Does the idea of preparing and crafting meals on a luxury yacht sailing the open seas sound glamorous? While it can be an extremely fulfilling career, any yacht chef will tell you just how much hard work catering to people with refined tastes and high expectations can entail. Yacht chefs are intimately acquainted with confined spaces for long hours and away from home for months at a time. Of course, they also get to see some of the world's most exotic places and make lifelong friendships. With that in mind, we've put together five tips to make life as a yacht chef easier.
1. Listen to the owner and guests
Cook for the yacht's guests, not yourself. That might sound obvious, but although you are a talented cook, it doesn't mean you should create the entire menu as a platform to showcase your most ostentatious culinary skills. Listen to your owner and their guests; they will have very discerning palates and strong likes and dislikes – just as you probably do. They are also paying a huge amount of money and are on holiday so treat it more as a 5-star hotel experience where they call the shots. Sometimes guests will crave something basic like a toasted sandwich or comfort food. Don't be offended when they opt for simplicity as it's not a reflection on your ability.
Make sure that every guest fills out a preference sheet and pay attention to their eating habits. For example, does the owner prefers soft or al dente pasta? Does his wife like pan-seared or baked tuna? The details matter, particularly when it comes to dietary requirements and presentation. Consult with them and you'll be able to include your creative vision and panache to dishes they want to eat.
2. Feed the crew well
Yacht chefs sometimes forget or neglect to feed the crew well. The crew are your onboard family and also work incredibly long hours, so a decent meal can be the highlight of a tiring day for them. Cooking boring, bland food won't endear you to your team. Preparing a tasty and nutritious range of meals will win their appreciation and loyalty. A well-considered combination of meals from the crew members' home countries can work wonders to lift spirits and create a happier yacht charter for everyone. You never know who will be working on the next, even better boat, and your crew can be an excellent source of referrals with captains and yacht crew recruitment companies. So it's better to have them singing your praises rather than grumbling with their mouths and stomachs!
3. Plan in advance and prepare for the unexpected
Yacht chefs are expected to have a broad range of culinary skills, techniques and experience working on yachts catering to different nationalities. It doesn't matter whether you've worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant for years, yacht chefs should be skilled all-rounders who can cook (and clean up after) everything from an omelette to a souffle. Time and space management skills are essential for yacht chefs who need to provision and prepare food for guests and crew while maintaining good hygiene. You need to have provisions in place for most of the charter but also be flexible enough for sudden changes to the menu. Always have a back-up supply of options and the contact details of a reputable yacht provisioning agent that provides worldwide delivery to the most remote locations.
4. Personalise the menu and service
Small personal touches go a long way in the confined space of a yacht for weeks on end. Take note of guests with dietary requirements such as gluten intolerances or diabetes and try to work alternatives into the general menu as much as possible so they don't feel they are missing out. Serving guests with thoughtful snacks and treats such as handmade local delicacies from a recent destination is usually a welcome surprise. Pay attention to national holidays and prepare something from the guests' countries to celebrate. Stay on top of food trends as yacht owners often like to be the first to try new the hottest new dishes and cooking techniques.
5. Don't forget the children
Everyone is happy as long as the children are well-fed and happy. Kids are notoriously fussy eaters, but yacht chefs can cook their way into parents' hearts by preparing healthy and nutritious meals that their children actually want to eat. Do this by making a kid-friendly menu of colourful, 'fun-looking' food made into faces or cut into bite-sized pieces and different shapes. You can also let the kids decide what they want to eat for one night. Some chefs (with the parents' approval) might occasionally invite the kids to the galley to be mini-chefs creating their own pizzas and ice-cream sundaes.