It sounds like a dream job, but serving food on the high seas to the world’s elite comes with its own challenges.
People assume being a chef on a super-yacht – the kind you see in Hello magazine – is a dream job. In many ways they’re right, of course. But it’s not all plain sailing.
While I certainly get my fair share of azure seas and orange flaming sunsets, my days don’t consist of jet-skiing across the waves or baking in the sun. Friends assumed I was eating lobster washed down with chilled Sancerre, a light breeze flowing through my hair. Alas a day in the life of a yacht chef is very different. So let me set the record straight.
A typical full-charter day entails getting up around 5:30am to prepare a parade of freshly baked delicacies. Muffins, cupcakes, croissants, fruit salads. Bread: wholegrain, sourdough, white, wheat, toast, banana. Eggs: scrambled, fried, easy-over, poached, boiled, en cocotte, in a buritto, on avocado toast, with smoked salmon, mixed through quinoa… I could go on.
I’m not a pampered executive chef in pristine whites overlooking my entourage of line chefs. I am one person in an eight by ten foot galley. I am the sous chef, chef de partie, saucier, pastry chef, meat counter, fish counter and scheduling manager. I am the entire kitchen. In fact, I am several kitchens – the cheap and cheerful and the haute cuisine, the food truck and the sushi take away. I am everything my guests want me to be.
While a dozen guests are demanding breakfast, I’m mentally preparing lunch, canapés, afternoon tea, children’s supper, more canapés, a seven course dinner…Naturally I’ve forgotten to mention the guest on the blood type diet, the one who’s gluten intolerant, the vegan, the zone dieter, the guy who only eats meat and potatoes, and a captain who hates lasagna. Did I mention one is allergic to shellfish? And then, just to keep things interesting, one of the guests has been diving and wants me to prepare the sea urchins he has collected. And when I finally think it’s all over, the teenagers who have been out all day wonder if I could swiftly put together a few servings of steak frites for a late night snack.
I finally collapse into bed at 2am only for the phone to ring: a jetlagged guest has woken and is wondering whether it would be possible to make him a cheese platter and some fresh fig jam. When I finally get to bed, I wonder where on earth I am. I make a note to ask the captain in the morning. Out of the galley porthole, blue skies and blazing sun are much the same wherever you are, whether it’s St Barths, Martinique, the Exumas, the Azores, Positano, Hvar, St Tropez… And when you put it like that, it’s really not such a bad job after all.
Super, super yacht
The most expensive yacht in the world costs $1bn. The Streets of Monaco, which is still in production, incorporates a go-kart track, private beach and man-made lake, as well as tennis courts, casinos and a helipad.
A typical super-yacht menu
■ Chilled avocado soup, crab meat garnish, lemon and chive crème fraîche
■ Griddled scallops, pea and mint mash
■ Seasonal sprout and shoot salad, champagne vinaigrette
■ Halibut, watercress purée, seasonal vegetables
■ Fresh berries stack, lemon crème, almond tuiles
■ Variety of cheese, fig jam
■ Drambuie truffles