It’s well-known fact that being a sole chef on a yacht is a notoriously tough gig.
Usual challenges facing a yacht chef include fridge space, freezer space, any space (!), David’s preference for chicken and peas, Steve’s abhorrence of peas, Penelope’s peas not being how her mum used to cook them and let’s not even talk about sleep. Being a motivated chef who desires to pre-prepare meals and control mise en place, is all well and good, but it’s just not practicable. This is a superyacht for Pete’s sake and the designers allocated every last modicum of space to the guests.
So, taking into account that pretty much all food must be prepared a la minute, balancing this with a desire to send out a high standard of food, and also generating the quantity to feed 24 people for 21 days straight (working against a deficit of time in between charters to get ahead, clean, rest, go to the loo etc) – well, then it means taking ‘organisation’ to the next level. Working out shortcuts, prioritising MEP and having tricks up your sleeve to impress.
Working within one’s, confines to prepare and freeze batches of crew food e.g. mince, lasagne, chilli, soup, stew, pie. Slow cook meats ahead of time and freeze. Thus, when your imaginary sous chef is off duty, and the guests desire a Turkish banquet and the children require pizza’s; reach for that freezer.
No Knead Bread
Some would buy their bread each morning, lucky them; I’m mostly at anchor. Others would bake ahead and freeze, or use a bread machine. Again, nope. I bake daily, which I really love, quite often doing several different varieties, but I do have a simple daily loaf, for which I have honed just about the easiest technique possible – for no-knead bread. It’s basically normal bread but treated like a sourdough:
45 mins autolyse
Stretch and fold 3 times
45 mins rest
Stretch and fold
Prove and bake with moisture
The only real effort is in remembering to give the dough a periodic fold.
Quickie Choccie Mousse
Melt Dark Chocolate, Cream, Butter, Sugar and Salt to taste in a container in the microwave, stir until smooth, into the espuma gun, charge up and you get the lightest, airiest chocolate mousse around. It’s warm and it takes about three minutes. Cover with cacao nibs and it’s ever so good.
Yoghurt Pot Cake
It’s a no-brainer. I mean, they teach it to chalet hosts for a reason. It works and it makes really great cakes. Breakfast muffins, chocolate cake, any cake you want. I have other cake recipes of course, but this is my go to:
1 pot yoghurt
1 pot neutral oil
3 pots self-raising flour
2 pots sugar.
(For a chocolate cake, replace one of the pots of flour with cocoa.)
This is an abbreviation of the French term ‘Mise en Place’ meaning ‘putting in place’. Ok, so this ‘shortcut’ is basically being prepared and I apologise for preaching to the choir. At the beginning of the season, I batch up pouches of herb oils and freeze them, bulk up on long life garnishes such as transparent potato starch or ultratex crackers and tuiles that I can store in a dry space and later ‘refresh’ on a low heat in the oven. I make oil powders using zorbit and store in airtight containers. I prepare a sodium alginate bath and keep it ready for service. Then, in the moment, I can also prepare quick, easier a la minute tricks such as soya lecithin foams or fast garnishes such as reduction tuiles (40g neutral oil, 10g flour, 300g cold water, salt to taste. Whisk together, strain, reduce a tablespoon of the mix in a small non-stick pan)
A Solid Crew Repertoire
A go-to list of meals to consult in times of a mental blackout. I don’t pride myself on having blackouts – but it’s been known to happen in moments of sleep deprivation.
Choose ‘cheats’ wisely
I’m already embarrassed to say this. But. I’m guessing we’ve all done it in a pinch. Please say we’ve all done it. I was mortified when I saw another chef do it, coming from a background of making everything from scratch. But then, I found myself doing it. A dirty secret, a pre-bought béchamel. It’s not like it’s hard to make… But a massive batch often takes more time than you can allocate and having a lasagna ‘up your sleeve’ with defrosted mince and béchamel, is not to be sniffed at.
Tantalise your crew mates to help / plate / peel / make hummus with the promise of a golden sous chef certificate, and/or a snack.
These are my top tips, but I would love to hear yours!