Freelance yacht chef Andre Lichaa might be more familiar to you as @culinarygangstar on Instagram. This New Englander Jewish Chef is making his mark on the yachting world after a long land-based career in restaurants. If we are honest here, I don’t think you will see another American chef make as much biltong as Andrew does!
Can you tell us more about how you got into being a superyacht chef?
I have cooked professionally coming up through the ranks in commercial fine dining kitchens since I was 13. Now on the corner of 33, I’ve been in yachting for just over 2 years. Being from Newport, RI and working The Boatshow for more seasons than I can remember, I always kind of had it in the back of my mind. And towards the tail end of my time in restaurants, I began marinating on the idea of making the switch into yachting. Finally, I just made the leap of faith. I packed up my Jeep and drove down to Fort Lauderdale to begin my STCW courses at Bluewater.
What is your formal chef background?
I have been in fine dining commercial kitchens in New England, mainly Rhode Island for almost 17 years. I worked my way up the ranks.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently on a 145 foot Feadship Expedition ending our season in New England gearing up to make a crossing to Amsterdam to do an interior refit. I plan to take time and do my Cooks Ships Cert and possibly one or two other classes that will build up my CV and make me a more rounded valued member of any crew.
As a sole yacht chef, what are some of the difficulties you face day to day?
I’d have to say storage. I’ve become quite the Tetris Master if I may say so myself. Making everything fit in its appropriate place but yet keeping it easily accessible.
How do the other departments help you out in the galley, and vice versa?
Other departments help me out? Lol.
On my last boat, the Mate and Stew were both super helpful Jake Marinucci and Kerry Hertz. I learned a tonne from both of them. We had large parties often with more than a dozen guests at a time, sometimes very last minute. Jake would help me plate up. Because of this, I often referred to him as my Sous. We enjoyed our time together and I was always down to teach him a thing or two during service. As he would intern teach me a thing or two on deck.
Do you have any great timesaving tips that you implement in the galley?
Try and live by these two quotes:
“Don’t talk about it be about it.” – Always challenge yourself/accept a challenge.
“ABR – Always Be Ready.”
Know your P’s!
Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
What does a normal day look like for you on charter?
Typically I wake up by 0430-0500 and in the galley starting to prepare breakfast for both crew and Owners/Guests. I put out crew breaky at 8. Guest service is whenever they choose and I begin preparing lunch and dinner. Crew Lunch at noon. Guests whenever. Continue prepping for dinner and passed apps/dessert. All depending on what the preferences sheets show and whatever the guest’s request.
Crew Dinner is at 6. Then on to guest dinner service. Finally, I can clean up the galley and get ready to wake up and do it all again the next day!
What are some of the most inspiring destinations you have travelled to as a superyacht chef?
Exuma Islands. Staniel Cay is by far my favourite place I’ve been to. I love its beauty and how removed you are from the rest of the world there. One of a kind in my opinion. The Thunderball Grotto was epic!
How have you incorporated the flavours and tastes of your travels in your dishes?
By provisioning locally. It is the best way to do it! When I’m in a specific region I generally menu plan ahead of time so I have an idea of what I’m going to be doing during that specific trip or destination.
Where would you suggest other yachts chefs visit in their next leave?
I want to travel to Norway. Specifically to dine at “Under” in Baly. As well as stay at the Aurora Borealis Observatory in Torsmoveien. Alaska is certainly on my list as well as Ireland, Scotland, and the French Polynesian Islands.
What would you say is the most exciting thing about being a chef in the superyachting industry?
That every single day brings something new. There is never a dull moment. And the pure fact that you’re always going somewhere! New or old!
Do you have a favourite memory of yachtlife so far?
Freediving the Pablo Escobar plane and the Thunderball Grotto were pretty gnarly! Unreal experience!
What has been the most challenging thing you have overcome in your yachting career?
Transitioning from 17 years of fine dining commercial kitchens into a superyacht galley setting. It’s a completely different work and lifestyle. Its like night and day. Also probably the whole never having a minute to yourself or privacy thing took a bit to get used to. Sharing tight quarters with strangers or even friends. Its an entirely different dynamic.
How is life on board a yacht different to your previous restaurant based work?
Fine dining kitchens to Private Chef work on a Superyacht are two wildly different animals. Working a 14+ hour day in a kitchen pumping out 600-1200 covers without a minute to spare while managing people, prepping, executing, leading, and all the other things involved leaving you drained both physically and mentally after working an 80-hour workweek. Vs Your average busy day cooking for 8 crew and 12+ guests in yachting doesn’t even slightly compare. Stress levels much lower in yachting in my opinion. Not only that but you work alone if you’re a Sole Chef or with one or two others in the galley. It’s a very different yet very similar dance we do. I don’t mind working alone, I actually rather enjoy it.
What advice do you have for new chefs coming into the industry?
Keep pushing! Stay focused, motivated, and challenging yourself. Don’t stay still. Take risks. Take care of yourself and your crew. Teamwork makes the dream work. But at the same time don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Change is GOOD!
Tell us about your first yacht job
I started freelancing a bit before I got my first permanent Chef position. It was on a 90’ Horizon outside of Lauderdale I believe. Cooked for 8 guests. Captain was a character! Very cool fun guy whom I actually met through a friend that had just got a job on board after we finished up our classes at Bluewater. Did a plethora of passed apps, salad course, entrée and dessert. Had a blast doing it. And it felt very fulfilling after finishing my first gig as a Yacht Chef. Super exciting!
What resources have you used to develop your skills more while at sea?
Yachting Groups and FRIENDS within the yachting industry. FRIENDS, networking, and connections are PARAMOUNT!
What are your favourite dishes to make?
Bagels. Lox and Bagels. Maybe its my Jewish heritage but theres something so soothing about making bagels. By far my favourite breaky!
Where do you get your inspiration for your dishes?
Everywhere. All around me. Whether it’s something my father used to make all the time growing up that I enjoyed (all things lamb and loved to pickle) or from time spent at a particular Restaurant I worked at, or had while at a friends or going out to dinner. Food is the common denominator…it brings people together and sparks ideas, creates memories. Also a fair amount of research, playing around at home or work, and also by just getting on a call with Chef friends of mine and talk about life and food.
How do you deal with crew dietary requirements on board?
I just do. That’s the job. I have been lucky so far in my career and haven’t had picky eaters as far as crew goes. Currently doing green juice daily and ill be honest im not a fan. Maybe its because im stuck with a little home juicer that cant fit more than a stalk of celery through it at a time. Try juicing 3 gallons a day using it and youll get an idea lol
What is your ‘show stopper’ charter dish?
I try to keep things changing, fun, and different. If I had to choose id say my Colorado Lamb Rack is by far a fan favorite.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Wildly Eclectic. I love to try and break the mold. But I absolutely love working with anything that comes out of the water.
What are the ingredients that you are loving working with right now?
Octopus, black garlic, harissa, and preserved lemon. I also have been doing a good amount of fermenting on board. Making hot sauces and kraut.
Who are the yacht chefs that you look up to?
Well that ones easy Danny Davies, Jamie Tully, and Sergio Marichales. They are masters at their craft and have some of the coolest plates in the game.
What restaurant chefs are you inspired by?
Anthony Bourdain, Matty Matheson, Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen, Thomas Keller, and Gordon Ramsay.
Protein to work with? Lamb
Vegetable to work with? Garlic
Cuisine to cook? Middle Eastern
Service style? plated/buffet? plated
Meat-free Mondays, yay or nay? Hell no
Crocs or Birks? Is this a serious question? Birks
Med or Caribbean? Haven’t been to the med yet but probably the med
Charter or private? Depends what day lol
Under 50m or over? Also depends on what day
Whats your favourite piece of equipment in the galley and why?
I hate to say it but the anova pro. Just because it is a big help when your busy and its such a versatile piece of equipment.
If you were to gift someone one cookbook, what would it be?
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz