Transition to Superyacht Chef
Stuart didn’t know the first thing about the superyacht industry before landing in the South of France for a change of scene, bit of sun and a break from working as Chef in UK hotels.
Working in a restaurant by night, he met some crew members working on yachts in the marina and before he knew it picked up some day work, painting, washing, cleaning tenders and climbing the mast. “I had absolutely no deckhand training or experience, I was a qualified Chef but working nights in a restaurant in Nice wasn’t bringing in much of an income and the people I’d met onboard were so friendly, helpful and grateful I was a quick learner.”
How did you get your first super yacht job?
“I fell into a completely different world, picked up more and more day work, anything from scrubbing decks to cleaning out the bilges and hoovering the salon. I’d lunch onboard with the crew and the stewardess who was doubling up as Chef said she could do with some help and I jumped at the opportunity.”
What’s your role now?
“20 years later I’m still working on superyachts but as Sole Chef. I had to pick things up quickly but then I was self-employed from a young age, I built up a network of suppliers to stock the yacht, plan menus for owners and/or charter guests and do exactly what was asked of me.
What was the hardest thing in the early days?
“The language barrier, although English is widely spoken in this industry, dealing with suppliers in a different language was a challenge, especially when it came to specific or unusual requests.”
What’s changed over the years?
“20 years ago, there were no mobile devices so crew had to rely heavily on word of mouth, getting in front of people. Also, the requirement for qualifications was not as regulated as it is now and wasn’t always for the benefit of the individual, a highly qualified Chef for example might be asked to take a City & Guilds cooks course?”
Have you done both Private and Charter?
“Yes, I’ve done a mix. The charter scene is fantastic for the young, it’s a good way to build up a bank of experience, it’s hard work, but you get out what you put in, be friendly and enthusiastic and that upbeat atmosphere will rub off on the guests and if the guests have had a great time they’re more likely to tip generously.”
Does age matter?
“I don’t think age is an issue if you’re First Mate, Captain or Engineer, I actually think the more experience you have the better. By contrast though, I think deckhands are probably better suited to young men and women. Guests prefer to be taken out on jet skis and excursions by younger crew.”
What’s the worst part about living onboard 24/7?
“I don’t sleep particularly well, sharing the tiniest cabin and cramped washroom, that’s not great.”
And the best thing?
“Mixing with people from different cultures, nationalities and backgrounds.”
Any career highlights?
“Travelling to amazing places. 10 years ago, I was between jobs and was asked to help manoeuvre a yacht down to Monaco. We met in Cap D’Ail, hopped on a helicopter, flown 200ft above sea level whale and dolphin spotting, spent a couple of nights in amazing hotels, dined with the crew on a beautiful yacht, travelled to Corisca where the yacht promptly broke down, then flown home in a private jet. I was paid handsomely, enjoyed every second and threw a grand total of 2 ropes!”
As Chef, you must have to cater for varying food tolerances?
“It can be tricky, I was on a yacht with 9 crew and had to create 5 different dishes every single meal because of various intolerances, allergies and dietary requirements. It’s hard to accommodate 24/7, especially on a tight budget with limited food stores and minimal time and space for food prep. Crew have to appreciate that the primary focus is the guests, but I am mindful that the health and wellbeing of the crew is partly down to their diet and if they have particular food intolerances, I need to know whether it’s for diet, preference or health reasons, in which case of course I’ll accommodate in whatever way possible.”
Any tips for newbies?
“Make friends with the Chef, he or she’s feeding you after all!!”