The food and dining experiences offered on board a superyacht are some of the biggest attractions to potential and existing owners and charterers, often with the promise of Michelin-starred meals, but the recruitment of superyacht chefs is notoriously difficult. Stereotypes of egotistical chefs have unfortunately become cemented in our industry and the confines and stresses of the galley mean this role on board will often see high turnover for such a small on-board department.

However, John Bowman-Baker, managing director of chef recruitment agency Gladstone Park Chefs, which holds the CVs 45 chefs with Michelin Star experience, six of which with three Michelin Star experience, believes there is a gap in the market for a surge of Michelin-starred chefs to join our niche industry and who, he feels, are better suited to the role of a superyacht chef.

The demands of a superyacht chef can differ greatly to that of those based on land. Credit: Shaw McCutcheon

“There are many problems with working at sea. Supplying a yacht that is constantly on the move is a simple logistical matter, but coping with the exactitudes of leading people and sometimes their fickle friends can cause the failure of the best of chefs and there have been some disastrous results using people not trained or qualified to service this quality of client. A Michelin Star trained chef knows what to do in all eventualities and they know how to do it in a good grace. The shouting and yelling Michelin Star chefs on the television are far and few between. A Michel Star-trained chef just gets on with it, confident of his skills must most importantly confident that if anything goes wrong he can put it right. That is the true strength of this type of chef. Also, unlike a lot of talented head chefs, they can do it alone without junior chefs.” explains Bowman-Baker.

Another factor that many don’t like to admit, but cannot refute, is the importance placed by so many in yachting on appearance. A large number of owners and management companies will not employ crewmembers with tattoos or crewmembers who smoke and, according to Bowman-Baker a number of chefs fall into this category. “[The chefs] have to be compliant with the needs of the yachts. No facial hair, no visible tattoos, no smoker. We had a chef who had worked as head chef  at a two Michelin Star restaurant for twelve years. Sadly we were unable to place him because he liked just one cigarette after his shift.”

"Simply put, there is not a large enough supply of these chefs within the yachting industry, so the industry has learned to compromise and take the best of the rest."

However, the recruitment sector is not at present utilising this pool of talent, explains Bowman-Baker. “Simply put, there is not a large enough supply of these chefs within the yachting industry, so the industry has learned to compromise and take the best of the rest. Most chef recruitment agencies cannot afford to spend the time on complicated and time-consuming negations for [a superyacht] chef, even if they have a suitable applicant. The captain or owners are unlikely to look in the direction of chef recruitment agencies because quite simply it is a waste of time, so they seek out chefs they need from one of the many reputable crew agencies, confident that at least they will get their person and that person will be reasonably fit for the purpose.”

Luckily, more events are arising to showcase the skills of the chefs of today’s superyacht industry, such as the Charter Chef Competition at the 2013 MYBA Charter Show, raising the profile of the superyacht chef. For now, however, it will be interesting to see the number of chefs of the Michelin Star world migrating to the land of shiny white boats.

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