In the Galley with Yacht Chef Charli Witts
Leading international chef placement agency Amandine has been busy unravelling the ins and outs of the fascinating lives of yacht chefs, getting to know their trade secrets and what makes them tick - from what music they like to listen to in the galley to the most bizarre thing they’ve ever had to cook.
This week, Kate Emery, the founder of Amandine, catches up with British chef Charli Watts, who has been catering to the demanding clientele of superyacht guests and owners for the past 15 years, to discuss her greatest inspirations, favourite dishes, all time food heroes and best galley hacks.
Hi Charli! So where are you working right now?
I’m currently working as a freelance chef – my last gig was as head chef on a 60m yacht.
Who is your food hero (dead or alive) and why?
My Nana. She had me standing on a chair in the kitchen with a little apron on baking from a young age. She taught me how to make my first soup, pastry, vinaigrette and, most importantly, taught me about the importance of making food with the intention of love.
What three ingredients could you not live without?
Maldon salt, lemons and olive oil.
What are your three favourite cookbooks and why?
It’s hard to choose favourites because I’m a big page flipper (and internet surfer) for inspiration, but if I had to, I would say Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour - I love the Middle Eastern use of spice and the soul of her recipes. Also Plant food by Matthew Kenny has been a big inspiration to my plant-based cooking and presentation, while thr Great British Chefs website is a go to as it’s a great source of inspiration.
What three kitchen gadgets could you not live without?
A Microplane, a dehydrator and a Thermomix. Every yacht should have a Thermomix in the galley. From making nut flours to hot sauces they are so versatile, and will ninja a block of Parmesan in 10 seconds!
What would you say are some of the most overrated ingredients?
Caviar, artificial flavoured oils and lobster.
And the most underrated?
Beetroot, cauliflower and cashew nuts!
What has been the most popular (or requested dish) on a yacht by a guest so far?
My quinoa salads have turned non quinoa’ers into quinoa lovers!
If you were a guest on a yacht, who would you want to cook for you and why?
Tess Ward - she has a great balance of health-conscious creative cuisine I could eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
What music do you listen to in the galley (if at all)?
Always music, it helps me get into the flow. Literally anything - a Spotify adventure from reggae, dub, world music, hip-hop, drum and bass, sunshine beats, classic rock to my yoga playlists when I need to calm down.
What’s your best galley tip or hack?
Be prepared to move in lots in different directions and keep things prepped so you always have something to offer and feed the crew well - happy tummies, happy boat!
What is the most difficult location you have ever had to provision in? And what bit of advice can you give to figure out where to go?
I really enjoy the challenge of provisioning in new and remote locations, and the most important piece of advice is to be adaptable and create your dishes with what produce is available. If you know you are going remote then make sure you have a good stock of drystore go to’s.
Sometimes it’s not the most remote areas that are the most difficult. We were due to leave Antigua for a charter and the order I was expecting didn’t arrive, so I left for St Barts with about two avocados, a pineapple and a watermelon! Luckily I was already in touch with an agent on St Barts for more specialist items so I was able to add to this order and the day was saved, but provisions arrived an hour before the guests so it was a little stressful to say the least. Always have a back-up!
What is the hardest part of your job?
Having to do lots of things at once. On charter the mornings are very busy with making bread, prepping desserts, guest breakfast, crew food and lunch prep. I find it can be a non-stop race to get things done all day.
What do you see as being the biggest challenge for chefs in the industry moving forward?
It’s all about finding the right boat for you as jobs and crew ethos vary so much.
What would you say to people who stereotype chefs as being prima donnas with big egos?
That it’s not always the case. Yes you will always get prima donnas and big egos, but they don’t last long in a yacht environment.
What is your attitude toward crew with dietary requirements?
I will always do my best to support individual needs. This can be a challenge as a sole chef on charter as the guests always come first, but it’s so important that the crew feel healthy and energised to do their job.
What is the weirdest, most bizarre thing you have ever been asked to cook?
I proudly pulled off a last minute request for a giant pretzel!
Name something you have cooked for guests that you are most proud of.
It’s always fun when you get to know guests and can tailor recipes to their particular flavour profiles. Designing a special dessert for the boss with his own chocolate was cool.
When you are interviewing a chef to work for you, how do you know if they are any good?
You don’t until you work with someone but passion, attitude and energy are so important and this comes across in an interview.
What one thing should all chefs do to help the environment?
Be conscious when sourcing ingredients. This means not always going for the easiest option, visiting farmers’ markets where possible, and being clear with agents what produce you are seeking. Food that has been grown or raised with respect to the environment is the best quality as it’s highest in nutrition and flavour. It’s a win/win.
What one thing can chefs do to limit food wastage?
Use all of the ingredients!
If you weren’t a chef, what would you want to be?
I’m studying to be an integrative nutrition coach. I believe that the more we are conscious and caring of our own health the more conscious we become of the health of the planet. I want to educate and empower people to eat consciously, showing them that this does not mean compromising on creative cuisine and flavours.
About Amandine International Chef Placement
The leader in international chef placement, Amandine Chefs is the brainchild of food fanatic Kate Emery whose overriding passion in life has always been great food and wine. Kate launched Amandine in the South of France in 2011, subsequently expanding across the globe with offices now in Monaco, London and Fort Lauderdale, cementing her commitment to raising standards in the yachting industry and providing the right support, motivation and inspiration to enable chefs to perform at the highest level.
When she's not working or looking after her two daughters, you’ll find Kate eating her way around the world and working through San Pellegrino's top 50 list.
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