Filipino Chef Arlene Meyer aboard 100-foot M/Y Magnum Ride on being part of a family-charter yacht.
I first started cooking when I was young. I would experiment with food because my mother was not a cook, so I had to improvise. When I was about 15, I had a chance to move to Japan. I bought my own recipe book and started experimenting with American foods, but I was also paying attention to Japanese cuisine.
I went to Old Dominion University and got my business degree [where I met my husband]. Meanwhile I started raising my family and I thought about working in restaurants, but it's not really easy to work in restaurants when you got little ones. So I did my part raising our family but all the while I was entertaining, making tons of party foods with friends all the time.
When I plateaued in my cooking and I decided to take it to another level and I went to a French culinary school in Orlando: Le Cordon Bleu. When I graduated, I joined [a] country club, but it wasn’t too flexible, so I started my own catering business, and I ran it for five years. A friend of ours said, “Hey, I have a job for [you and your husband] with Magnum Ride out of Naples.” So, we took the job in February. This is our second family charter boat. It happened that my son Ben was ready for the workforce and there happened to be an extra space.
What I love most about my job is the result. I love it when guests are delighted about the experience of seeing excellent food being presented to them, and they enjoy the taste. I like it when someone appreciates the food I take time to develop, the skills and the techniques I use, and the ingredients I picked specifically for a specific menu. And then when I present it and it comes into a new creation.
I would say the most difficult part of the job are the long days. Sometimes I miss my two dogs and my garden full of 15 different tropical fruit trees — I have mangoes, Jack fruit, coffee beans that I use in my cooking. I miss not having a garden and being able to just walk out of the house and then pick my herbs.
Something I’ve learned on the job is improvisation. Going into a new city and not finding the ingredients that I need. If I can't find it, I get frustrated. We went to The Bahamas and I couldn't find some Asian ingredients that I use in my cooking when I'm cooking a specific cuisine that the customer is asking for. And I couldn't find that, so I had to improvise.
I like to work with fresh vegetables, fruit, and seafood, so that’s why I’m leaning towards Mediterranean foods as my style of cooking. I see a lot of similarities when I cook Mediterranean and Asian cuisine — they both use a lot of seafood and fresh vegetables. I also like to incorporate a lot of fermented foods because they help bring out the overall flavor profile of the food.
My favorite cuisine in general is Asian and then Mediterranean. I’m Asian and I’m finding that the more I learn about Asian cuisine, the more I find I don’t know, and so I’m constantly exploring.
I like to cook a lot of seafood and vegetables. I grew up eating seafood, so I love to cook tuna and a lot of grilled tuna. To me, it’s comfort food — vegetables with seafood and coconut milk.
My ideal kinds of guests are those that like to eat either a lot of meat or a lot of seafood and vegetables.
Follow her on Instagram @Arlene_MeyerChef.