Chris Demaillet has undoubtedly experienced successful progressions throughout his long career in the Yachting industry. Now Managing Director of the Montclair Chef Agency – a leading private and Superyacht Chef recruitment agency – Chris talks about his experiences and any tips he would give to yacht crew who are considering their life after yachting…
Chris is from the Loire Valley in France. Following his passion for cooking, he started his culinary career at 15 and worked at various types of busy operations before traveling to the UK, working for the infamous Roux family. In 2008, his work onboard Superyachts began as a Sous Chef.
After working on multiple vessels Demaillet created ‘YachtChefWanted.com’ in 2017 – an online platform for listing yacht chef jobs. The platform is now, according to Demaillet, the largest Chef job platform in the industry with over 12,000 chef subscribers: “The aim was to provide a digital space for employment opportunities that was free from the overwhelming presence of spam and irrelevant content”. In 2020, he published a guidebook for new chefs who are willing to discover and perhaps break into the Superyacht industry.
In the winter of 2022, he relaunched the platform under a new brand and identity. Due to the increasing demand and the fast-growing network, the platform naturally evolved into a recruitment agency specialised in placing Chefs onboard Superyachts. The goal at Montclair Chef is to help elite clients find excellent and trustworthy professionals and to represent the best chefs in the world. Their mission is to become the number one leading private and Superyacht chef recruitment agency in the world.
How long did you work as crew, what was your role onboard, and which yachts did you work on?
I’ve been working on Superyachts since 2008. I started as a Crew Chef/Sous Chef, and I am very glad I began this way because it allowed me to discover this new industry, and I learned so much from Steve, my first head chef on board – I am forever grateful for everything he taught me. I worked on multiple yachts all the way to a 100m private Superyacht. Privacy obliges me to not reveal the name of the vessels I was employed on, but those were owned by some of the most successful people on the planet.
When did you leave the Superyacht industry, and what were your reasons for leaving?
Well, I never really left; I still feel like I am part of the industry. However, the epiphany came at the birth of my daughter in 2019. Before the birth of my child, my sole focus was my career and the next challenge I could set and reach. Becoming a dad made me realise that a good balance between life and work was what I needed, and this is when I truly realised that I needed to think about my life after yachting.
“Becoming a dad made me realise that a good balance between life and work was what I needed, and this is when I truly realised that I needed to think about my life after yachting”
Prior to leaving, did you plan an exit strategy?
As a chef, there is always the option to become head chef in a restaurant or even open up your very own restaurant. In 2017, I did just that and opened my own French bistro in Palma de Mallorca that I ran with my partner only in the winter while I was having time off from the boat. It was a great success from the very start. However, after almost 3 years, I realised that it wasn’t what I aspired to be. My partner and I sold the business just before COVID hit – a fortunate move.
Here is a tour of our now closed French bistro in Palma de Mallorca, voted best restaurant in Palma de Mallorca on Tripadvisor at the time:
Most important lesson you learned as a crew member that you now apply to day-to-day life on land?
Be grateful. The industry is filled with excess and extravagance, but it’s not real life; it’s like living in a bubble. Never forget that there will be a point when it may stop, and you may need to go back “ashore” and live a normal life. Remember that we are all privileged while working onboard superyachts.
What is your current job role, and where are you based?
I am the founder and managing director at Montclair Chef, we are a remote recruitment agency specialised in Private and Superyacht chefs, but I am myself based in Palma de Mallorca.
Can you tell us more about Montclair and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
Developing and running Montclair Chef is very motivating for me. It involves reaching out to chef candidates and getting to know them. A significant part of it is also setting up systems and processes to keep up with all the candidates and clients’ files and interactions. I enjoy discovering the latest tools and new technologies that can make recruitment more efficient, but nothing is more valuable than the impression you can get from a human interaction with a candidate or a client in a one-on-one meeting or on a video call.
Read More SYC Articles: Life After Yachting: From Yacht Chef to Crew Pages
The good, the bad, and the ugly parts of transitioning from yachts to shore?
The obvious part is that you need to take care of your own expenses. No one is refilling your toiletry cupboard, folding your clean clothes, or providing a “boat credit card” for your food – it’s all on you. It takes some getting used to after spending years onboard big white boats. Also, lack of privacy onboard busy and noisy yachts can be challenging, especially as you get older and start building a family ashore.
What is your hardest struggle since leaving the industry, and how did you overcome it?
I always knew that this transition was coming, so leaving the industry was not a problem for me. The hardest part was giving up on a good income, as the longer you stay in the industry, the higher your salary and overall compensation become – the famous golden handcuffs that everyone knows about our beloved yachting industry.
Did you have any other career options in the back of your mind when you were considering your life after yachting?
Being a private chef or running my own restaurant was always an option or exit strategy. However, I never truly thought this would be my happy place. I had a bigger vision for myself and needed a little more time to clearly shape what that could be.
“Never forget that there will be a point when it may stop, and you may need to go back “ashore” and live a normal life”
If you could return to the start of your yachting career, would you change anything? For example, financial choices, ways you would have enhanced your CV, extra courses, and so on.
If I could go back in time and give advice to my younger self, it would be: be very careful with your money and start saving and investing from the very beginning. There were times when I indulged myself a little too much in partying, fancy restaurants, and travel, which shaped me into who I am today, but some of the money spent didn’t need to be spent.
What kind of positive changes would you like to see in the industry?
I really struggled with the lack of privacy towards the end of my yacht chef career. As you get older and start a family, it becomes increasingly difficult to live on a busy and noisy yacht. On the one hand, there is always someone around to go out and do activities (during the off-season). However, the lack of privacy was the hardest part for me. It is not essential for everyone, but when you are going through a difficult personal time or are not feeling mentally well, the fact that there is no place to talk to your loved one or anyone on the phone can be very stressful. I wish yacht designers would start to take this into account. Not everyone is on rotation, and not everyone has a private space where they can have a personal conversation freely without others listening in.
“I believe that success is not solely dependent on financial gain, but rather on finding fulfilment in what you do”
What does success mean to you, and what is your career vision for the next 5 years?
To me, success is synonymous with happiness. I believe that success is not solely dependent on financial gain, but rather on finding fulfilment in what you do. When you genuinely enjoy your work, you naturally become better at it.
I am committed to making Montclair Chef a success. I believe that our agency has the potential to be the leading private and Superyacht chef recruitment agency in the world. We have a clear vision for the future, and we are determined to achieve our goals. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me and to develop our brand. I’m committed to making my mark in the world of elite cuisine, whether on land or offshore. I want to continue to share my knowledge to help chefs achieve their own goals, keep exploring the world, and elevate the culinary experience for the most elite clientele on our planet.
Lastly, can you share 3 pieces of advice for crew members thinking about their life after yachting?
- Save your cash: The financial reward is one of the reasons we work on yachts, so be mindful of your money.
- Start building your exit strategy while you’re still onboard. If it doesn’t work out the first time, it’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you may need to come back on board for a couple of years and take the time to rethink your plans.
- Enjoy today; make sure you really enjoy what you are doing now. If you are not happy where you are, move on. Your happiness and mood are contagious, so go where you’d rather be and don’t look back. It’s going to be okay!
To learn more about Montclair Chef, click here.
To read more Life After Yachting articles, click here.
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