- Operations - Ample opportunities for head chefs

By SuperyachtNews

Ample opportunities for head chefs

Results from Quay Crew’s Superyacht Head Chef Salary Survey shed light on the benefits of having highly sought-after transferable skills in the galley…

Head chefs are currently enjoying high demand for their skills, with some even accruing higher salaries than their captains according to Quay Crew’s first Superyacht Head Chef Salary Survey results. The data provides salary and package information for HODs in the galley department, revealing additional data such as the amount of land-based experience and professional training.

“Unlike other onboard roles, the galley is a much more fluid department, with Head Chefs able to join yachting later in their career and seamlessly flit between yachting and shoreside jobs,” explains Jasmin Gosling, Galley Consultant, Quay Crew.

“Salaries and packages, however, are not necessarily as relative to experience as they are with other superyacht roles. Yes, salaries generally rise with the size of the yacht, as does the amount of leave on offer, but there does not seem to be a strong correlation between professional experience and pay.

This is likely due to appointing and retaining a head chef is a somewhat personal choice. “If the owner/charter guests like you and your food, you will achieve good longevity and a better salary. Whether you have Michelin experience or not. This is another reason that longevity is lower than you can expect from other superyacht roles, with job mobility higher,” adds Gosling.

Image Credit: Quay Crew

More than 100 head chefs completed the detailed survey from a range of yacht sizes, notably, 80% of respondents were male, 19% female and 1% preferred not to say. Looking at the range of salaries, the lowest monthly salary is €5,000 on a sub-39 metre yacht compared to €16,000 on a 90 to 99-metre vessel.

Over half of head chefs are on time for time rotation, with this exceeding 80% once onboard superyachts over 80 metres. This data on salary and leave shows a weaker correlation between salary and leave amount for head chefs compared to other onboard roles. Typically, full-rotation salaries are lower than full-time salaries across various departments and yacht-size categories, but this trend does not hold for head chefs.

While 50 to 69 metres and yachts over 100 metres offer higher salaries for full-time or partial rotation roles, other size categories often see higher salaries for time-for-time roles or no significant difference. Nevertheless, both salaries and leave tend to increase with yacht size.

Interestingly, head chefs surpass all other HODs when it comes to pay raises and bonuses. They are the most likely to receive an annual pay raise, whether contractually or non-contractually, and at least 10% more receive a 13th or 14th-month bonus compared to Captains, Chief Stews, Chief Engineers, and Chief Officers.

Despite having shorter tenures onboard compared to other HODs, this indicates that yachts aim to retain head chefs who perform well for owners and guests. Further analysis shows that pay raises tend to peak around the three-year mark, possibly to discourage chefs from leaving.

Image Credit: Quay Crew

While longevity amongst head chefs is generally lower than with other HODs, with 46% being on their current yacht for less than a year, this can be expected due to the very personal nature of the role.

“The Chef role on a yacht can be exceptionally precarious. Food, presentation, style and cuisine preferences can vary hugely, even within the same family. Sometimes there are multiple different stakeholders with an opinion on what the food should be like. So these factors can mean the galley sees significant turnover,” adds Caroline Clarke-Jack, Director and Interior Consultant, Quay Crew.

“On the positive side, anecdotally we are aware of a few Chefs earning much more than their Captains because of the relationship they have with the owner. We are also aware of Chefs who have been looked after in other ways, far more than any other staff or crew member.

Head chefs also bring substantial professional training and land-based experience to their roles. On average, a superyacht head chef has 9.94 years of shoreside experience, with 90% having undergone professional culinary training and 63% possessing Michelin experience.

Nearly a quarter of the head chefs surveyed started their first onboard role before 2010, with some beginning as far back as the 1990s. Additionally, 32% joined yachting between 2011 and 2015, highlighting the ease of transitioning between land-based and onboard positions.

The data from the survey ultimately shows that, regardless of age or professional chef experience, there are ample opportunities onboard for chefs. Their specialist and transferable skills allow for easy transitions between land and sea, flexibility not necessarily seen in other onboard roles.

“As such, any good Head Chef can enjoy a successful career in yachting and onboard experience is not always important, nor does it impact the size of boat you could join,” concludes Gosling.

“More and more, yachts are prioritising land-based experience, resulting in many new entries to the industry. It all comes down to preferences and whether a chef wants to work alone on a smaller boat, have variety on a busy charter or come to satisfy the tastes of a private owner.”

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