Nina Wilson was a deckhand on a superyacht who turned her passion
More recently, Nina has taken to YouTube where she has carved out a very successful yacht chef YouTube channel (more on that later!)
Perhaps, you have only recently discovered Nina Wilson and her galley talents, if so, you may enjoy the first half of this interview which took place back in 2018 when Nina was still a crew chef. Skip to the end if you are looking for the updated questions and answers from the start of 2022 when Nina had left her first head chef role.
Nina Wilson Interview: As The Crew Chef 2018
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
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.
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.
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
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. 12 pm 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!
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!
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
Nina Wilson Interview update: 2022
What has been the most interesting thing you learnt from stepping up from Sous Chef to Head Chef?
Having to explain everything extremely specifically! Unsurprisingly, people are not mind readers ha!
What does a typical day look like as a head chef when working with a Sous Chef?
6/7am I wake up and bake bread, prep proteins for all meals, make breakfast platters. The sous chef joins around 8am depending on the guest movements.
8am – 11am is breakfast service whilst also prepping desserts for the day. I send daily menus off to Chief Stew to put forward to the guests.
11am Guest lunch prep with the sous chef fully swinging into cooking crew lunch.
12pm crew lunch is served, with a small break ideally for us both to sit down and eat! The sous chef goes on break, I continue with guest lunch prep and try to finish all the desserts for the evening as well.
2-3pm is usually guest lunch time.The sous chef returns from break to assist with guest lunch. After guest lunch I go on break for 2 hours.
3-5pm The sous chef prepares crew dinner I return from break and start immediately on guest dinner prep.
6pm Crew dinner is served so we try to sit for a bite to eat.
6.30 Sous chef starts on canape prep, I continue with guest dinner prep. The sous chef and I try to fit in a quick meeting to plan the nest days menus, and make a list of what we need to defrost. Anywhere from 9pm onwards is the guest dinner service, usually ending around 11pm.
Then we clean down the galley and pull items from freezer to defrost.
What was your favourite yachtie memory from 2021?
Going provisioning in San Diego at Specialty produce after a season in Alaska – the change in quality of produce made me SO HAPPY!
How did you manage your time differently as a head chef (opposed from previous Sous Chef roles)?
Yes, I had to learn trust and delegation – and also forced myself to sit down for meals!
What were some stand out dishes from your recent season for the guests?
The halibut burgers, caught the day before. Incredible. Also the spot shrimp tacos were a huge hit!
Favourite part of working in the galley on charter yachts?
Getting to be creative everyday!
What difficulties did you face with stepping up?
What do the days leading up to a guest pickup look like for you?
I’m usually planning a few menus. Then getting all of the ice creams & sorbets and frozen desserts made, getting sauces, stocks done. Baking off a few extra sourdough loaves to have ready in the freezer!
What was your favourite ingredient of 2021?
Halibut! we had sooooooo much halibut!
What has been the greatest achievement (or praise/feedback) you have had recently?
That I made the best chocolate dessert the guest had ever had!! I love it when they describe specific elements of the dish and why they loved it, it means they truly appreciated it.
What advice do you have for new chefs coming into the industry?
Prep ahead and always have alternative ideas. And if the guests change their mind, just go with the flow. Don’t get caught up in what you had planned – always move forward!
What advice would you tell your old crew chef self, now that you have head chef experience?
Cook faster! Plus, be more confident about your crew food – they are being treated well!
How did covid affect your life on board?
The guests were not eating off the boat, so it was allllll meals onboard.
How did the crew chef YouTube channel come about, and of course- will it continue? (Please say yes!)
I filmed a Atlantic crossing for Jared Watney, however he never ended up using the footage so I asked if I could put together a youtube video from it and after posting it went on from there! It really took off in a way that I certainly wasn’t expecting.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Look for a rotational position – as my wedding is coming up in September, and I’m not planning on missing it haha!