Yacht Chef, How To Become One!
If you have read my blog, you probably now know a little bit about the yachting industry. What you probably didn’t know, is I was able to get a job on a yacht as a crew chef with no experience.
Being new to the yachting industry, I took the first job that came my way. I had no idea that it is was going to be cooking for the crew.
I assumed the only job I would qualify for, would be a stewardess or a deckhand. Cooking had always been a passion of mine. I always loved doing it, but never wanted to work in a restaurant as a chef.
Seeing how much they worked and how little restaurant chefs got paid, I steered clear of it.
I’m here to show you that it is possible to get a job as a chef onboard luxury motor yachts and just how you can land your first job.
First, let’s look at what type of chef job positions are actually available on yachts.
Chef Jobs On Yachts
Before yachting, I thought you had to be a Michelin star chef to work in the kitchen of a Superyacht. I didn’t realize that there are lots of different chef positions on yachts.
Yes, there are a lot of chef positions where you need to have worked in high-end restaurants. However, there are a lot of positions where this much experience isn’t necessary.
A lot of times yachts are looking for a temp chef, someone to come in when the boat is not on charter and cook for the crew while the main chef is on holiday.
Cooking for the crew is one of the most important jobs on the boat and it is always in high demand. So there are always plenty of jobs in this department to choose from.
It is also a great entry-level position. If you have always wanted to be a chef and didn’t want to pay for culinary school, this can also be a great way to do it. You are able to get paid to work with high-end chefs that will train you to be able to cook for guests.
Here is a list of galley jobs (roles in the kitchen) you are likely to find in yachting.
Most boats that are over 100 meters will have a galley hand on board. This is a great entry-level position for anyone looking to join the galley department within yachting.
You will mainly be in charge of keeping the galley clean. Everything from pots, pans, and floors, to managing cleaning schedules and learning maintenance of how big boats operate.
You will have a little hands-on experience with assisting with crew food, but you will get to work closely with the other crew chefs.
Hopefully, when one of them leaves the boat, you will have enough experience to work your way up to crew chef.
This position is more common on smaller boats, but some bigger boats will sometimes have a split role. A split role is where you are one position with guests on and another with guests off. Split positions are great for entry-level “greenie” roles.
On smaller boats, you will be a stewardess and a chef for the guests at the same time, which can be very time consuming, but it is a great way to find out which role you prefer.
Smaller boats tend to have a more personal relationship with the owner and they tend to take the crew out for dinners more often. On larger boats, you are less likely to see this.
In my experience, the crew chef s the most important role on a yacht. You are responsible for keeping the crew happy. This involves being up to date with their ever-changing diets and making sure every crew member’s needs are being met. This can be very challenging when trying to cook for 10 + crew when they all have different preferences.
If the crew are not happy with the food, it tends to show in their performance. It’s not like they can just hop off the boat and feed themselves, so it is important to keep them happy.
No one likes to be hungry, especially when you are crazy busy and food is the only thing you have to look forward to.
It is demanding, but also very rewarding. You have more freedom than just cooking for the guests.
This is also a great way to get your foot in the door in the yachting industry. Since a lot of boats will sometimes look for dayworkers for this position or temp workers.
A sous chef’s main job is usually cooking for the crew, but it is also to assist the head chef with cooking for the guests and owners when they are on board. Every boat differs a little and some boats will have a crew chef on board as well as a sous chef.
Sous Chef is one step below the head chef and normally covers the head chef when they are away on holiday. It is a great entry-level position for anyone with chef or restaurant experience and looking to break into the yachting industry.
The head chefs main focus is to make the owner and his misses happy. Usually, they tend to have very specific needs, and the head chef is there to make sure they are being met. They normally don’t assist with crew food unless they need to.
They have put in their time working their way up to this position, so they normally don’t put in the effort unless it is for the owner.
It is always a good idea to be nice to the head chef and always offer to help them out, they have a lot of knowledge and can teach you Michelin star techniques for free. Watch them, learn from them. A big part of being a chef is stealing with your eyes.
Things To Know Before Becoming A Yacht Chef
Before becoming a yacht chef you are going to need to ensure you have all your tickets up to date. To work on yachts you are going to need your STCW 95 and your ENG 1. I explain more about these in my blog post on how to get a job on a superyacht!
It also might be a good idea to get your Ship’s Cook Certificate. This is not necessary if you only plan on working on smaller sized vessels, or superyachts that have under 10 crew. But if you are wanting to work on larger vessels it would be a good idea to get it before you start looking for work.
The Ship’s Cook Certificate is a 2.5-day course that will test your skills as a chef. If you are not culinary trained and you want to work on larger vessels. You will need to complete your Ship’s Cook Certificate. Also, it might be a good idea to take the training course before the test.
I have known culinary chefs with lots of experience and whom have worked on yachts for many years almost fail it. And you do not want to fail it, because it is expensive and if you fail it you don’t get your money back.
It is meant to test your skills as a chef. Testing your technique and knowledge. It is also meant to test how you well you work under pressure. Your knowledge of recipes and baking. You are given only the ingredients and measurements. And you have to know how to combine them to create the dish they ask of you.
I never obtained mine and I was able to find work on yachts! But if you are wanting to work on larger superyachts, it might be a good idea.
Yacht Chef, Why I decided To Become One
Starting off in yachting, I quickly decided that I belonged in the galley. There are a lot of benefits to working in the galley. I love eating and I realized it was a lot easier deciding what I was going to eat if I was the one cooking it.
It also tends to be a faster way to work your way up to a higher paying position and you have fewer people to report to. As long as the crew is happy and you are keeping them well-fed, you are free to do what you want.
I also realized pretty fast that I didn’t really enjoy walking around the boat cleaning it with a q-tip. You have to find what position is right for you in yachting.
When you are starting off in yachting, sometimes it is better to start on a smaller boat in a split role, this way you will find your right career path and where you enjoy working. When you are working 18 + hours a day, you want to make sure you enjoy doing what you do.
Why Yacht Chef Jobs Are Better Than Land-Based Jobs
Working on a yacht as a chef is completely different than working on land in a restaurant. You are working for the rich and famous, you tend to not have a budget. Therefore you are able to work with the best ingredients at all times.
The main goal is to keep the owner and/or guests happy. Supplying them with whatever their heart desires. You get to taste some of the world’s finest ingredients because you can’t serve it to the owner without tasting it first.
As a yacht chef, you will have access to all the ingredients your heart desires.
You will have Kobe beef flown in from Japan, truffles flown in from Italy, and saffron imported from Morroco. There is no need to worry about cutting costs or trying to make a profit from ingredients.
The main goal is to make sure everyone on board has a meal they will never forget. Cost or budget is never a thing you have to worry about. You will get to play and experiment with ingredients you never would be able to in a restaurant.
Being a chef in the real world sucks! You work long hours, holidays, and you have nothing to show for it. Working on a yacht as a chef you will get paid 5x what you would make working in a restaurant. Since you are living onboard and have no expenses all the money you are making goes directly into your pocket.
You have no food expenses, no car, and no rent! The only bills you have are entertainment and investments. Yachting is a great way to get ahead in the world.
Also if you happen to land yourself on a charter yacht, the tips are unreal. You can easily double your salary in a month with a heavy charter boat, and since you will be working non-stop all that money just goes straight into your bank account.
Working in a restaurant can get boring, you are making the same dishes day in and day out. The menu rarely changes and if the menu does change, you are normally stuck to the same types of cuisine. In yachting not only do you have the creativity to create different cuisines but it is highly encouraged to keep the crew and guests entertained.
You can play and make your own dishes, constantly change things and not have to repeat the same dishes over and over again. Every day is a playground not only with ingredients but top-end kitchen appliances.
It is never a question of can we afford it, but how fast we can get it. If you like experimenting with food, yachting gives you the flexibility to do so.
Yachting chefs do not have it easy by any means, we are the ones in the galley 24/7 making sure everyone on the boat is well fed and happy. You will probably work longer hours at times than you would in a restaurant, but that time gets rewarded.
Every yacht has different standards for time off, but the chefs are the ones that usually benefit the most. If the owner of the yacht likes you, you are likely to get more time off when he is not using the boat.
When you go on to work on bigger yachts of 100 + meters, most chefs work 2 months on and have 2 months off. When you are working, you are working, but when you are off you are free to do what you want.
If you have ever had a desire to travel, becoming a yacht chef is right for you. You will get to travel the world, live on a million-dollar yacht, and see amazing places.
Eat-in 3- star Michelin restaurants while the owner pays for it. Drink expensive wines you have never even heard of. You will get to eat and drink like the rich and the famous because it is your job and you are getting paid to do so.
Personal Chef Jobs
If you have worked as a chef before then it is much easier to get a chef job onboard a yacht, they are always looking for chefs with experience. You just need to prove yourself in the industry and get your sea legs. Once you land your first job onboard a yacht, it is much easier to work your way up the ladder.
The more people you meet in the industry, the easier it gets to get a job. Also when you decide that you don’t want to travel anymore and you are ready for a more stable life, having been a chef on yachts sets you up for becoming a private chef.
Yachting is a great industry to join for anyone wanting to travel and make a ton of money while doing so. It is hard work, but very fun and rewarding. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get paid while traveling.
How To Become A Yacht Chef
As I mentioned before there are many different jobs on yachts that you can choose from. You have to decide what you want to do depending on your experience. It might be a good idea to start on a smaller ship with only your STCW 95 and ENG 1 before you decide to get your Ships Cook Certificate since it is expensive.
There is no point investing $1200 on your Ships Cook Certificate if you are not going to be happy working on superyachts.
Once you have your tickets you need to make a kick-ass CV and start networking. I have a step-by-step guide here on everything you need to do to ensure you get a job on a superyacht How to get a job on a Superyacht!.
Becoming a yacht chef is an amazing experience. One you will not regret. So are you ready to be a chef on a Superyacht?