Grace Stewart headshot

Grace Stewart, Peruvian yacht chef

She has the hard task for being a sole chef on a 60m Benetti, but Grace Stewart takes it in her stride. She is currently in the middle of the Med season. At the end of the season, Grace Stewart is heading back to school for a degree in pastry. Watch out, world 😉 

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How did you find your passion for being a chef?

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I was born in Lima, Peru and moved to the states when I was 4. Being an immigrant was difficult in the US. My parents worked so hard to make a better life for us.

Early on I had to learn to cook and to help mom with dinner. The first dish I learned, from my cousin, was an oven roasted chicken with mustard garlic and soy sauce. I think at that time I was in 4th grade. The dish has changed a bit over the years but I still use it for a quick crew meal with mashed potatoes and any other roasted veggie I have around.

When I was in high school I wanted to get into sports medicine, that was my goal. But I started working in a local Italian restaurant as a busier. It was then that I quickly moved up the rankings. It was through my love of fresh bread being made each morning, and watching the sauces on the stove.

I enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu for the fall after graduation. I remember sitting in orientation with my mom and whispering to her “If I don’t like it in 6 months, I can leave right?” Wrong. My parents never asked anything of us, but if we said we were going to do something we had better be the best at it.

What are some of the notable events you worked at while studying?

Throughout school, I participated in every event I could!

I worked at the food and wine festival in South Beach Florida.

To be able to work at the James Beard House in NYC, I had to double up on classes. But I did it!

I landed myself an internship at WD-50 straight out of culinary school.

How did you get into yachting?

After 5 years in New York, I needed a change. I had learned from the best in NYC with multiple lessons on the line and no day off between work and interning in pastry. There were Michelin star reviews and New York times, so much pressure. I needed an out and Miami was calling my name.

At the time I was dating a yacht chef. We’d met in Fort Lauderdale while i was trying to grow my business and seeing him between trips. His whole world intrigued me. I wanted in.

He helped me get my certificates and sadly our relationship came to an end. So I started freelancing, and boy did I suck!

I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. This young, hot-headed girl, coming in and thinking she’s some badass. I quickly got put into check!

This industry is a beast. The demands are high. Your knowledge needs to be vast. It’s probably taken me that last 4.5 years to get to a place where i am extremely confident to be put into any situation.

Through learning about myself, pushing harder, studying, reading, participating, I have become a better yacht chef. For my boss, my crew and myself.

Grace Stewart

With Peruvian food trending right now, do you find your skills being sought after?

I’ve already incorporated Peruvian flavors into my menus. It’s so fresh, and light. Before it was popular, the guests didn’t even know how much Peru had to offer!

How has being “undocumented” growing up in the US challenged you?

I love this question. Being undocumented in the states is probably the reason I work so hard.

Everyone chill, I’m US citizen now, as of a few months ago.

Being a child growing up in the states without papers (green card/status) you can’t travel, go to college, or obtain a drivers license.

My parents sold our childhood home. From this, they gave both my brother and me, half of our tuition money to put towards our schooling.

But, no four year uni would take me. And my school only gave me my degree after I finished paying off my $20,000 debt to them. The other half was paid by my parents in cash after selling the house. It took me 4 years after I graduated to actually get my degree. What a journey!

It sounds like you have some insane drive and tenacity…

We’ve always worked hard. I watched my parents. Their drive… our struggles.

How can you not have drive when you’re given an opportunity?!

What would you have studied if you hadn’t become a chef?

I would have studied sports medicine.

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

For me, it’s been Italy! Wow wow wow.

I’ve always loved Italian cuisine. Spent 2 years under Micheal White in NYC. At the time we were the only two Michelin Star Italian restaurant in the Nation. 

Grace Stewart

How do you incorporate the flavours and tastes of your travels in dishes?

With simplicity! If I find something I love, let’s take razor clams. I’m gonna showcase them on their own. I don’t need sauces or purées.

Not everything needs to be a composed dish. Nice oils, finishing salts, and some micros. Let the product do the talking.

How was your first experience on a yacht?

I worked on 125ft sailboat. I was actually hired to work interior.

I was ironing sheets when lunch time came around. The two stews didn’t know what to do, so I offered to make lunch and I got hired full time.

I didn’t last more then a month. It was nice that they took the risk in me, but I was so under prepared for their itinerary. If only I knew then what I know now.

What resources have you used to develop your skills more while at sea?

Books, books, and more books. I have so many. If I don’t know something, I read about it. I’ll practice and tweak recipes until the outcome is what I was looking for.

RELATED: The 5 best cookbooks in 2019 for yacht chefs

Also, Instagram has been so great. I love seeing what everyone is doing. What new techniques are being used and how far we can push the envelope onboard. 

What are your favourite dishes to make?

Oh god, I don’t do favorites. I do love baking. I love making ceviche. Traditional Peruvian. I won’t have it any other way. 

Grace Stewart

Who has been your biggest food influencer?

Christina tosi

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

At 6:30am I’m in the galley to turn everything on. I start my morning baked goods. Then I set up for breakfast. You know the drill, I won’t bore anyone 😉 

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

For me, it’s trying new foods and exploring new cultures. I love talking to the locals and taking classes. Working alone you need to find a way to always learn and develop your skills. Did I mention eating? ?

Do you have any tips for new yacht chefs getting into the industry?

Yeah, good luck. Haha no, just kidding. Honestly, if you can take a position as a 2nd chef on a yacht first and learn from a badass/seasoned yacht head chef, I suggest that. 

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

Honestly, anxiety. I had it because I had no clue what I was doing. Not in the galley, but in the prep, the provisioning, the travelling, the length of time you’d go without being in a store. It was all so overwhelming to me.

But what doesn’t kill you, does make you stronger. 

What restaurant chefs are you inspired by?

Michael White

Jason Morale

David Chang

Christina Tosi

Thomas Keller

Jose Andres 

What are your favourite Instagram accounts to follow for inspiration?

Cookinanook 

Theyachtchef (everyone’s favorite) 

Thecrewchef

I’m sure there is more, but those are my top 3 

Grace Stewart in the Galley

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?

Honestly, I’d take a little hole in the wall with my boyfriend and just enjoy the time together. In yachting we are gone for so long, that the smalls things just become the most important 

What is your favourite piece of equipment in the galley and why?

My kitchen aide 🙂

I use it every day! Right now I’m building up my bread skills, so if I’m not making breads, I’m giving in to the crew and baking up some treats.

Today was sourdough and salted caramel chocolate chip cookies. 

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

It depends on what they are after.

I gifted my friend James sugar rush by Johnny Iuzzini. He had just gotten his first gig in yachting and wasn’t too strong in pastry. That book really talks in depth about techniques and some amazing recipes for anyone

If you could convince the captain to drive the boat anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

Barcelona!!!!!!! For provisions ?? and I skipped lunch, so I’d love to go eat at the market ??

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

If you had to survive on one nationalities cuisine for the rest of your life, what country would it be? Italy, hands down. Sorry, Peru! I love youuuu 

What was the last item you bought for the galley?

A cryovac machine!!!! So happy with it !!!! 

Check out more great female yacht chefs with Chef Melanie White, Chef Grace Dvornik and the insta famous Chef Nina Wilson!

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