How to become a super yacht chef: First steps

Right Folks,

This one is primarily for those of you contemplating a career move from land to sea, but also for those of you who are merely curious to know what does it take to become a superyacht chef. This post is part of a series, because there is too much information to cram into it at once. So, I will give you my insight and advice on the matter. You can take as little or as much as you want from these, but I feel to it is my responsibility to share this knowledge. I have been working in this industry for 12 years. I have worked on big yachts and small yachts, private yachts and charter yachts. These are the things I wish I had known when I started. The things that would have saved me a load of time and energy. So, here are my first few basic tips for those of you wanting to become superyacht chefs.

  1. Have the appropriate background - If you are seeking a job on a superyacht, even a relatively small one, you need to have a solid kitchen experience in an established restaurant/hotel.

  2. Find yourself an agent - Read the rest of this post to find out why

  3. Last, but not least, you should probably know how to swim. This one is courtesy of my 9 year old son, who piped in after he overheard me talking about this post with my wife.

If you are interested in becoming a superyacht chef, you are most likely aware of the biggest draw, which is the money. Indeed, this job allows you to still cook at a high level while being paid quite a bit more than what you are probably used to right now. In my case, it was not even so much about the money, instead I was starting to feel burnt out at the ripe young age of 25. I felt it was too late to change career, something which I bet most chefs at the top level contemplate. I still loved food and I didn’t want to “step down” from fine dining and work in a brasserie or a cafe. I still loved cooking but was entirely fed up with the grind of day to day service. I was fed up of waking up every morning at 5am having only slept 5 hours, finding my way through public transport in London, killing myself all day with service, working lunch and dinner shifts then finding my way back home on public transport. I knew there had to be a better way.

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Then, a friend of mine went down to the South of France and got himself a job on a yacht. He told me about it, of course. The tax free salary and the chance to still cook at a high level. He also told me stories about the fresh food markets, being your own boss (sort of), unlimited budget (sort of), and glamorous locations. Not surprisingly, I thought that it all sounds brilliant and thought I would do the same.

I travelled down to the South of France on my first few days off. I was not sure what I would find when I got there. I knew that some large yachts were in Cannes, Antibes, Nice and Monaco, but my friend told me to head to Antibes. I found a hotel and, armed with a fistfull of CVs/resumes, headed towards the massive-looking yachts. Here is my first big tip: do not do this! I have since discovered yachts and crews do not want to be bothered with chefs (or anyone else for that matter) “handing” in CVs. Some people will tell you to have a business card ready with your CV, or stand out in some way. Stupid things like bake some bread, or show them a skill. Again, don’t do this.

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Yachts that desperately, urgently, immediately need a chef, are always badly run madhouses. If you are looking for a regular salary month after month, these yachts aren’t what you are looking for. I didn’t have much luck. No one that has come to the back of a yacht I have worked on in 12 years has ever been offered a job.

If you do get yourself to one of the yachting hubs, like the South of France or Florida, find a yacht crew agency. (You can of course also email or phone crew agencies.) There are a few yacht chef Facebook pages, but in my opinion 90% of the content is crap. They could perhaps be useful if you want to put the word out that you are ready for the land-to-sea switch. But my advice is find an agent. The agents I use to employ my chefs now, and the agents I have used for myself in the past, are top quality, skilled, knowledgeable agents, and I will write more about them in a later blog.

That’s all for this time.

Michael