Monday, August 31, 2009

Interview with a Yacht Chef: From Corporate America to Yacht Chef!

Mega yacht Lady Moura in harborImage via Wikipedia

Interview With a Yacht Chef:
From the Corporate World to Yacht Chef!

We recently caught up with a young yacht chef. What was extremely interesting was that this young woman went from a very structured corporate job to becoming a chef on a yacht in pretty short order.

This is - I think - an undeniable courageous and gutsy move, and I wanted to learn more about this yacht chef and what makes her tick, as well as if she's had any run ins with Jay Z and Beyonce! (who I perpetually think of on a yacht!)

We will call our chef, Delicious Lola, because she isn't really allowed to talk about the yachts she's worked on / or is working on because the very fancy clientele likes to keep their life as anonymous as possible!

But first, check out this video titled "I'm On A Boat." If you haven't seen Andy Samberg (SNL) & T-Pain on this yacht, you gotta click here! I was hoping Lola would tell me this is what it's like on the yachts, but you watch this and read the interview and tell me :) (and yes, I have been looking for an excuse to post this video!)

Can you give our readers a little background on yourself?
I live in Naples, Florida, but only in the interim while I'm off work. I'm 35 years old and have a background and formal training in the medical field, but have in the last 6 months taken a sabbatical from the corporate world and am working as a chef on private yachts.

What is a normal day like being a chef on a yacht?
Your day starts at 7 or 7:30 a.m. and ends when the galley closes or when your guests or owners are finished with the eating bit. But, generally speaking, it all depends on the boat and the people on board.

What are the kitchens like on a yacht?
It all depends on the boat, but the last kitchen (known as a "galley" in boat terms) that I was cooking in, was a bit like cooking in a fancy industrial restaurant kitchen complete in stainless steel and everything you need to cook pretty much whatever you want.

You typically have walk in refrigerators and freezers that hold enough food for up to 6 months. The boat where I was cooking had an original plan to make a 7 year trip around the world prior to losing a fortune in the Madoff scandal. Upon entering the freezer for the first time, I found a huge (as long as me, but skinnier, especially after chefing) Mahi Mahi. The previous charter included Russians that spent the majority of time fishing and caught huge fish like that which were stored in the freezer.

What is the strangest request you've gotten (food) to make?
Actually, to sit back and watch the owner make his own carrot cake (while he was ten sheets to the wind) which was the most disgusting thing I've seen to date in the galley. Oh, and then to have to sterilize the entire galley after finding out that the night before, he christened the entire galley with one of his concubines.

Are you on call 24/7 to make food for the people on board?
He*% No.

What are the rooms like?
The rooms are lovely and not at all like the servant quarters some people perceive. I have stayed in very nice rooms with lavish linens and plasmas on the wall. You usually have a nice kitchen seconds from you with anything you need, and of course, I usually bring my cappuccino maker on board as well as my own wine (which I'm learning is a bit unnecessary).

What has become your most popular signature dish on the yacht?
Sea Bass (secret concoction but with Asian spices and a miso soy teriyaki glaze finished with rosemary and fresh herbs). I also love to make a tagliatelle Bolognese which is not your typical Tuscan style Bolognese. I'm not a huge chicken fan, but I have made some great roasted chicken as well as my favorite things to make including: crab deviled eggs, pan seared Ahi tuna, grilled Lobster tails, roasted brussel sprouts, crab cakes/salmon cakes/tuna cakes, Texas cowboy burgers, and of course good ole mashed potatoes or Parmesan risotto.

How did you come to be a chef on a yacht?
I pretended to be one. I have no formal culinary training, but grew up in an Italian family with an Italian mom, and most recruiters and owners/captains in yachting agree that there isn't really any difference for these purposes. I have always been an intense home chef and get so passionate with fresh herbs, organic meats, and amazing carbs ... yes, the best things in life like pasta, Naan bread, orzo, gnocchi, and risotto.

What is the interview process like to get a chef job on a yacht?
Lots of phone calls and submitting of menus or maybe menus that would work for that particular owner or guest depending on their preferences. As you can imagine, most of them have extremely specific preferences as would anyone that is spending the cash for their own yacht (up to 150 K per week to charter) and staff for a week or more. Then, you are usually on a trial period to see if you "work out" with the owner/guests, captain, and other crew members.

Have you seen Jay Z and P Diddy yet?
Jay Z and P Diddy cannot afford yachts like the ones I'm working on, and I recently saw Jay Z's boat in Ft. Lauderdale, and it is a smaller boat. I don't want to sound uppity, but I know that Jay Z does charter in the Mediterranean because his boat cannot functionally go there, and these artists don't have the cash for this. The only people chartering large boats that I know of from the musical world include Barbara Streisand and Diana Ross. Most of the large boats are privately owned and would never let P Diddy charter their boat (I have personally heard these words!)

How did you make the decision to leap from Corporate America to being a yacht chef?
I always felt that although I had been well trained for what I was doing in medical, I did somehow possess other gifts. In America and really everywhere, we sense this attachment to our careers and once we have met our goals, we lose (or at least I did) a sense as to why I was there and really not caring that I had succeeded financially in my mind.

I really do enjoy cooking and after working in a very left brain world reading clinical data, I was hoping and craving something in which to explore my creative vibe and artistry. It sounds a bit cheesey, but I cannot say more positive things about making this shift in my life, and yes it IS scary to change. We all really don't want too much change. And, when you make lots of changes, and if you have this Type A think going on, like me, you occasionally freak out. But, life is a journey and you ARE the one on this journey, but you do not always have to control everything in your life. Don't expect your happiness to come from wealth, ego or approval from your family and friends. Allow yourself to create your own individual happiness, and if this means that you need to make a career change, then don't deprive yourself of this, whatever it costs.

Thank you Delicious Lola, and happy yachting! Let Team Wilson know when you are in NYC, your signature dishes sound FAB!

The Wilsons

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