How did you become a chef onboard luxury yachts? Were you a chef first and yachtie second or vice versa?
After my apprenticeship and college, my brother Ryan, who was already working on yachts in Florida, steered me in the right direction. He knew I loved traveling and cooking and he showed me a world that most certainly incorporated both of those immensely. So I hopped on a plane and thanks to him and his connections, merged very harmoniously from land to sea.
At first I was definitely a chef primarily. But after a few passages that lead to a few seasons that lead to a few years, the “yachtie” in me became the prominent persona. It’s hard not to, you work breath and barely sleep yachting. Once I was in the industry just shy of 10 years, and charters were getting more and more complex with dietaries, frequency, guest requests etc that the galley began to consume me, 5am-11pm day in day out for weeks and weeks that sometimes stretched into months, morphed me into something beyond either, just an automated cooking machine with a good equilibrium.
Three days out from charter I will obtain all my dry goods and frozen, two days out any specialty items and proteins that I need to butcher/break down, marinade if needed and chryo vac.
Last day and this is when I will get all my perishable items such as fruit, veg and dairy.
This is to ensure I have the freshest goods when we hit the sea.
Can you share a bit about your trickiest experiences trying to get supplies onboard?
I was head chef on a boat in the South Pacific. We pretty much frequented some of the most remote locations possible. Sea planes were standard, and that’s pretty crazy to adopt the idea of a privately chartered plane landing in the middle of no where to deliver your goods with no land in sight - as “standard”.
From there it just got even more peculiar, trying to provision for 18 crew and that many guests in little stores designed to sell a live chicken or two and canned goods from the dark ages, I even had to trade a case of Veuve Clicquot for a tray of eggs off the shore of Fiji to make a birthday cake for a senator of the United States.
Do you have a favourite go-to dish for guests that you know will wow everyone and anyone?
I have the idea of my favorite go-to dishes, guidelines almost. This is because I tailor every menu to the charter guests like a $10k suit. EVERYONE is a food critic and a master chef on some level. I will adapt some of my favorite go tos as closely as I can to the loves and likes of the guests via their preference sheet in order to keep them (and pretty directly- Us) happy.
Sometimes it will work out that I don’t have 7 gluten ‘intolerant’, 10 dairy free, 4 vegans on board and I can just rock out worry free. However that hasn’t happened post 2010.
How do you prepare for one or two week charter? Securing necessities, making sure everything is stocked, etc.
I have a system - Lists, lists of lists and lists of lists of lists. I break everything down, and then subcategorize those lists and so on until every ingredients for every dish for every daily menu has been accounted for. (With a reasonable amount of contingency menus written up utilizing similar ingredients, however, showcasing them differently to allow for a completely different approach, this way I don’t have to get too many excessive ingredients on board to accommodate ‘difficult’ guests). Next step is to acquire all the goods in a timely manner. If there are specialty hard to find items requested, I will try source those first.
Do you have a favourite corner of the globe for the foodies out there looking for amazing/unique culinary experiences?
Oh wow. Tough question. My wife and I LOVE eating and are always on the hunt and find little gems everywhere we go. Notably of late was Melbourne and South Australia (wine region). Just an absolutely amazing trail of spectacular fresh dishes using exquisite ingredients and combinations. Also the luxury lodge of Australia - Longitude 131 in Yulara, NT are killing it using native ingredients and incorporating them into a fine dining experience. Just an education in itself. 5 stars!!!!