clancy atkinson

Freelance Private chef Clancy Atkinson

Being a freelance private chef on yachts has its advantages. Many yacht chefs will also work as a freelance private chef on land between yacht jobs. This allows for greater freedom as a chef. Often, it also means more possibilities for travel too, as they take jobs all over the globe as they wish.

Chef Clancy Atkinson chats to us about how being a freelance private chef has been a great career so far.

How did you get into being a superyacht chef?

I entered the superyacht world purely by accident.

A client from New York was visiting Sydney and decided to charter a superyacht for 3 days to see Sydney harbor and I cooked for the charter-I fell in love with being on the water.

Being a freelance private chef I’ve been fortunate to combine both land clients & superyacht charters successfully to achieve a healthy balance.

Charing Cross Hotel © Salty Dingo 2017

What is your formal chef background?

I trained under one of Australia’s most renowned chefs Russell Armstrong in Brisbane before moving to Sydney. Where I opened a boutique catering company specializing in working with luxury brands, including Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany. I worked exclusively with Gucci for many years designing canapés and menus for brand events under the strict guidelines of Tom Ford. 

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I have collaborations with 3 Australian based superyachts- M/Y Oneworld, M/Y Ghost 2 and M/Y Shadow. I have upcoming charters of the Great Barrier Reef booked with Oneworld and Sydney Harbor charters with Ghost 2 and Shadow.

On land I have client trips to Italy and New York/Hamptons booked in for the Northern Hemisphere summer. 

What are some of the most inspiring destinations you have travelled to as a super yacht chef?

French Polynesia and The Great Barrier Reef.

I’m drawn to natural beauty rather than destination places-St. Tropes, St. Bart’s etc are incredible but nothing compares to the natural beauty of coral reefs teaming with aquatic life and dramatically beautiful landscapes as a background. 

How have you incorporated the flavours and tastes of your travels in dishes?

Inspiration comes from everywhere!. The greatest thing about traveling is the constant education of other foods and cultures. One of my biggest food influences is South East Asia. Fortunately, I’ve been many times and it’s influence is continually developing in my cooking. 

What are your favourite markets to wander through when you pull into a port?

I love vegetables. So farmers markets are always the most inspirational and appealing to me. On a trip to Bordeaux, I found the most incredible local farmers market selling the most beautiful organic seasonal produce.

Charing Cross Hotel © Salty Dingo 2017

What is your signature dish?

A dessert-Coconut Pannacotta, w Coconut Jelly, Tropical Fruit and Coconut Sorbet.

What does a normal day look like for you off charter?

I have land-based clients also, so my days off charter are very similar to being on a superyacht charter. Generally, it’s breakfast, lunch and dinner service and prep. The biggest difference is I have the luxury of being able to provision fresh everyday when working on land.

Leave your ego on the dock before you board the yacht.

What does a normal day look like for you on charter?

Generally the day starts at 6am and finishes at 11pm. 

The day consists of 3 main services breakfast, lunch and dinner. However I always offer a detailed snack menu available 24 hours a day and I always do pre-dinner canapés. Along with any client requests and of course crew food. I always finish the day by cleaning my fridges out and organizing everything in the galley so it’s ready for the next service. I’m very particular and find having a strict routine helps with keeping the galley organized and running smoothly. 

What would you say is the most exciting thing about being a chef in the super yachting industry?

Obviously, travel is a highlight! Superyacht chefs are fortunate to travel to some incredibly beautiful and unique places. However, personally I find the constant challenge to make things perfect and satisfying charter guests very exciting-no two days are the same and it’s never boring.

Do you have any advice for new yacht chefs coming into the industry from a restaurant background?

Leave your ego on the dock before you board the yacht. Your priority is to make the guests as happy as possible while using their preference sheets and dietary requirements as reference points. 

Also, be spatially aware-the galley and crew quarters can get busy and congested so always make the space work for you while respecting others. 

Charing Cross Hotel © Salty Dingo 2017

What has been the most challenging thing you have overcome in your yachting career?

Recently I cooked for a VIP charter onboard M/Y ONEWORLD on the Great Barrier Reef. The preference sheets were particularly challenging with a lot of very specific dietary requirements-sugar free, dairy free, gluten free, meat free.

The challenge was keeping the menu interesting, fun and different for the duration of the charter to impress the guests. A lot of study and recipe testing was done pre-charter to ensure the food was perfect for the guests.

What restaurant chefs are you inspired by?

Simon Rogan from L’Enclume (England)

Tetsuya Wakuda from Waku Ghin (Singapore & Sydney)

Tommy Banks from Yorkshire gastropub The Black Swan. 

What are your favourite Instagram accounts to follow for inspiration?

If you could have a table at any restaurant in the world for a dinner reservation tonight, which one would it be, and who would be your dinner date?

The two Michelin star L’Enclume in Cartmel (UK) with Tom Ford. The restaurant is simply sublime-set in a medieval anvil in the picturesque village of Cartmel serving exquisite food with exceptional service. And Tom Ford is Tom Ford!!

What is your favourite piece of equipment in the galley?

My chef knife, Japanese mandolin and microplane.

If you were to gift someone one cookbook, what would it be…?

Good & Simple by Hemsley & Hemsley. Superb healthy gluten free, sugar free & dairy free recipes. 

What is your favourite dish to whip up when you are hungry mid shift?

A fresh and healthy Vegetarian stir fry with ginger, garlic, chili cashew nuts and coconut aminos

Charing Cross Hotel © Salty Dingo 2017

If you had to survive on one nationalities cuisine for the rest of your life, what country would it be?

Thai-super fresh flavors, full of texture, depth and complexity but also fragrant and never boring. 

We loved Clancy’s take on yachting and having a balance between working as a freelance private chef on both land and yachts. If you want to contact him, please email or stalk his instagram for some quality food porn shots 😉

Instagram @clancyatkinson

Are you a superyacht chef? Share your experience with The Superyacht Chef by getting in touch, we love to hear from chefs of all levels of experience and all walks of life. Contact det’s are on the front page.

Want to read about more super yacht chefs? Check out our previous interviews here.

Shadow Ocean Magazine © Salty Dingo 2017

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