Want to know what it’s like to be a Michelin-starred chef working aboard a high-profile superyacht with some seriously ‘super’ charter guests? We talk to Toine Smulders, Charter Chef aboard 69.7m Sherakhan.
The onboard cuisine is one of the most important aspects of a charter trip – it can take it from ‘great’ to ‘incredible’ or, ruin it completely. Chefs are expected to be dextrous in knocking up delicious delights from all international cuisines, catering to all dietary requirements.
A talented Chef can take charter guests on a gastronomic adventure all of its very own, with out-of-this-world gourmet experiences served at every anchorage, and local delicacies soured at every port.
Aboard 69.7m Sherakhan, which can accommodate up to 26 charter guests, this responsibility falls to Toine Smulders. Smulders is famous in the charter community for his outstanding culinary skills and, able to boast a Michelin Star, it’s not surprising why!
Hailing from Holland, Smulders set out into the culinary world at the age of 16. His first chef job was at an establishment that specialised in French cuisine and Smulders’ gastronomic quest took him on to kitchens in France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
Smulders was drawn to the unique challenges and rewards that life as a superyacht chef presented, and took his first few roles aboard sailing yachts. Smulders’ creative passion only grew, and in March 2018 he joined Sherakhan after making an approach to the owner through a mutual contact.
“My favourite thing about my life and work as a Chef aboard a luxury yacht is the freedom I have in the kitchen – I can cater to guests without the budget constraints that exist in a restaurant. Aboard Sherakhan, anything is possible!”
Smulders is joined in the galley by two other professional chefs and between them they can serve up everything from Dutch frikandel to Saudi Arabian kabsa and South African lemon pie.
Smulders describes his signature style as ‘la cuisine du soleil’: “Flavour is the most important part of the food I create, alongside the structure. Natural, healthy and recognisable food is very important to me.”
Sherakhan has a superb galley, equipped with all manner of high-tech culinary equipment and cupboards stocked full of exceptional ingredients. Smulder even has a candy floss machine at his disposal, which he uses to create a sweet accompaniment to a particularly unique fois gras dish.
To ensure a seamlessly smooth-running charter experience, Smulders meets daily with the yacht’s Hotel Manager Manon de Wit, planning each meal meticulously including how, when and where it will be served, and what wine is required to accompany it.
Guests aboard Sherakhan can dine on one of the many exterior decks or in the double-height dining room with its galleried atrium and innovative skylight, which forms the bottom of the Jacuzzi on the sun deck above. Here, 26 guests can enjoy their meal together, seated at an enormous curved table lit by custom-made chandeliers.
“The ability to give guests an extraordinary charter vacation through their dining experiences is my greatest professional motivation. We once had a Canadian family aboard who were celebrating a special occasion – they were lovely people and they were really impressed by the food…when it was time for them to leave, they had tears in their eyes and said they felt like the luckiest people on the planet. It was so rewarding for me to be a part of that.”
Of course, working on a yacht that is constantly on the move poses many logistical challenges but, for Smulders, even this is a highlight: “I love exploring new ingredients, cultures and traditions, and having the opportunity to meet new people through my work. In more remote locations it can be hard to source provisions but I love to explore the islands and buy beautiful local ingredients. Sometimes we need to improvise a little, but that is what we are trained for – as chefs, creativity is in our DNA!”
Sherakhan operates with a crew of 19 and was originally launched in 1966. In 2002, she commenced an intensive three-year rebuild under the ownership of Dutch hospitality entrepreneur Jan Verkerk, and has since received further interior upgrades.
Sherakahn is now an extremely popular charter yacht and attracts many repeat clients. Sherakhan is available for charter with Y.Co, weekly rates from USD 425,000.