According to legislation introduced by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in 2014, under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 all chefs on commercial vessels that operate more than 60 miles offshore with ten or more seafarers on board must hold a Ships’ Cook Certificate of Competency (SCC).
The Ships’ Cook Certificate, however, has been a bone of contention for some time now and is still causing confusion among yacht chefs. “I interview and work with yacht chefs everyday and the most frequent request for advice is concerning the SCC and how it effects their careers on superyachts,” says Efrem Leigh, founder of YachtChefs.com. “Since 2014 many hundreds of yacht chefs have taken the assessment and obtained the SCC, but chefs are still enquiring if they need to sit the assessment or if their land-based chef qualifications exempt them or not.”
Justine Murphy, CEO of mymuybueno Private Chefs adds that those culinary trained chefs that have spent many years on land and in yachting are, quite rightly, both frustrated and appalled that they should have to spend out more time and funds for an assessment as to essentially prove what their experience and existing qualifications already do. “However, this is the case, the industry is shaking up, and in the long term it is only but a good thing,” she explains. “If a vessel has more than ten crew, and is commercially registered, the chef must hold their SCC. As I have said to many chefs that in the next years ahead, those who have it, will have their choice of roles and not be limited."
"I have said to many chefs that in the next years ahead, those who have it, will have their choice of roles and not be limited"
Tante Marie Culinary Academy is one facility in the UK offering the Assessment in Marine Cookery – the Ship’s Cook Assessment – which is a vital component to achieving the full Ships’ Cook Certificate of Competency. An important point to note here, however, is that this assessment is not the Ships’ Cook Certificate. “I have seen so many chef CVs claiming they hold the SCC, yet the upload on their profile is that of a marine assessment certificate only,” cautions Murphy, adding that, once the marine assessment is completed, there is more work to be done.
“Firstly, the MCA application form must be printed and carefully filled out, and sent together with all certificates: STCW including security awareness and any renewals, a valid ENG1, MCA-approved Food Hygiene Level 2, and the marine cookery assessment certificate. Sea service must be shown in Discharge Book entries, or Certificates of Discharge, or sea service testimonials signed by the master. Proof of at least one year as a chef or as a cook in a professional working environment and, finally, two full face UK-approved passport photos, one of which must be countersigned by a professional. You can send the originals of your certificates, or, I advise to get notarised copies made to send, as then you are not left in a position that you can’t join a vessel because you are waiting for your documents to return.”
If the above is done correctly, then the Certificate of Competency will be issued. “I would also strongly advise, before sending everything off, to call the MCA directly to ensure there are no delays and also to read the guidance notes that come with the form, as some chefs must send more or less than others dependent on their experience in yachting, and/or catering,” advises Murphy. “It is better to 'over send’ documents if in any doubt."
While the procedure to obtaining the SCC is relatively straight forward for those in the know, Leigh believes that the MCA could be doing more to clarify certain factors for yacht chefs. “It would be really helpful if the MCA could issue an update clarifying an official list of the MCA-approved Marine Cookery Assessment centres for the superyacht industry around the globe,” he explains. “I know of four centres in the UK and France alone offering the two-and-a-half-day assessment. As the SCC has been around for many many years there are also the main SCC centres that service the commercial shipping industry and offer their own courses over much longer periods.”
For Leigh, the other most contentious issue for qualified or culinary trained chefs is knowing whether prior accreditation for their personal chef qualifications is acceptable or not. “From what I understand the MCA does accept prior accreditation for a list of qualifications from England, Scotland and Ireland, but they do not accept any from other countries,” Leigh comments.
Leigh’s key advice to chefs is to always contact the maritime authority in the country where they trained and ask them if they accept their qualifications. “This might mean the chef getting the SCC from there without siting the assessment,” he comments. “I know that those in New Zealand and in Australia allow this as long as the chef's STCW and ENG1 are from that country.”
For now the Ships’ Cook Certificate is set to stay in the superyacht industry and is something that all yacht chefs looking to progress on a variety of yachts should look seriously into.
Images of Tante Marie Culinary Academy