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Croque Madame Gives a Toasting

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So all yacht chefs have these nightmare charters, long hours, annoying requests for chicken nuggets and, let's not forget, the beloved grilled cheese epidemic at 4am.

After six pretty great years as a yacht chef, I met the godmother of doom, the wicked witch of the Western Med, my own nemesis...LADY VOLDEMORT...Den den den...

Now don't get me wrong, I have been around the block in a culinary sense and have seen my fair share of ghouls and goblins of the dining community.

Take the gentleman who sends back his perfectly cooked steak, or the lovely couple who show up for their reservation twenty minutes before closing and want the tasting menu.  We hate you...we always will.

Lady Voldemort epitomised all the pet hates of chefs around the world.  You know what I mean: she doesn't know what she wants, she turns up late for dinner or not at all, she asks for pizza then complains it is homemade, she wants Italian and asks for Pad Thai... She turns up in a flurry of luggage and perfume and even before she gets a chance to park her perfectly toned derriere in one of our chairs, she is already a pain in mine!!!

plateIn yachting we are lucky to meet some real gems, cool celebrities and fascinating  guests.  But how it has gone so wrong for some people I will never understand.  Why would anyone let a type of salad dressing ruin their holiday?  

Another type of guest we've all met is the ‘I'm a great chef too’ guest. Hmmm, where do I start with this?

They make a mean spaghetti bolognaise, the best-ever pavlova, and all their friends just love their dinner parties for four! But for heaven's sake, please don't tell me you can do my job because you too know the meaning of  ‘al dente’!

Can you also cook and clean for 15 crew, five months in a row with no break?  Can you do all that while catering to the demands of 12 discerning charter guests?  And can you do it day after day, every day?

People also say the funniest things. The best quote, and the most obnoxious put-down I've received from a client was, "Hey, have you ever tried using flavour in your food?"  

"Oh, do you mean spice?"

"No, I mean like, regular flavor, like my favourite dish is spaghetti Pomodomo." POMODOMO???  

But let's face it, no matter what the guests throw at us, no matter how many times we think the stews are winding us up, and no matter how many officer breakfasts we have to make, life onboard is pretty sweet!

I would not change it.

fridgeHow nice to have a massive walk in fridge full of locally sourced, bright and fresh vegetables, the best creamy yoghurts from Greece, figs from Turkey, berries from France and beautiful plump tomatoes from Italy. All perfectly ripe and ready for me to take to the galley and perform miracles.  We do this every day, and it's a privilege.

How lucky we yachties are to be able to visit the local markets every day.  We see little old senoras, twice the age of my own Granny, selling homemade sausages and jam. And what a pleasure it is to sample prosciutto and giant balls of mozzarella, all before 6 am, and before a coffee! How nice to always wake up in an exotic place, where the sun is always shining and the best of everything is all around.

It all sounds very romantic - and sometimes it really is - but, as in all things, to really appreciate the highs you have to take the lows!

So, here are five things they never tell you about being a superyacht chef:

1. You will lose all social skills will now be masked in a dripping sense of sarcasm, like lard, that will taint anything and everything it touches.

2. You will always, always have open wounds and cuts on your hands, and dirty nails and calluses.

3. You will be moody, angry and prone to temper tentrums.  Eggs Benedict wind me up so much I can actually taste the hate...

4. Your friends and their mothers will constantly apologise for the lovely food they have cooked for you, saying "It won’t be up to your standard". But if only they knew how much we love that they cooked for us, because it means that we don't have to! 

5.  Guests will expect the world of you… the sun, the moon and the stars - all cooked in different ways with different sauces! You can break your back and still get nothing back.

And still I would not change a thing!

So to end, one of my favourite quotes form my favourite chef Niall is:

"Why do you love being a chef?"

"Being able to throw things at commis chefs, locking people in the freezer, you know, things like that... oh and KNIVES!  Definitely knives..."


*Photos courtesy of the author and Wikipedia Commons.  

Croque Madame began working as a chef in her family's hotel kitchen. She moved up the ranks and became sous chef in A Michelin star restaurant, before moving into yachting six years ago, as chef on a 28m Sunseeker. After two summer seasons onboard, she graduated to superyachts and has worked on several well-known vessels around 60m.


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