Sustainability & Conservation in Yachting » Sustainability » How Superyacht Chefs Can Lead Change from the Galley

How Superyacht Chefs Can Lead Change from the Galley

Superyacht chefs are renowned for their creativity and resourcefulness, excelling in time management and organisational skills. Masters of the culinary experience for owners and guests,  they also have to ensure the crew is well nourished.

In today's world, however, there's one more badge they need to wear - a skill rarely touched upon in interviews and even less so after recruitment. It is the role of a leader in a sustainable revolution, implementing eco-friendly practices and consciously making choices that may not lighten their workload but are in the best interest of the planet and the greater good of the environment.

Shifting towards accountability

Pairing of the terms 'sustainability' and 'superyachts' seems improbable given the opulent and resource-intense operation of these vessels, and my research did reveal some startling truths about food waste, single-use plastics, and the threat to our oceans' delicate balance from the use of toxic products.

With growing awareness, most people would acknowledge that our actions must balance the scales of consumption and conservation, and this requires collaboration across the industry  far beyond the culinary duties of superyacht chefs. 

Then a quote by Robert Swan appeared on my social media feed: "The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it." This resonated deeply, prompting a realisation that merely pointing fingers and waiting for change won't be enough. It's a call for proactive engagement and shared responsibility.

As a coach and plant-based nutrition specialist for all things provisioning in the sailing industry, I understand that significant changes start with one small step; one action rolling into another with momentum and a force that creates meaningful transformation.

One of the most difficult challenges facing superyacht chefs is initiating the change and breaking habits formed out of the need to be efficient.

Change is undeniably challenging, a truth I've encountered countless times in my experience as a business coach. Whether it's poorly coordinated, awkwardly implemented or looming on the horizon, change has the potential to paralyse even the most seasoned professionals.

In recent conversations with superyacht chefs, the same questions are being asked:

  • How do you change from your regular cleaning products to an eco-friendly version?

  • Will it comply with health and safety regulations?

  • Will they work as well as my current products?

  • Will it increase my budget?

  • If I start to serve plant-based meals three or four times a week will I be up against resistance?

  • Should I bake treats for the crew rather than buying unhealthy options and then having to discard the packaging?

  • How do I balance a plant-based menu with regular meals?

  • I am already struggling to fit everything in, how will I manage?

When overwhelm is the issue we need to break it down into manageable tasks focusing on progress, not perfection, and celebrate the small victories along the way. Using a powerful coaching technique called reframing we find the reward, as that's how the human brain operates.

This is something we love to do with our clients at Small Vegan Kitchen. We guide and coach them towards a more sustainable galley. We support them as they implement a sustainable approach to provisioning and preparing plant-based meals that are easy to manage, delicious and nutritious, better for the health and wellbeing of the crew and guests, and kinder to the environment.

Leading by example: The change towards eco-friendly practices

I talked to some passionate and forward-thinking chefs taking positive steps to make their galley as sustainable as possible. They feel empowered and are committed to being the change rather than waiting for the change to happen.

“I do believe each individual chef can make a difference, no matter how small,” insists Flora Pickard, who has over 15 years of experience as a superyacht chef. Currently showcasing her culinary skills on SY Aurelius based between the Caribbean and the USA, throughout her career she has seen a notable shift towards environmental consciousness within the sector, observing that “Crew members, captains, and owners are increasingly expressing concerns about environmental issues and animal welfare.”

Despite guests and owners caring about these matters, Flora has discovered that they may not always know how to express it. However, when confronted with the need for change, she has found them to be responsive, offering financial support to implement necessary improvements on the yachts she has worked on.

Initiatives such as installing a filtered water tap have effectively eliminated the need for single-use plastic water bottles. Projects like this resonate with the environmentally conscious ethos and also substantially reduce the recycling loads on the yacht.

Responsible provisioning from ethical food sources

Sourcing locally produced foods straight from the farm or the market, cutting out the need for single-use plastic packaging and supplying your own reusable plastic boxes to suppliers are great ways to lead the change.

Flora only buys free range and line caught and insists that “You can still make magic without having to import.” Her positivity and optimism are contagious, so much so that she has managed to convince guests that eating an octopus, widely considered to be among the most intelligent and behaviourally complex invertebrates, is not a good idea.  At Small Vegan Kitchen we are behind her 100%.

The case for introducing plant-based cuisine on superyachts

Since implementing meat-free Mondays and Wednesdays, Flora has seen a huge reduction in meat consumption, especially when cooking for over 25+ crew.

Cultivating sustainable cuisine and empowering chefs to embrace plant-based menus, even just a few times a week, can yield substantial health benefits for the crew and guests, promoting ethically sourced food and minimising environmental impact too. Single-use packaging is largely reduced as part of the ripple effect and before we know it our small daily actions grow into sustainable positive change.

Water and waste management on board

Jason Viola has been working in the superyacht industry for over 30 years and is no stranger to high-profile yachts and their expectations. 

Food wastage is something that he believes needs addressing and is probably one of the most delicate areas to implement change.  While leftovers do not normally get people rushing to the crew mess,  Jason has found that coordinating with the chief stewardess in a team effort guarantees that food wastage can be reduced to a minimum saying, “Following the HACCP guidelines and hygiene rules in place, food can be re-served and complemented with fresh dishes.” 

Small Vegan Kitchen 4Jason is also very conscious about water consumption using the eco setting on the dishwasher and recommends purchasing only eco-friendly chemicals.  He admits that they can cost more but says “You will be making a massive gesture towards our lovely planet.”

The biodegradability and eco-friendliness of cleaning products used in the galley are integral to a cleaner, safer, and healthier sea.  Our choices of products can impact marine life, disrupt ecosystems, and jeopardise the very foundation of the planet's biodiversity.

Shift in the market: Eco-friendly products as a standard  

The misconceptions about eco-friendly products are gradually fading away. While they were once considered expensive, ineffective, and hard to find, these perceptions no longer hold true. Thanks to passionate advocates building their businesses around the need for sustainability in the marine sector, there's now a wider range of effective eco-friendly cleaning products on the market.

A good example is NatureSafeMarine founded by Declan O’Rourke with Keith and Cameron Kirby out of love for the ocean and a strong desire to make a difference. Based in Croatia, they serve clients locally, in Greece and online, and report a big shift in awareness among crew and owners.  Industry standards and EU regulations mean that sustainability is no longer a buzzword but a reality within the yachting community.

Palma-based Viveco, founded by Hannah Russell, has been offering eco-friendly cleaning products since 2019.  Their mission is to “Help make yachts more sustainable through introducing zero waste practices and sustainable strategies and offering alternatives to single-use plastics.”  While the majority of her products are bought by the Interior team, she has noticed chefs are more and more interested in eco-friendly products and are keen to trial their cleaning solutions with positive feedback.  She is passionate about the cause, knowledgeable about the sector, and leading the way in the industry.

The future holds great promise as chefs are now more conscious and eager than ever to embark on a journey towards an environmentally friendly galley. 

There is a growing support network within the chef community and many suppliers are keen to make it happen. With determination and a shared commitment to sustainability, they are ready to make a profound impact on the health of our planet.

If you are feeling inspired by these commendable actions and wondering where to start, Small Vegan Kitchen would love to help you take action.
You can contact Sarah Powell Fowler directly via email here.

Founder of Small Vegan Kitchen, Sarah is a sailor, certified coach and plant-based nutrition specialist, assisting chefs to integrate wholefood plant-based nutrition to improve wellbeing, enhance performance, and create a greener galley by implementing more sustainable practices.

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