Yacht vs. Restaurant Chef: Who Has the Better Job?

28 May 2009 By Joanne MacKenzie
Photo (left) by Shaw McCutcheon (right) by Lauren Beck

Cooking in a yacht galley or a restaurant kitchen ashore, which is better?

Chef Dan Cartwright says, “Saying one is better than the other would cause a fight with a lot of people. They’re two completely different environments and it takes a certain type of chef to work on a boat.”

Chef Dan says that working in galley means being more versatile and more flexible. In a restaurant, there’s a particular style of food, a set menu and set hours. “You can pretty much gauge that when they have their starter, in ten minutes, you can put on their steak or whatever; whereas on a boat, you’re cooking to the preferences...and you’re expected to do it at a moment’s notice.” As an example, he says, “Last summer, in a fourteen-hour day, you don’t know when they will sit down to eat – and when they want it, they want it in three minutes. Then they might all stand up in the middle of lunch and go for a swim so everything is on hold.”

Also, Chef Dan points out that on a boat, the chef spends a lot more time doing detailed cleaning without the cleaning support there is in a restaurant kitchen. “You have to be presentable and ready for guests or owners to come in at any time.”

He says placing orders is also very different. In a restaurant, there are standard order lists from regular suppliers that vary from season to season, but, “Your fish list is still your fish list. On a yacht, you have to do more research about where and when you can find things in a given country and you are generally doing it in a hurry.”

Private chefs ashore have an even easier job when it comes to provisioning, adds Chef Laura Cherington. “There are different parameters totally.... On a boat you are at the mercy of local producers or local provisioners. On land, you can always pop out when guests come (given time) or diets change...a boat may be moving and you are stuck with what you’ve got.”

The chef on a 120-footer says one of the key differences between cooking on land vs. on a yacht is having to do it while under way. She says, “No matter what the weather is doing, how much the boat is are still expected to produce perfect food and it’s generally in a smaller space.”

Chef Dan says that in a restaurant, the chef has a much more powerful position. “There’s a natural and often official hierarchy because the head chef, especially, is the breadwinner of the restaurant. On a boat, you’re one of many parts of the crew.”

Chef Randal Hughes believes that being part of a crew is what makes working as a chef on a boat the better job. “Being a boat chef is better hands down. You’re a crew member and not a slave. Eventually the guests leave.”

A chef on a 164-foot boat disagrees, saying she is going back to work on shore. There, she says, “You can go home at night. You can leave whatever happens in the the kitchen. In a galley, you’re still at work at the end of the day and at the start of the day. There may be more money, but on land, there’s more of a life”.

What do you think – is it better to be a chef on a yacht or on shore?