Tips on how to become a successful yacht chef.
Do you want to sail the seven seas? Live on a floating palace? Go on incredible adventures, travel to tropical islands and cook for wealthy VIP’s, celebrities, and maybe even royalty? Are you good in the kitchen or dream to become a chef? Then start thinking of a career as a yacht chef! Here are some insider hints and tricks to get you started!
If you have a formal culinary degree and you’ve done time slaving in high-end kitchen, this would be an enormous advantage. But people also get positions by attending short cooking courses. The Superyacht Cookery Foundation course is solely geared to cooking on yachts. So it’s not impossible to land your dream job if you are not a certified chef just yet.
If you’re applying on a yacht which runs with more than ten crew, it’s mandatory that you hold the ships cook certificate of competency (SCC). If you’ve had a formal training you can apply with the MCA. This will grant you the SCC certificate for a small fee. Otherwise, you’ll have to do a 2 ½ day assessment with one of the cooking schools (like secret de cuisine in Antibes). For smaller or private yachts, you won’t need this certificate.
Once you have that sorted, get your STCW’10 certificate. This mandatory course teaches you about safety and security on boats. It’s a fun and exciting course which takes six full days. It’s taught by a lot of different schools around the world.
The next and final step is your medical exam. Find an ENG1 certified doctor near your and pass a simple health test. With this in your pocket, you can start looking for your dream job!
Build up a good CV and portfolio
Your CV is probably the most valuable tool to land you that job. Make your CV look professional, clear and to the point. Try to get all the information on one or maybe two pages. Highlight your experience and skills regarding the job your applying for. Put in your referee’s information, so that they can be easily contacted.
Consider paying someone to write your CV. I contacted Ulrike Spanjar from Dutch superyacht services. She made some amazing changes to my CV and I got way more call backs than before. Money well spent!
If you’ve worked in restaurants before, you’ll probably have a few good food pictures already. If not, think of doing a professional photoshoot to promote your dishes and build up an online presence.
Think of Instagram or upload your food pictures on Facebook. You can also put them in the cloud, so you can share them with crew agents and potential clients/employers.
I also highly recommend you to build a website with a short biography. Again some food pictures and maybe a few sample menu’s. Show people what you and your food are about!
Network, Dock walk, Network
To land your first job, it’s super important to get out there and network your socks off. Most of my job opportunities come from my network. Which consists of crew agents and crew I’ve met in bars, crew houses and social events I’ve attended.
Consider going to a major yachting hub like Antibes (South of France), Palma (Mallorca, Spain) or Fort Lauderdale (Florida, USA) and stay at a crew house. This will give you the perfect opportunity to visit the local agency offices, and introduce yourself in person.
Prepare yourself before making a visit to an agency, register online at their sites. Without your registration, they won’t be able to help you. Bring a stack of CV’s. Design a nice business card with your contact details, and hand them out whenever you get the chance.
In crew houses you’ll meet lots of people who are there for the same reasons as you. Befriend them, and they’ll be an excellent source of information for available jobs. Throw them a BBQ at the crew house, and they will definitely recommend you if they know of any chef’s jobs! You will possibly make friends for life on the way!
When you’ve introduced yourself to the agents and you are waiting for that call, make the most of your time and go dock walking. For chefs, it’s less important than for deckies or stewardesses who are looking for day work. But it’s still a good practice and a way to get yourself known. Bring your CV and business cards. Ask crew on the docks about any potential job openings on-board or just leave your CV in their shoe basket. Stand out by adding something special, like a little box with a sample of home-made chocolates or a small bottle of your best vinaigrette.
Yes! You’ve got the job, now keep it!
Congrats! Probably after many rejections (be prepared for that!), you finally landed yourself that job. Now the hard part starts.
Working on a yacht can be very stressful. Most of the time the jobs are very demanding. You will be putting in a lot of hours. You won’t see your family and friends very often. If you want to become a successful chef you will have to put up with a lot of shit. But if you can stand it, you are in for a treat! Personally I love the travel, the places I can spend my occasional day off and of course the money.
Some pointers to make your chef life easier
• Treat the crew as family and feed them well! Don’t be that chef who feeds his crew dry pasta or eggs every day. Prepare healthy crew meals before a charter. Everybody works really hard, their meals are often the only thing to look forward to during a busy week of charter. I’ve heard so many stories about chefs neglecting crew food. Remember, the crew are your best and loyal customers. Treat them with respect and they vouch for you on their next boat!
• Ok, your food rocks! It’s nothing but delicious and you won multiple awards! Kudo’s and well done, but please don’t cook for yourself. Cook for the owner and their guests! This was one of the first lessons I learned being a yacht chef. Most owners or charter guests have very distinctive palates, and they know what they like and what not. Cook for their palates, not your own! We as chefs sometimes have big ego‘s and think our food is the best. Your clients are very well off and visit high-end restaurants all the time. Sometimes they just want to have some comfort food, so please don’t be offended. Read the preference sheets carefully and try to get as much information about their taste as possible.
• Be prepared for anything! And by anything, I mean anything. Your guests are paying big bucks to spend their holidays on floating hotels. They change their minds as often as the wind changes, so be prepared for this. I always have many options ready to go. Give them options and they will love you for that! Only ‘NO’ is not an option in my galley!
• Wealthy people often love the new food trends. Be in the loop and stay aware of those. Read the current top chefs books, eat at their hot and trendy restaurants and do an occasional course/workshop. Even better, stage at their favorite restaurants if you get the chance.
• Provisioning is hard and sometimes even impossible. So, get your cold and dry stores in order and keep them tidy! Get enough provisions to cover most of the charter. Top up accordingly by the many wishes of the guests. Have some products in your freezers, but don’t overdo it. In my time I have seen freezers piling out with unnecessary amounts of food. Leftover guest food can always be eaten by the crew. They will thank you for that! Keep within budget and don’t waste. Even though the clients are not short on money, waste is waste and should be kept to the minimum.
• Hygiene. This is also a major issue sometimes. I have seen galleys so dirty, I needed a whole week to clean! Don’t be that person who doesn’t care. First of all, it is dangerous. The last thing you want is to poison a crew member, or even worse: the boss and his wife! Secondly, be a proud chef and show off your immaculate galley! It says a lot about you and your work ethic. Thirdly, this is probably one of your boss most prized possessions. A superyacht needs to look like a superyacht. Be respectful and keep it clean!
• Difficult and headstrong (chief)stewardesses. Oh boy did I meet a few of those. Sometimes they don’t have a high-level service background and no idea about food what’s so ever. But they’ll still try to boss you around or tell you what to do. Be patient! Try to educate them in a friendly, positive manner. I know it is hard, but you will need to work togheter. You don’t catch flies with vinegar
You all live in a high paced and closed environment, and a yacht is not the right place for any drama. Be professional and put your ego aside for the best of the boat. Opposed to that, it also important to put your foot down sometimes. Choose your battles wisely, the seasons are long!
• Last but certainly not least. Enjoy it! Fucking enjoy it! Nobody became successful by doing things they hated. Live in the moment and be grateful that you can showcase your talents on a floating palace. Live the high life. Meet beautiful people from all around the world, Drink good wine and eat fantastic food! Enjoy the travel and all the other perks of being a yachtie!
Good luck with the job hunt!
Don’t be discouraged by some rejections. Have a little faith and perseverance, and you will find that perfect job! I hope to see you out there sometime. You can buy me a drink when you landed your first job and cashed those well-earned tips! Please add your comments to the section below or drop me a line on Facebook!