Madison is an experienced Chief Stew who's had a chance to work on yachts ranging between 55m and 85m in size, both private and charter. This has enabled her to really get to know the industry and understand the intricacies of working as a Stew onboard luxury yachts.
In Madison's words, '(Stews) are baristas, mixologists, concierge, sommeliers, babysitters, first aiders, therapists to billionaires, logistic coordinators, material specialists, seven-star hotel cleaners, stock rotators, inventory creators, small hole fitters, fine finishing's specialists and so on. ' The job of a Stew really is an all encompassing one, which is why Madison decided to share her knowledge and create a course aimed at helping green crew start their journey in the industry.
We've had a chat with her to find out more about her experiences in this role, challenges the green crew is facing when entering the industry and her advice on how to excel at the role of a Stew onboard a yacht.
1. What attracted you to yachting and the role of a yacht Stew?
I saw the travel opportunities, youthful like-minded community, and a once in a lifetime chance to work on billionaire's playgrounds. I honestly don't think I completely understood the role of a yacht stew until I stepped on board.
2. Can you give us a quick overview of your yachting career?
I've been in the industry for 6.5 years, working on boats from 40m up to 85m in size.
I started on a very busy boat which saw me completing my first season by working 90 days (boss on) in a row – I managed to get more 'guest on' experience than people who had worked on board boats for 2 years (but I was tired)!
I was offered a promotion to 2nd Stewardess early in my career, and Chief Stewardess after just three years. I loved charters and made that my non-negotiable when job-searching. I worked hard and chased positions based on my career goals.
3. What are your strengths as a Chief Stew? What is something you particularly enjoy or are good at?
I am a strong believer that you can achieve respect from your team without being the Chief Stew that people fear or can't talk to. I always aim to be a genuine, honest and realistic crew member, as we are all just people at the end of the day.
4. How do you see the role of a Chief Stew in regards to overall guest satisfaction?
Guest satisfaction comes back to the training, professionalism, and vibe from the entire crew. When crew aren't working well together, it effects the entire guest experience.
As the face of the interior, you are responsible for your team, but you are also the voice and first point of communication for your department. All departments need to be working cohesively with each other for the best crew and guest experience.
Happy crew = happy guests.
5. What are 3 things you look for when hiring Stews for your team?
PERSONALITY: I want to feel their personality ooze out across their CV and their social media profiles. I'm a big social media stalker when I see a CV I like, I want to know if they are going to hold themselves appropriately infront of guests, and blend well with the crew. You can usually get a good feel for someone over the phone too.
POINT OF DIFFERENCE: Where has this candidate tried to better themselves, what are their passions, what are they bringing to the team (whether that's being a tarot card reader or an excel obsessed ex-office girl).
CARE: If someone doesn't put effort into their application, my expectation for them stepping on board wouldn't be high. If a CV/email reads well, it's well thought out and there aren't spelling or grammar issues – I see potential for someone who is going to give me that same level of detail at work.
6. What are some misconceptions about the job of a Stew?
That there is no skill or training involved in our jobs and that anyone can do it.
We are baristas, mixologists, concierge, sommeliers, babysitters, first aiders, therapists to billionaires, logistic coordinators, material specialists, seven-star hotel cleaners, stock rotators, inventory creators, small hole fitters, fine finishing's specialists and so on.
The amount we have to know and learn is unreal. And we're doing it all while dinner service is going on, you're running down five flights of stairs for another bottle of wine, updating the galley on guests movements, letting housekeeping know which cabins are free, and trying to figure out how to deal with a guest laundry emergency before it's too late.
7. What are the challenges you see for junior crew entering the industry?
The most common mistake I see is people accepting the first offer they get. It is a challenge to turn a job down when you so desperately want your first break, but understanding that not accepting a position because it doesn't suit your personality/goals, because it won't allow longevity is power.
The other hard to avoid challenges are joining a boat without high standards, or an unwilling leader to teach. If a boat isn't giving you want you need for long term growth and a strong skill set after your first season, it is time to start job-searching again.
8. What would be your tips for someone just joining yachting to pursue a career of a yacht Stew?
Become a sponge, absorb and watch everything your Chief Stewardess / 2nd Stewardess does (even things you don't like – you can learn from them too).
Ask questions about why you do things, it's the best way to learn the reasoning behind jobs, rather than just 'do-ing'. If it's not a good time to ask or they are busy, Google it after.
Start thinking about the things you enjoy doing on board (floristry, mixology, wine, housekeeping, service, leadership) and research training paths within your first year so that you can build your unique skill set.
9. You are currently working on creating an online course aimed at helping green crew start their journey in the industry – what can we expect from the course?
It will be a complete A-Z for aspiring stews who have no yachting experience, and are just starting out - but want to follow proven steps that will lead to landing and nailing their first job on a super yacht so that they can feel confident stepping on board.
The first foundation round of the course will be available as an online group coaching experience and there will be limited spaces available to create an intimate learning environment and the most personal support from me.
10. Working your way up from junior Stew to Chief Stew is a process that requires great skill and dedication. What are some things you've learned through your journey?
If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Systems and organisation are everything, excel/documents in general are your best friend. If something hasn't happened to the standard you expect or was done incorrectly – it likely comes down to poor communication and lack of direction on your part (sorry)!
If someone isn't performing to their usual standard, there is probably a reason. Stop and find out what is happening, rather than jumping straight to frustration.
Lead by example. You can't expect a junior stew to work at 80%, when you're working at 50%.
You can't 'fake it till you make it', you need to invest time and money into your growth so that you can show what you are bringing to the team when asking for a promotion or pay rise.
Be a team player with your department and others, the end goal is only reached if all departments are winning – so foster an environment where everyone helps each other. Yes that means jumping off your laptop and returning some laundry if you're finished.
11. What are some of your favourite destinations you got to visit while working in yachting?
How long do we have.... ? If I had to choose one favourite for time off and one for cruising it would be Antigua and Turkey.
I love time off in Antigua because it's so raw and different to the luxury we're surrounded by all day. It's the dirt roads to crystal clear beaches, being served Pina Coladas from beach shacks, having an endless list of things you can do, and all the crew going out to the same bars and restaurants every night (which makes socialising very easy).
As a cruising ground, I am in complete awe of the Turkish landscape as it feels like you're in Jurassic Park every time you look out the pantry window.
12. What were some of your most memorable moments of your yachting career?
Pulling off my first charter season as a Chief Stewardess with crazy amounts of theme nights and parties, with best friends by my side
Getting to attend McQueen's Flower School in London for a week
Hearing the news that we had each earned a €13,000 tip for a ten day charter
Attending multiple Antigua Boat Shows, placing a few times in the tablescaping competitions, and dressing up with the crew for the end of show themed parties
Teaching mixology classes to the interior
Getting an offer of employment from my dream boat
13. Where can we follow you to get more information on the courses you are preparing?
If you are an aspiring stew (or have friends who are), I would suggest following me on Instagram @madisonjay__ (as I'm always sharing valuable info) and you can click the link in my bio for access to free downloads and links to website articles on how to become a superyacht stew!
Are you ready to find your new dream job onboard a yacht?
Become a member of YPI CREW through a free registration and let us connect you with the next step in your career.
Each of our recruiters is specialised in crew placement for a particular department and they will do their best to get you an interview onboard a yacht. They will also advise crew on how to best present their experience and skills and prepare for a yacht job interview.
Are you looking for yacht crew for your yacht?
Get in touch with us so our recruiters can connect you with suitable, available and interested candidates, whose credentials will be checked and candidates will be pre-interviewed and ensured to be a perfect fit to your existing crew.
You can get in touch with us today by clicking here.