Should I work on a private yacht or charter yacht as a chef?

There are always so many questions regarding private or charter yachts, especially starting out in the industry, which one do you go for? Which route do you take?

Everyone seems to have an opinion about working on charter vs private yachts. A yacht chef salary on each can vary considerably, which of course will sway your opinion on what sort of super yacht you want to work on. After all, who doesn’t want to be on a decent salary!

Read Also: Should I be a crew chef on yachts to enter the industry?

But there is more to it. Private yachts and charter yachts are run very different. Not only do they offer different cruising programmes, salaries and bonuses but they also often have a totally different vibe on board. And I don’t just mean with the crew. Sometimes guest interaction can be a totally different ball game too.

Let me explain…

Private yachts vs charter yachts

Private Super Yachts

Some of my favourite yachts to work on have been private yachts. Having that personal connection with the owners can really turn your job into an awesome one. Working as a chef certainly has it’s perks. It is not unheard of for yacht owners to like their chef so much, that they are whisked away in the private jet. Many go on to work at other land based estates or villas for the owners. While some accompany the guests on their other luxury vacations and continue working as a private chef.

Working on private yachts as a chef also means learning to know their preferences. As a chef, you get to know your guests intimately. You will know very quickly which foods and cuisines they love and which ones they don’t. Private yachts give you the time to develop menus perfectly catered for your guests. You can still surprise them with new and exciting dishes, but with the insider knowledge that you understand their palate.

“When you can make anything and everything you want because you know the owners will love it makes such a difference to any chef job”

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it can be the opposite. The owners may want to eat the same dishes, with the same ingredients all the time. It’s then up to you to try and sway them to try new things, again if you can. Some yacht chefs love this sort of work. You can pump out the dishes almost on autopilot and use the crew to experiment on instead.

When working on private boats having the same owners can be a blessing. You can become very close to them and their friends and extended families.

Being present with them at every meal adds a personal touch. It shows that you really care about what they think of your food. Depending on the owners, this feeling of appreciation can go both ways.

Provisioning on a private yacht

Provisioning for a private boat is sometimes a lot easier as again, you know what ingredients the guests like. Private yachts have varied budgets for the galley. Some private yachts will be just as extravagant with the guests and crew food budgets. While others will really tighten the reins. There is no hard and fast rule on galley budgets for private yachts. It is worth clarifying this in your interview before you accept the job!

Which brings us to the money.

How much money does a private yacht chef make?

How much money does a private yacht chef make?

Do you make less money working on a private boat? Do private yachts still tip at all? I’m sure you have heard these sorts of conversations happening with other green crew over beers at the local dock bar. It’s normal to wonder what the average wages are as a chef on yachts. After all, we dedicate our lives to being at sea and away from our loved ones. It’s only fair to assume we get paid well for it.

A yacht chef working on a privately owned yacht does generally get paid a little bit less on the their monthly salary over someone on the same sized boat working charter. However… and this is importantA yacht chef on a private yacht may not be under the same workload as a charter yacht chef. Furthermore, a yacht chef on a private boat may also be privy to more lenient downtime, or more accrued leave on their contract. And that’s without even discussing possible rotation!

Private yacht chef owners and their quirks

If you are on a smaller private yacht, say, under 70m, often the guests will communicate better with the chef. You might be informed of parties and additional guests well in advance so you can plan. Or you may have your owners trip dates planned months ahead too. Of course, you may end up on a private yacht where the owners do not communicate much. Or who show up with a few hours notice and expect a sit-down lunch for 25 of their closest friends. You win some, you lose some.

Every private yacht owner is different, and their preferences and diets are also varied. With private yachts, you will know during the interview process how the boat will be run. From there you can decide if the programme and preferences are your sort of vibe or not. If it’s not, there will no doubt be another private yacht owner who is better suited.

Niche chefs will most likely be more interested in working for a private yacht owner. If you are a specialised chef in certain cuisines, such as Jewish, Vegan, Russian or Middle Eastern, you may prefer an owner who also enjoys those cuisines frequently.

Private yachts are known to be the ‘safer’ option. But this is not always the case. A lot of chefs love the element of surprise and to show their creativity more. So this leads me nicely onto charter yachts. 

Charter Superyachts

I have worked on some awesome charter yachts, but like any yacht they have their positives and negatives. A good charter yacht is a totally different world in yachting. Working on a charter yacht as a chef can be one of the most rewarding jobs you can do. Why?

Because, every, single trip is different!

This is the fun, most spontaneous part about working on a charter yacht. 

“You get that buzz, that anticipation that element of surprise every single time a new guest steps on board”

I actually find it quite thrilling when a guest steps on board and you only have the vague guest preference sheet to go off. Sometimes it can be the worst thing in the world, not knowing. Other times, it can be great because you are able to guide the guests into the charter experience that works best for you, and for their enjoyment.

The big questions are : Are they going to throw spontaneous parties?. Will they want beach BBQ’s daily?. Do they like small courses and lots of them or do they prefer a family style buffet dinner?

The list is endless, and it feels like a really difficult jigsaw puzzle to figure out at times. But when it all comes together, you will be riding that buzz of working the charter season to the end!

Charter guest preferences

The most important thing to have pre ready for any charter is a detailed preferences list, what the guests like and don’t like, because this is what you will base all of your dishes on. If you don’t have this, then the worlds your oyster- but not in a good way because you can plan all these wonderful meals and then have them come to you saying they don’t like caviar (as an example, and that is a real punch in the stomach)!! As you can guess this can be extremely stressful for any chef, so getting a DETAILED preference list is with utmost importance. 

Sometimes and actually quite often they have surprise guests turning up, or even guest switching mid trip (you may be lucky enough to get a pre warning about this, and you can get their preferences but not always) so this can throw a curve ball in and you have to think on your feet. 

Every meal is a chance to show what you can do, to show your creativity and really have fun and show all your skills with every dish you make. Some chefs love to do Michelin star like dishes, whilst others love to do more buffet style (especially if it’s a family or a chilled lunch) and also you can do live cooking shows – personally these always go down well with ANY guests I’ve ever had.

Charter yacht chef table service

I’ve also found that charter guests love to see the chef at every meal, they love to see the person behind the beautiful dishes they are receiving. 

Going out and seeing them to talk over your next meal ideas, or seeing what their plans are for activities so you can plan the type of lunch they would like I think is a bonus for them and also for you, you can plan more, which again is key. 

Be prepared for a random, spontaneous request at anytime. Often this is a birthday they forgot to tell you about (or 3 birthdays at one time- yes I’ve had this), or a 2am feast after they’ve got in from the nearest town (Be prepared to get out of bed anytime!) this can be tiring and overwhelming, and you may not get your 6 hours sleep every night, let alone have a break in the day. But being prepared for this and knowing that there will be times like this, eases the stress when it does happen, because it will! After all its charter and the charter does end eventually. 

How much does a charter yacht chef make?

So, how much does a charter yacht chef make? How big are those charter tips, really?

You may have heard that crew on charter yachts get tipped really well. You may have even heard the stories about certain yacht crews getting upwards of twenty thousand Euros for a charter. And while some of these stories are true. (Yes, I can vouch for knowing of a 20k+ tip) many are also inflated by other green crew wanting to sound “cool”.

A usual charter tip is around 10% of the charter cost, minus additional expenses from the APA.

TIPS ARE NOT GUARANTEED ON A CHARTER BOAT!

I cannot stress this enough. So many crew come on board a charter yacht thinking they have hit the big time and they they will walk away with full pockets from the tip. Be mindful that a tip is exactly that. Do not relay on it to bump up your wage.

Do not accept a low paying job on the basis that “We did 2375754 charters last season and the crew made millions”. #rolleyes

You should get between 700-2000Euros as a tip on yachts below 60m as a “bad” tip, and upwards of 2k for a week where you have happy guests who are also good tippers.

Yachts over 80m can easily get 5000Euro tips per week, but again, it is never guaranteed….

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So, should you work on a private or charter yacht?

Comparing charter and private is quite hard, because they really are so different depending on the guests or owners you have. Also the crew plays a massive role in this too.

I stand by saying that having a great crew around you is one of the MOST important aspects about working on any yacht, private or charter. Team work is key!

Working on a private yacht has a very different list of demands to working on a charter boat. Both can be tough, or easy, depending on your skills. Honestly, I think all yacht chefs should try and work both sides in their yachting career, just to get a taste for it.

What do you prefer? Private or charter?

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