Insight: How to become a superyacht chief stew
By Georgia Tindale
When it comes to sectors that have been drastically impacted by the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is safe to say that the hospitality and other service industries have shouldered their fair share of the burden. The mass closure of restaurants and bars around the world, combined with the restrictions on both domestic and international travel, has led to countless individuals within these sectors losing their positions and facing uncertainty about the continuation of their entire sector going forwards.
Speaking now from the second quarter of 2022, with something closer to ‘normality’ having been restored across the hospitality and service industries, it is the ideal opportunity to reflect on the realities of these roles, and the opportunities which they can bring for those looking for a change in career direction. And, when it comes to a service-based role, it doesn’t get much better or more outwardly appealing than working as a chief stew on a superyacht. Here, we catch up with South-African born Cantleigh Groenewald, who has been working as a chief stew for more than five years on yachts ranging from 40-93 metres, to learn about the day to day realities of the role, as well as how to land your own spot on board.
What does a superyacht chief stew do?
You wear many hats! You are basically the head of an interior department, which then branches off into lots of different areas. The main focuses are the housekeeping of the boat, laundry, guest services, as well as provisioning, staffing and crew relations. Other than that, it’s kind of like being the mum of the boat! You are there to look after the crew, and the guests, and make sure everybody is happy and healthy.
How do I become a superyacht chief stew?
There are various routes for you to progress into the role, whether that be through gaining relevant experience, taking part in courses, or completing onboard training. There is not a single route in. There are a lot of rewarding and great courses to help you prepare, but there are also a lot of gimmicks out there that are just an opportunity for people to make money. I did an initial stewardess course that I found somewhat helpful in preparing me for my future roles.
I would suggest if you don’t know much about laundry and housekeeping already, that you should start with one of these courses. They also will also teach you little things about etiquette that will go a long way when you get your first job.
Can you train on the job as a chief stew?
Boats offer training as you go, and every boat, no matter what you learn, runs differently, with every chief stew having their own way of doing things. In addition, people often don’t realise the importance of ensuring that your wine knowledge is good, so I would strongly advise doing a wine course. As a chief stew, you will be entrusted with some truly beautiful bottles, so you really need to know how to look after them properly!
What top three personal qualities do I need to succeed as a chief stew?
You need to have plenty of self-discipline, as there will be a lot of tasks that need to be completed outside of normal working hours. Patience towards others is another big one, and I would also say that it is important to be caring. I have a very maternal nature – I want to look after others – and I have found that has gotten me far in terms of my career progression.
What is the salary of a chief stew?
It is very broad: a chief stew’s salary can range from 4,500-8,500 euros per month, depending on the size of the vessel and your level of experience.
What are the highs and lows of your job?
In terms of lows, it is definitely the distance from loved ones. My wife and I don’t work together, which has been extremely challenging this past year with Covid especially, as it can be hard to want to keep on going when there isn’t an end game in sight.
In terms of highs, it comes down to the people. I’ve made the most incredible friendships with people from all around the world. I still chat with people from my first crew all the time. My life is five times bigger than I ever expected it could be, and there is also a real sense of community that we have created from social media as crew.
What would people be surprised to know about working in yachting?
People have no idea about the hard work and the hours you have to put in. You get people in absolute shock after their first trip: everyone thinks that they get it, and then they realise! I think they also don’t realise how rewarding this industry is. There is a lot more to it than earning money: you evolve so much on a deep level, people just grow, and I don’t think people expect that from joining yachting.
Can working in yachting be a long-term career?
Absolutely. It can so easily become one, even without you expecting it! Plenty of youngsters join yachting for a quick gap year, and then realise how rewarding it is, and that it is a real job, not just a bit of fun! I would take it over a land-based job any day.
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