Swedish Rotational Head Chef Linda Nilsson on a private 85-meter motor yacht in Abu Dhabi on budget-free cooking.
I come from a culinary background, and when my life suddenly took a massive spin eight years ago, it was a pretty easy decision (and not a very hard step) for me to work towards getting my first job on board a yacht. But I think that mostly it was thanks to the pushing from my flatmate, who also happens to be my best friend and who already had worked in the industry for many years. Without him, it wouldn't have been such an easy transition into yacht life.
I went to culinary school in Sweden but left the country straight after graduation. I then went to work for eight years in a ski resort in Andorra and one of the jobs I held during my time there was to run a traditional restaurant for a few years as the head chef. But it wasn't until I stepped on board that I started to really work on my skills again as a chef. In between seasons, I worked at a high-end restaurant in Palma de Mallorca and also took high-standard specialty day courses with amazing star chefs at mymuybueno and that has really helped me to improve and take my cooking skills to the next level. I also was privileged to be able to go to Bangkok at one point and do a one-week Thai cooking course, which I enjoyed thoroughly.
In terms of the galley, what I love most about the job is definitely the freedom of creativity and the opportunity to experiment with ingredients from all around the world without really having to think about a budget. But the unique experience that's being offered whilst traveling to remote places is definitely the best part.
I personally think that the most difficult part of the job is the constant juggle with time while delivering a top-notch quality and a gastronomic experience to guests — all while balancing the constant last-minute changes. Plus, there’s the lack of sleep and nonexistent breaks when on charter.
I’ve learned a few things on the job: being extremely flexible, having a positive attitude will get you very far, and always be three steps ahead in meal preparation and planning.
I could probably say that my cooking style emphasizes a fresh and healthy diet that takes nutritional value into account. I have the ability to adapt to every client’s unique needs and have the skills to cook a wide range of international cuisines, as well as high-end cuisine.
I like to cook what I like to eat: healthy, fresh, light, lots of vegetables, and fragrant flavors, so I’d say my favorite cuisine is a mixture between Israeli, Lebanese, Mediterranean, and Peruvian cuisine.
I wouldn't say that I have a favorite dish; I simply love being creative, and I thoroughly enjoy when I have the time to work on the individual details on the plate, whatever style of dish that might be. But I do love baking bread and do so every morning, to the delight of most guests and crew. That way I have the chance to prepare, send off personalized menu suggestions, and can get my provision orders onboard and have the time to start prepping. And, of course, we all aim for a guest who is appreciative and respectful to the crew.
To me, an ideal guest is someone who can successfully get the agent to communicate their preferences and special needs (preferably a week prior to arrival). That way I have the chance to prepare, send off personalized menu suggestions, and can get my provision orders onboard and have the time to start prepping. And, of course, we all aim for a guest who is appreciative and respectful to the crew.
I have had quite a few strange requests over the years but one that sticks out is when some charter guests wanted fresh seafood platters … I mean the whole shebang. This was not mentioned on the preference sheet but was demanded at 3 a.m. after a night out just before departure — for lunch the same day. We were in high seas, crossing from the South of France to Corsica. Long story short, we managed to contact a local restaurant (as soon as we had a radio signal), which then placed an order for live lobster, oysters, prawns, mussels, langoustines, you name it. Then we had it delivered by helicopter just in time for lunch.
Follow her on Instagram @CheffieLinda.