day for 20-30 people, seemed huge. But I kept reminding myself, that even if I failed - at least I tried.
And once I settled in, I was able to use the tools from Superyacht Chef Academy, and with determination, it worked out for me.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the stress level! That sounds funny, but it’s true. While it’s busy, it’s totally different from the stress I experienced working in restaurants. As a server in the restaurant industry, you’re juggling tickets coming in all the time with rapid turnarounds. It’s all very reactive.
Working in the galley I have more control over my environment and time to do what I need to do. It’s stressful at times and a lot of work, but it’s a totally different kind of stress.
Plus, in my experience, working as a chef felt more like a leadership position on the boat. I had my own cabin, I was respected by the crew - I took good care of them and respected them too. It’s certainly a two-way street. But, I enjoy that part of the job and the yacht crew community.
The hardest thing for me at first was taking on the shopping and provisioning. The first time I went shopping, it took me 4 hours! I was all over the place. I realized I couldn't do it that way again, so I created a template to organize a list of what I needed. The next time it only took me an hour and a half.
Time management and organization are so crucial to succeed in this job. When you’re cooking for so many people, you need to have a plan. Every week I had a menu set for 7 days and I worked with that. I had something on paper, if I had to change it or adapt, I could - but I had a framework. I told myself, I’m going into this prepared!
Superyacht Chef Academy was incredibly helpful. There’s nothing in STCW or any other courses you can take in the maritime schools that would prepare you well enough for the galley. No other program teaches you how to manage a galley. So much of what’s out there is focused on stews and deckhand jobs, or captains and engineers.
Don’t get me wrong, those programs are awesome but soooo incomplete for chefs. I felt like without SCA, I’d be blindsided and wouldn’t know what I’d be doing nor what to expect.
Tracy’s classes were awesome and amazing, and even after the course, she’s encouraged me and helped me gain confidence. She’s been by my side and I consider her my mentor.
If you can’t cook, the course probably isn’t for you. But it’s there to teach you how galleys on yachts work.
You can be the best chef on the planet on land, but once you’re out of your land kitchen, on a boat, where you have to manage deliveries, storage, provisioning, food rotation, not to mention prep and service on a moving boat! - it’s a whole new challenge. The SCA templates were so handy to help with this.
A focus on chef skills and know-how is one of the biggest things that’s missing with other schools out there. There are courses that focus on stew/interior tasks, flower arrangement, all those things -but there’s nothing specific for galleys, so if you want to improve, it’s up to you. You have to be extremely resourceful.
I would like to stay working on yachts for a long time. I want to get better at what I do and work on charters and move between boats.
I’d like to travel more and expand my skills. I’d love to study sushi making in Japan, or travel to Mexico to learn how to prepare authentic Mexican food.
One reason I went back to complete my ship’s cook certificate was because it sets me up to work on bigger boats, and gives me more opportunities to expand my skills.
Do it! Get the certifications you need. There are a lot of resources out there. Take online classes and talk to others online and connect on social media. Be resourceful and network - although you can’t network as much in person right now, there are still so many ways to connect.
Also, know that yachting has a certain culture, but you can be a part of the crew community and stay true to you. You can be as social as you want on the yacht.
I love the calm and the beauty of the yacht and working in the galley on my own schedule. Others thrive on the party culture that can be common - you can really choose what works for you.
Finally, I’d tell anyone wanting to start this career - as a chef or anywhere on a yacht - it comes down to being smart, being professional, and doing the work. You’ll have to make some sacrifices and make healthy life choices, but it’s worth it!
We are super-excited to see where Vicky's career takes her in the coming years!
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