The Crew Chef Nina Wilson

Nina Wilson was a deckhand on a superyacht who turned her passion for cooking into a full-time job. She is now a sous chef on a 70m Motoryacht travelling the world and cooking up a storm!

Can you tell us more about how you got into being a superyacht chef?

I grew up looking through my parent’s photo albums – it was filled with amazing snaps of them at sea working on these glamorous yachts (with very interesting hairstyles – it was the 80s!) After seeing how much fun they had and hearing all their crazy stories, I always knew I wanted to work on the ‘white boats’ as we call them in Australia.

I started out as a stewardess for 2 years, then moved out on deck as a deckhand for another 2, even completing my Yachtmasters! After a stint back in Australia working with my partner running a small sailing yacht, I discovered how much I enjoyed cooking – and then decided to move into the galley! Maybe after two years, I’ll try engineering….Just joking!

How long have you been in yachting for? How easy was it for you to land your first yacht job?

I started back in 2014 and got my very first job as a sole stew within 24hrs of landing in France. Talk about lucky timing! I have always used agents, Peter Insull got me my very first job. YPI and Bluewater have also been great.

Read more: Crew agents list to help you get started in yachting

Where did you study, and what qualifications do you have from it?

When I made the decision to move into the galley I knew it was important to get some culinary training to give me a good start. I completed a month-long intensive course at Ashburton Chef’s Academy, and I highly recommend it! I left with a Level 2 in Food Preparation and all the necessary hygiene and food safety certificates.

The Crew Chef Nina Wilson whips up amazing crew lunches for yachties

What made you make the decision to transition from deckhand to the galley?

I was a deckhand on a yacht based in the UK – it was always cold and raining outside! So I was forever looking into the nice warm galley with all the delicious food…. I had always enjoyed cooking and after cooking for 8 guests on a tiny sailing boat it really cemented the fact I enjoyed creating meals a lot more than polishing stainless.

Who has the better uniform? The deck department or the galley?

I’ve got to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of my chef whites – at 5’2 I had to get some specially made and even then they are baggy. Sorry, but I loved wearing board shorts and a rashie all day!

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

Starting at 8 am, getting ahead with lunch prep before then putting up some brekkie for the crew at 10 am, usually a fruit plate with either a smoothie or muffins – maybe even eggs and bacon on a special day! I’ll then crack on with lunch, trying to squeeze in a bit of dinner prep if I can. 12pm lunch goes up, and I’ll take a break for 2 hours after that. In the afternoon, along with dinner prep, I’ll try to fit in a few cleaning jobs to keep on top of things. Dinner goes out at 6 pm and I’ll try to smash out the clean down as fast as possible after that!

Yacht Crew love The Crew Chef Nina Wilson’s sushi spread

What does a normal day look like for the sous chef on a charter?

Starting at either 7 or 8 depending on what the head chef has asked me – it usually follows the same routine excepting that whenever the guests are eating I’ll be assisting the head chef.

Unfortunately, they always seem to want breakfast at the same time as crew lunch….and then want lunch as I a prepping for dinner! After I put up dinner I will then take a short break before heading back into the galley to help with guest dinner – it can turn into quite a late night!

Who are the yacht chefs that you look up to?

I loved following Dean Harrison, @theyachtchef for step by step recipes! Also, @thechefwiththeparrottattoo is great! 

@harrietmansell and @laureneveret are both absolutely goals – sole chefs smashing it 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?

Tonight I am craving pasta so much! I would love to head back to a restaurant in Villefranche, Marechiaro. The owners came sailing with my partner and I when we were running the smaller yacht together. Their carbonara is amazing  – they deep fry the pancetta and sprinkle it on top! I need to stop thinking about it…..I’m so hungry now.

The crew chef

Follow the crew chef Nina Wilson on instagram at @thecrewchef , but be warned, she does post delicious crew food shots almost daily. You will be hungry!

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