Working as on a yacht is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences a chef can enjoy—especially a chef who has worked in a Michelin star restaurant. The perks are advantageous, the views are overwhelming and the opportunities to meet celebrities and gain the respect of billionaires is boundless.
So what does working aboard a super yacht really entail for a chef? What are the living and working conditions? What kind of clients do chefs meet? What kind of downtime can chefs enjoy? Luckily, there are plenty of chefs who have cooked for celebrities on the high seas who have lived to tell the tale.
If you’re planning on becoming a chef on such a yacht, get ready for some of the best and worst work hours in the world. Many guests will request extremely strange dishes or ingredients that might not be readily available at every port. The chef is in charge of procuring such strange items (though he or she might send someone else to fetch them), so if an item is unavailable, it’s usually the chef who takes the brunt of the blame.
Guests can make these requests at any time—day or night. Many chefs are awoken in the middle of the night to help a guest curb some strange craving or nurse a drunken night of debauchery. These requests usually come after the chef has worked all day preparing the day’s meals and put together a feast for a huge party.
Private and Rented Yachts
For a rented yacht, many celebrities and socialites will pay nearly half-a-million dollars a week. Some chefs work on rented yachts like these where their bosses are the owners of the ship or the company that maintains the ship. Other chefs might work privately for one billionaire who owns his or her own ship. Both offer some perks and downsides.
Chef who work with only one client tend to find a symbiosis with the billionaire, getting to know his or her likes, dislikes, hours and special dietary needs. Chefs who work for rented yachts need to relearn all these requests over and over again with each client. If a chef does not like his or her boss on a private yacht, the chef is stuck with that billionaire until a new job can be found. Conversely, many chefs complain about some billionaires they are forced to work with on rented yachts but are only stuck with these people for several days or weeks—not permanently.
Whether or not a chef works on a private or rented yacht, there’s a good chance he or she will get to meet a fair share of celebrities. The ones who work on rented yachts might see a large variety of celebrities wandering through the galleys while a chef on a private yacht might only run into a few here and there.
Many chefs become yacht chefs because of the respect and gratitude they receive each night. On many ships, hiring a chef that has worked at a Michelin star restaurant is considered a huge perk to guests, so many of the guests request to meet the chef or ask the chef to enjoy a glass of wine or champagne after an exceptionally good meal. It’s at this moment that all the high-maintenance requests, demands and crazy hours actually culminate and resonate with the chef.
One of the biggest perks of being a chef aboard a yacht is the opportunity to travel the world and experience other cultures. Though chefs might not get the opportunity to go ashore at every port, they can often sneak off to “procure special ingredients” for the evening’s meal, sample the foods of a particular culture or country or enjoy a meal at an exotic restaurant. Though a large majority of the time is spent working, there are still endless opportunities for exploring different regions.
While the celebrities and rich clients who stay aboard these yachts often get some of the most stylish digs in the world, the crew will often get the shaft, forced to share tiny cabins with other crew members. Since the chef is considered one of the highest employees on the totem pole (and often is considered somewhat of a celebrity too) he or she might get some of the best living arrangements onboard.
Even if you’re a chef who’s lucky enough to score a nicer cabin than the rest of the crew, you’ll be living aboard a floating vessel for most of the year, in close quarters with everyone else. If you don’t like one of the crew members, it’s almost impossible to avoid that person.
Though cooking for celebrities aboard a fancy yacht has its perks, it also has a few downsides. The working conditions are not idea. Chefs generally work in tiny kitchens that are equipped with the simplest tools. They generally share this space with the rest of the crew and sous chef.
Though many celebrities and clients are very courteous and kind to the chefs, many of the staff members can feel a little disillusioned by the lack of respect that some clients show for the hired help. They can be needy, overbearing and a little over the top.
Though the hours are crazy, the clients are kind of insane and the working conditions aren’t the best, many chefs still fight for jobs aboard yachts. The opportunity to cook for celebrities and challenge themselves in their craft can make any chef yearn for a spot on the high seas.