We’ve got a great feature with accomplished yacht chef Ely Reyad. Read on for his interesting story of how he became a chef onboard yachts!
I have always been in love with food and what a person can create with different ingredients.
I have never worked as a chef before, and I didn’t receive formal training at one of the big culinary schools, I have just been cooking since I was a little kid and learning from the best, my mum.
I was born and raised in Egypt in a family of nine and as the youngest, I got to shadow my mum a lot.
I moved to the US in 2006 and started waiting tables to get by and I always found myself in the kitchen helping chefs and cooks during busy times. I worked hard until I found myself in hotel restaurant management. While managing two restaurants and a bar in one of the busiest hotels in Pittsburgh, I also found myself working closely with the executive chef there and helping him create menus for upcoming events. He trusted me with what I had to say (not sure why!) but he did. He had been doing it for years so I don’t think he really needed my help, but he always included me. Before I knew it, I was helping in the kitchen more and more too.
I never thought I would become a yacht chef but I was convinced to leave my sales job in Miami and to give yachting a try, so I did, and here I am!
How do you prepare for one or two week charter?
I tend to work on smaller boats so space is always a struggle! But I’ll take the preference sheet for 8-10 guests and begin to break them down to proteins, veggies, starches, fruit, sweets and so on. I take the things that all guests agree on, then I build a menu for me and order things based on that.
To maximize the freezer space I have, I always portion everything out before I freeze them and I vacuum seal them individually which makes life much easier!
I write down what I am going to make for at least the first three days of the trip – things that all guests agree on (things they all like) that tends to keep you in check and keep you calm during the charter. I then normally go out and provision for things separately – I will go out today and secure all my dry goods, tomorrow I will do my fish and meat, and the day before charter I will get all my veggies and fruit. That way you don’t really forget anything.
I have had shipments delayed two days while we were at anchor and we had to move somewhere else so I had to come up with food for guests who just stepped on the boat and were unaware of the situation. However, these days you can literally get anything you want in a matter of hours if you are willing to pay the price.
Do you have a favourite go-to dish for guests that you know will wow everyone and anyone?
I have one dish that I always go to, yes. Everyone (usually) eats chicken, so I use a chicken thigh skin-on, bone-in and turn it into one of the best tasting chicken dishes you will ever have with wine and mushroom sauce and I always do that the first night the guests are onboard. I have never had any feedback other than “this is the best chicken I have ever had!” so that tells me it’s a winner.
Do you have a favourite corner of the globe for the foodies out there looking for amazing/unique culinary experiences?
I have travelled so much in the last few years outside of yachting – the Middle East is always amazing BUT I was just in Japan three months ago and travelled there for a month. The culinary scene there is absolutely INSANE. I also always tend to go back to South East Asia. Thailand and Vietnam have been two of my favourites there and I also highly recommend Hong Kong. You can have a Michelin starred meal there for $10-15 USD and the amount of small Michelin starred restaurants there is crazy, they are on every corner!