Chef Style: Top Superyacht Food Trends

12 March 2019 By Laura Dunn

With passing fads and trends in the food world, it’s sometimes hard to determine what’s in and what’s out. Three yacht chefs chime in on their experiences on what the latest crazes are.  

The Trend: What’s Old is New
Chef Terry Gatewood of M/Y Just Enough says there’s a sort of vintage trend going on in the superyacht industry. “In the culinary world, as well in fashion design and yachting, what was old is new again — what goes around comes around,” Gatewood says. “For example, Kombucha is an historic drink that was popular in China in 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty. It has newfound popularity now in the 21st century.”

Another growing trend is plant-based cooking. “Gluten-free food is no longer relegated to the pharmacy section in a grocery store. Gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan are all widely accepted and understood. They are dietary choices, not dietary restrictions — except for a small percentage,” says Gatewood, who likes to keep things classic. “My lemon posset recipe, which is a crowd favorite, is based on an historic recipe from the 16th century. I like to read old cookbooks to research recipes. It is all about adapting the ideas that I find and making them work in a modern-day galley,” says Gatewood, who likes to use more vegetable-based sauces, purees, and vinaigrettes. “I’ve been getting away from more traditional cream-based sauces,” he says.

As for what’s on the way out, Gatewood says chefs seem to be backing away from sous-vide, which was a very popular food preparation method for quite a while. He says chefs are less interested because “it limits culinary creativity and isn’t necessarily the best or safest way to prepare food.” Mini and bite-sized portions seem to be on their way out now, too — no more mini-burgers, mini-quiches, and mini-cupcakes. 

The Trend: Healthier Eating
Much like Gatewood, Chef Samantha Graney, who is currently transitioning ashore from yachting (but whose latest charge was aboard M/Y Gran Finale as sole chef), likes working with plant-based foods. In fact, although her food is varied, she enjoys experimenting with plant-based foods and Asian flavors are her favorite and most used trends.

From her perspective, current food trends are all about diet and food intolerances. In general, chefs — in both restaurants and on yachts — are understanding that diet plays a huge role in people’s wellbeing and are gravitating towards eating a healthier diet and being more nutrition-focused. “Food trends such as [the keto diet] and plant-based are having an influence on a lot of people,” Graney says. “Captains typically look for chefs that can provide a healthy diet for crew too. I have also noticed in quite a few job posts that they are looking for chefs with gastronomy experience.”

When it comes to yacht chefs, Chef Graney says guests aren’t the only ones ordering these types of foods. In addition to keto and plant-based foods, people want chefs to be up on the latest with vegan food, Paleo, the Pacific Rim diet, and Asian cuisine — specifically Thai and Japanese. “To be honest, I see more crew wanting these types of foods,” she says.

In light of those healthier trends, Chef Graney says that people are ordering accordingly. “People are looking for healthier snacks and to eat less greasy food. I see this on yachts with guests and crew,” she says. “People are also eating smaller portions of food.”

She adds that a lot of guests want a more relaxed and personable experience. “Emphasis on good-tasting food [that is] not overly rich, as they go out to restaurants for the really rich foods,” Graney says. “When they are on their yacht, it’s as if they are at ‘home’ so they want healthier food.”

The health shift, Graney believes, is due to people’s awareness of foods and how they impact your body and environment. “I think people are becoming more conscious of what they are choosing to put into their bodies and also seeing the effect it plays in their emotional wellbeing. Perhaps it wasn’t a concern before as people were not being educated about healthy fats and being carb-conscious, etc.,” she says. “I think with the massive increase in obesity, people are wanting long-term lifestyle solutions and not just fad diets.”  

The Trend: Fresh, Local Ingredients
Sole Chef Thomas Dean of M/Y Vida says sourcing the most local and freshest ingredients possible is the current trend in the superyacht chef realm. That, as well as keeping to proper technique but still using basic fundamentals to keep true to create a simple, elegant dish. He personally works hard to keep it local, fresh, and simple.

“There are a lot of new trends in yachting — pickling and fermenting are some I have come across,” says Chef Dean, who adds that pickling and fermenting are easy ways to add depth to a dish. “For me, being a chef is bringing back to life the memories and emotions you experienced from past dishes.”

One trend that he notes is on the way out — despite being a long-lasting trend, he says molecular gastronomy is something that seems to be going away quickly.

Overall, trends vary from yacht to yacht and chef to chef. “Each chef and each yacht has its own unique style and personality, which is part of the fun and excitement of yachting,” Chef Gatewood says. The important thing is playing to your guests and making them happy, whether it means instilling a little vintage charm, being aware of diet restrictions, or keeping your ingredients fresh and local.