Cooking up a storm at sea….
At dsnm we spend the majority of our time communicating with chief officers, captains, deck crew and of course management companies, so we were delighted when the opportunity presented itself to learn more about a different role onboard and delve into the life of a Superyacht chef.
Dean Harrison, Head Chef onboard M/Y Arience and creator of the fantastic ‘theyachtchef’ Instagram account, took time out of his hectic schedule to talk to us about life as a chef onboard.
Tell us a bit about you?
I have always been a chef since the age of 15, so half my life now. Just over a year ago I joined M/Y Arience as Head Chef and it’s been an extremely busy year during which time we have had a very successful Med & then Caribbean season. My current role onboard is primarily cooking for guests, ordering, budgeting, stock rotation, product research and also cooking for crew. I have support in the kitchen in the form of my sous chef, known also as my right hand. Couldn't do it without her!
What does a typical day onboard look like
When we have guests, it usually consists of at least 16 hours of jam packed cooking and catering to their every need. Making sure they get exactly what they want and make it the best possible holiday I can. When it’s just crew, we get onto things that we can't usually do when guests are onboard. Like deep cleaning, repairs, menu writing and planning, ordering, organising, stock rotation, accounts and of course try to take some time off. Fortunately on a vessel of this size I don’t need to be on watch which is a real help as it’s so busy, but most of my career I have been on smaller boats and I have had to take my turn on watch.
Do the crew eat the same food as the guests?
On charter the crew will eat almost the same as guests for lunch as the sous chef and I try to work it in together. Of course sometimes without the lobster or caviar.
Do you have a budget or can you generally create what food you want to?
Definitely there is a budget for crew and there is a rough budget for the boss but never really the guests. They pay a lot of money to be on here for usually 7-14 days, so we don't want to skimp on the food as it’s usually very important.
How important is your relationship with the stewardesses?
Our relationship is very important. I pride myself on being an approachable chef and want to be able to keep an open and vocal relationship which will in turn give the guests a smooth experience.
Do you get time off?
Usually my time off revolves around when the charter guests and boss doesn't want to use the yacht. Unfortunately there has been times I am cutting my holiday short to come back to work.
What are the main problems you have found when catering for guests all over the world? Getting the exact brand or item they may have in their country can be a problem. Luckily we have great provisioners helping us out on the ground! Access to fresh ingredients is relatively easy, but not everything you would expect to use in some places. It was very difficult getting exactly what you need say in the south pacific or Indonesia. I think that pushes you to get more creative and it helped in my career starting there. Now I’m working in the med / Caribbean I have everything I need at my finger tips.
How does being a chef onboard a Superyacht vary from working in a shore based restaurant?
There are many great things about being on a yacht, I love the challenge, travelling the world to new and unique places and being able to work without a budget. Access to new and exciting ingredients as well as the best the world has to offer is a huge benefit.
Do you come up with the menus yourself?
Yes I do. I'm always on the hunt for new ideas, watching YouTube videos, books and even getting inspiration from Instagram. I have a massive list on my phone of sources of inspiration and I check them all daily for ideas.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Potentially consulting and temping on yachts or running my own company which would be a boutique hotel with my partner, we would of course have a restaurant within the business!
We love following your social media accounts, the food looks amazing. How important is social media to you?
Social media for me has been a big part of my yachting career. I've always said that it can be used in a positive way. I connect with so many amazing people and companies. I've even got this current position on 60m Yacht Arience because of it.
What advice would you give to other chefs entering the industry?
Stay grounded. Don't let the world of yachting change you. There's too many ego's within this industry creating negative energy. I really wanted to create a community where we can share ideas and really make yachting something special.