Michelin-trained superyacht chef Claire Hutchings has been on an incredible journey. Starting as a 16-year-old at culinary school in Birmingham, working in some of London’s most prestigious restaurants, to appearing on Masterchef in 2011 and ultimately winning Masterchef: The Professionals in 2018. Hutchings subsequently found herself working onboard superyachts in 2016. Here, she discusses some of her experiences as a superyacht chef, her favourite cuisines to cook for guests, and what she considers to be the ideal culinary experience.
What is your culinary background and when did you start working as a chef?
I have been in the culinary industry since I was 16 years old. I started out at culinary school in Birmingham in the UK and from there went on to do a culinary arts management degree. I’ve worked in Michelin-starred restaurants since the age of 16, I’ve worked at some of the top restaurants in London.
What was your first job in the yachting industry?
My first job in yachting was on a 42-meter Motoryacht as a sole chef.
How does working in a galley on a boat differ from working on land?
It differs in many ways. Mainly it’s due to the space and storage that you have being very limited and you need to be very well organised to have what you need on board for long trips.
Also you are cooking at sea so the yacht can be unsteady at times and it’s hard to be precise with measurements etc. Most of the time you are working alone, on anything smaller than a 50 meter it is usually one chef that does everything.
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What are your career highlights so far and what’s your biggest accomplishment?
The highlight of my career was cooking for the Roca brothers. I spent a week at their restaurant El Cellar De Can Roca back in 2011 when I first appeared on Masterchef. At the time it was named the best restaurant in the world and I had the opportunity to cook some of my dishes for them and work along side them, it was a real honour and something I will never forget.
What are some of the challenges you face as a yacht chef?
You face many challenges. You sometimes have to rely on provisioning companies to source and deliver your goods when you are offshore & sometimes it’s very difficult get hold of something you really need, as you can be in very remote locations.
“You really need to know your whole way around every department in the kitchen, starters, mains and desserts.”
You have to manage your time very well as many yachts only have one chef who does all the cooking for the crew and guests. You have to work in a very small environment so being clean and organised is so important. Also you really need to know your whole way around every department in the kitchen, starters, mains and desserts.
What’s the best thing about working aboard yachts?
I love that I get to work with so much beautiful fresh fish and seafood without having to be restricted to a strict budget & also I get to travel to some beautiful places, so there’s always a change of scenery.
What are your favourite cuisines to cook for guests?
I love cooking Italian, fresh hand-rolled pasta dishes and beautiful seafood dishes. I also found a new love for making Sushi whilst working on yachts. It’s amazing working with some of the best quality fish in the world.
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In your experience, what do crew members most enjoy eating onboard?
I’ve found that the crew love food packed full of flavour and some variety. My style of cooking for the crew is always buffet style and I always do a different theme for each lunch and dinner, from Thai, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Greek or Spanish, and the list goes on. I find that doing buffet style ensures everybody has the choice to be as healthy as they please.
What’s your idea of a perfect culinary experience? What do you enjoy eating when dining out?
“Food to me is art and it can look so beautiful but it also needs to taste amazing as well.”
Walking into a restaurant and having great customer service from the waiters, having a sommelier that knows their stuff and being taken on a culinary journey throughout the meal. I love trying lots of dishes & sharing food. I love trying new flavour combinations. Also food to me is art and it can look so beautiful but it also needs to taste amazing as well.
What would you like to do next in your career, what are your current goals?
I really enjoy teaching, so this is something I would like to do more of. I always thought it would be a good idea to do bespoke one on one classes for budding yacht chefs to fine tune there culinary skills. I also love developing new dishes and working on new flavor combinations. I would like to stay free lance for the mean time, so it gives me the opportunity to work on a variety of projects.
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