In 2006, I started my career in yachting, joining my first boat in the Mediterranean Sea. That year, I finished off in the Caribbean, being awarded second prize at the Concours de Chef at the St. Martin Boat Show. While doing freelance sunset cruises in Cape Town, I heard about this “yachting thing.” There and then I decided to do my STCW and fly to Paris. I had to check out the Paris food markets, [but] after a few days in Paris, I jumped on a train to Antibes.
To train my skills, I received my culinary diploma in Cape Town and started my professional career under Master Chef Ralph van Pletzen at one of the top 10 restaurants in South Africa. I spent a few years in restaurants before joining yachting. During my career, it is mostly self-study and experimenting on the crew that [kept] my skills up to superyacht standards.
What I love most about my job is being able to travel, trying new food, and tasting ingredients in that country that I find myself in at that time. I can’t get enough.
The most difficult part of the job is not getting enough sleep on charter — but it is really not that difficult if you are organized, focused, sober, and drug-free.
I tend to lean towards cooking Italian and French Mediterranean style. Italian is my favorite cuisine because I love the simplicity that promotes and showcases each individual ingredient in the best possible way.
When it comes to the essential dishes every chef should know, you should pretty much know everything. Know your basics before you start yachting. You have to and should know all there is to know about food when cooking for guests. They can request anything at any time, and you can’t say no, or say that you don’t know how.
I love to cook for charter guests who enjoy the culinary delicacies in that traveling area. They love to try the local ingredients and don’t need to fly food in from different parts of the world.
I haven’t really had any really strange requests, but what was strange and funny was when I had a big Russian man in his Speedo cooking with me in the galley. I will never forget that picture.
Follow Henri on Instagram @YachtChefKriel.
This column is taken from the March 2020 issue of Dockwalk.