Superyacht Chef Luca Mansueto
We recently bumped into Superyacht chef Luca Mansueto at the 2022 MYBA Charter show, from which we got to learn a little bit more about his background story. In our most recent interview, we unveil how the luxury yacht chef went from cooking in his fathers kitchen, to working in Superyacht galleys for UHNWIs. As well as, what Lucas idea of ” the ideal charter guests” look like…
About Superyacht Chef, Luca Mansueto:
“My name is Luca Mansueto. I couldn’t really tell you when I started to be a chef because my father is a chef and I grew up inside his restaurant . Anyway, my career as yacht’s chef started back in 2017 when I started working on a 60m expedition vessel. I signed my first contract as deckhand and finished in the galley as birthday gift in June 2017, on the same boat. I guess I would call this the day zero!
During the following years my goal never changed. The plan was to improve my skills to the next level and provide better food experiences to the yacht guests. To reach my goal I had to do courses in Michelin stars restaurants, where I had to read plenty of recipe books and watching hours of cooking class. You always know when the learning process starts but nobody knows when it finishes, as surely it doesn’t’ have any end!
What was your career path prior to becoming a yacht chef?
My chef career started at an early age inside my father’s kitchen. At the very beginning I was a kitchen porter, where cleaning dishes and peeling potatoes were my main duties (a very classic initiation into a kitchen). At age of 16, I was in charge of the starters and the bread, then a few years later I shifted to the main courses. From this, at the end of my University I moved to London to work as Pasta Chef in a busy Italian restaurant.
You say you fell in love with yachting when you joined your uncle’s business as a yacht agent. What was it about the yachting industry that sparked your interest?
I’ve seen in yachting a big chance of traveling around the world, exploring new places and came across different cultures. Beside that I saw it as a great opportunity to get a better salary. Last but not least, working on board for me was the only way for me to fully understand the dynamics and politics of the crew. This is something that I felt would help to me to become a better agent/provisioner in the future, which is an area that I wanted to keep open for after my yachting path.
It’s clear that your father had a strong influence on your choice to become a chef. Could you please tell us a little bit more about your catering service, on the side of being a yacht chef:
I’ve always seen my father as of the best chefs out there! His career as chef started inside a five star luxury hotel in Sanremo, followed by other high-standard hotels around Italy. Even if sometimes yachts and hotels are considered similar in a way, it is a completely different kind of work when it comes to a chef’s life.
On board we normally cook for 12 guests, alone or in a team of two; In a hotel, the guests can go up to 200 per service, with kitchen brigade of around 15/20 chefs. Catering for large amount of guests often brings many problems, such as coordination with the colleagues, several hours of working on the same dish or preparation and normally, a team has to complete 7/8 dishes over and over during the season. Whereas, on board the menu changes every service. This to me is the most exciting part of being a yacht chef – keeping the variety, crafting new plates and sticking to the guests preferences.
Having started working on board Yachts in 2016, do you think you could ever return to land and work as a yacht agent again, or work in a traditional kitchen?
I joined the yachting industry with the vision of been a better agent/provisioner at the end of my on board career. Therefore, I would be a liar by saying that I wouldn’t go back on land as an agent again… It is a part of my plan, but I’m still unsure about when it’s going to be the right time to call it a day in my career as a yacht chef. Right now, there are still many things I want to achieve, many places I want to explore and I’m still having a lot of fun along the way.
I see it as being much more complicated for me to go back in a restaurant, it goes against my explorers soul. It’s true also that the biggest ambition for a chef is to get a Michelin star for his own restaurant. Personally, this is something I’ve dreamt about so many times! I don’t like to exclude any career path, because “never say never” for the future. At the end of the day, I’ll find out what the universe has for me over the coming years, but right now ,my main focus is the next meal for my guests.
Where in the world have you travelled to that stands out as being the culinary leader and why?
I’m originally from Italy, where we’re recognised as one the biggest countries when it comes of food and wine. We start to talk about dinner while we’re busy finishing our lunch (no jokes here). During my travels, I found out that the passion for food is mutual and well spread around the globe. It took me a while to put together the top 3 countries leading the way and it is not a final one – I still have at least 150 countries to visit. However, at this moment, Italy, Japan and France make a solid podium in matter of food. And as runners up, I’d have to say China, Spain and Perù.
Having worked on board 10+ Yachts now, including M/Y Vibrance and M/Y Kisses, serving UHNWI all over the globe, what are your ideal guests?
I enjoy working with people who are passionate about food. My ideal guest is the one who gives me white paper, no dietary restrictions, and wants the full experience. This makes it easy in a way, but very complicate at the same time. When you can pick from a infinite list of ingredients it gets tricky to sometimes to find the right match. It also easier to open the doors of failure when we go over the edge, and creativity turns into senseless flavor combination. By working with very wealthy individuals, I’ve learned that sometimes they don’t want anything fancy. Often, a well prepared family-style meal that’s simple, fresh and nutrient is what makes them happy. There’s no need of cutting sesame seeds in half , or recreating the Eiffel Tour with chocolate. Keeping it simple with many yacht owners/charter guests has always been a winning point.
There’s a whole heap of unbelievable benefits that you get when becoming a Superyacht Chef, but we understand it’s not all fun and games. What would you say is the most challenging part of the job that yacht chefs new to the industry may not be aware of?
Provisioning in remote locations, such as some islands, the Caribbean, Croatia or wherever they are. This is one of the most critical parts of my job and it requires strong planning skills. To avoid mistakes and stressful runs to the supermarket during the charter, the yacht chef needs to source all the ingredients before. Whether this be throughout an agent or at the market, it doesn’t really matter. By the time the guests check in, every single ingredient needs to be on board. Once the weekly menu is planned and the provisions are on board, the final step of the mission is to store them correctly into a limited storage space, and then it’s show time!
Biggest achievement in your career so far, or an accomplished that is the most significant to you?
During my first charter season on a 20 meter power Cat, back in 2018, I made it to impress 10 French guests on a 10 day charter. I had a tiny galley with 2 home style fridges and one freezer in the lazaret (the same size of the one my grandma use for the meat). Making some of the hardest guests (French people are not easy at all) happy with such a small galley, was for sure the turning point of my career. I remember at the end of the trip I said to the stewardess on board, “if we made this one, now it can only gets easier.”
If you could create and serve a meal to anyone dead or alive, who would you like to cook for and what would you serve?
I’m a big fan of basketball, so it has to be my childhood idol, Michael Jordan! He’s still alive, plus he charters boats very often; So in a way, I’ve still got a chance to make it happen… It’s going to be a 6 course meal with wine pairing. I’m sorry, but I have no clue about his preference, so it is pointless to set a menu. Although, the one thing I do know is the dessert, my pistachio cheesecake with blackberry gelatine will strike to impress MJ. And I might as well get a signed Bulls’s jersey too (I hope he always hangs around with one in his suitcase haha!)
Lastly, where do you see “Superyacht Chef Luca Mansueto” in the next 5 years?
I gave myself 5 years time to accomplish my on board career, this happened 5 years ago and I’m still going. I’m really looking forward to call it in the next 3 years, by which point, it would be amazing to get back with my family business, as an agent. With a strong background as Superyacht chef and the experience of having a 45 years old company in the yachting industry, we could definitely be a very helpful asset for every yacht chef and chief stew out there. Providing top quality services and products, by helping the crew making their charter easier and successful. My cousin permitting…
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