Going the Extra Culinary Mile

15 March 2011 By Peter Ziegelmeier

Being a yacht chef comes with its share of challenges: long hours, little personal time and an awesome workload. Countlesshours go into food preparations and presentations for owners and guests. But for chefs, the payoff is smiles that last a long while coupled with generouscompliments. Goingabove and beyond to please guests brings both satisfaction to your guests as well as sense ofpride that is indescribable to those who do not live it every day.

The firststep to ensuring a one-of-a-kind experience is to peruse thepreference sheet. Formulating your provisioning list from this is a great start. Onceyou're aware of your guests’ tastes, you can begin to cater to their likes,wants and needs.

Varietyis the spice of life. Delivering an array of dishes affords guests theopportunity to choose their favorites. A family style lunch can be a welcome change from sit-downservice. Contemporary serving ware and hand-held menus complete withdescriptions of dishes will allow guests to eat with all of their senses.

Freelance Chef Neal Salisbury prepares chateaubriandtableside; he wheels out a cart, with the assistance of the crew, and presentsa flaming show that keeps guests talking for days. Sometimesafter a great meal, Salisbury breaks out his guitar and sings for guests.

Duringone charter, a 14-year-old guest often came to the galley to sit with Chef CarolAdams, owner of asked the girl about her favorite foods and was inspired to create Asian night, duringwhich Adams allowed the young guest to help prepare and serve the meal.

Chef NinaGroves’ favorite way to entice smiles from her guests is to create dishes rich in design and presentation, emulating the cruising region at the time.Her favorite is the “Malibu Iced Parfait,” a rich, creamy coconut ice cream madein a ramekin with slithers of fresh mango placed vertically around the outside.This is then turned on the dessert plate. Toasted coconut is used for a beachand an almond tuile is formed into a palm tree. To finish the scene, rum sabayon is poured onthe plate in front of guests.

To giveguests from Maryland a taste of home on M/Y Rena,we covered the dining room table in visqueen then brown paper, just like the crab houses found in their home state. Iprepared Alaskan king crab legs, snow crab legs, peel and eat shrimp,boardwalk-style fries and corn on the cob. As each item finished cooking, I walked itout to the dining room and poured it onto the paper. The table wasnot set with plates or silverware. Upon entering the dining room, the guests’ mouths hung open for a fewseconds, then smiles and eating commenced.

Whetherit’s creating the impossible soufflé the guests asked for, having a bottle ofspecial hot sauce flown in to the middle of nowhere or changing the menu after alreadyprepping a meal, a perk of being a chef is the ability to take your guestsexpectations and blow them out of the water.

Duringweek three of a four-week Tahitian charter, Chef Victoria Allman and her teamtransformed the aft deck of the yacht into a Popeye’s fried chicken-style restaurant,complete with stewardesses in fast food uniforms, all because the guests missedfast food.

Everychef has his or her own way of going over the top for guests. Passion is the driving force atwork – or should I say play? Either way you look at it, chefs are incrediblylucky to hold a job that allows creative juices to continually flow. Inspiring presentationsare the key to success as a high seas yacht chef.

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