chef Stefan Schenk

Superyacht chef Stefan Schenk

Superyacht chef Stefan Schenk posts his stunning plates on Instagram every week to get everyone inspired. Which has been your favourite dish of his?

Good news for Captains reading this- Chef Stefan Schenk is currently looking for a new boat! So contact him asap if you think you may have something that interests him.

What is your formal chef background?

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I worked in restaurants since my 15th and later started a culinary education through an apprenticeship program. Where I worked four days and attended classes one day a week.

After that I worked in restaurants in the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and France. Then I also did some stages at Michelin starred restaurants.

Superyacht chef Stefan Schenk

What are you working on right now?

I have just finished 2.5 years employment on a 60m sailing yacht, and I am trying to figure out what to do next.

While I am considering to stay freelance until I find my dream yacht job. For this reason, I am not in a hurry and like to take my time to find something suitable.

I’m wanting a (rotational) job on a yacht based in Asia or on a world trip. I am tired of the usual milk run (Med-Carib) and need some adventure and explore new destinations.

So Captains and recruiters if you have an interesting job opening please DM me!

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

Most of the yachts I worked on did the usual route — summer in the Mediterranean and winter the Caribbean.

The Mediterranean is for a chef very inspiring, The local specialities, the different countries and cultures. The produce on the markets are so amazing, A chefs dream. The Caribbean is beautiful and always a lot of fun. Provisioning is usually a bit difficult, but it’s getting better every year.

Last year the boat I worked on sent me to Tokyo, Japan, for a sushi course. It was the first time to Japan for me, and I absolutely loved it. The first week was a bit daunting, and it took a few days to get really into it.

But I can recommend a visit to Japan for everyone. The food is outstanding, and it is really a different world. I can’t wait to get back.

How have you incorporated the flavours and tastes of your travels in dishes?

Because of my Asian heritage, guests often requested Asian food when they meet me. I haven’t been trained in Asian cuisines, but I travelled Asian extensively and I am quite confident in most Asian food cultures. Because my trip to Japan sushi is now always a given in a week’s menu plan.

 I always to try to eat out as much as possible while travelling. I’ll eat literally everything and everywhere. I love to visit Michelin starred restaurants, but small family restaurants and markets are just as inspiring.

Because of my travels, I am quite confident in lots of different cuisines and have a broad repertoire which my guests are always impressed by.

What are your favourite markets to wander through when you pull into a port?

I recently visited the market in Syracuse in Sciliy. That was an awesome experience. I got the best seafood, hyper local vegetables and bought fresh mozzarella and ricotta which was freshly prepared while I got to watch.

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

I usually start around 6-7 am. I start my day with a coffee and then off to handle the sourdough and pastries. After that, set up the breakfast platters and think of a daily breakfast special.

Then start mise en place for the rest of the day and do breakfast service in between. A daily breakfast special often comes in handy and saves you from making a lot of different types of eggs.

Lunch is most of the time served family-style around 2-ish, and I try to serve the same side dishes and salads for crew and guests alike.

Guests usually get different proteins than the crew.

After lunch service, I’ll try to take a short break for a quick workout and a nap. Crew dinner is served at 6.30 pm usually followed by guest canapes about an hour later. Guest dinners are a three-course meal and usually served between 8 and 9.

After service I need about an hour to clear down and then quickly to bed. As a sole chef the job never ends. There is always something to do, even if the guests are eating out I’ll be busy with orders, accounts, menu planning or deep cleaning.

My next job will definitely be with a sous chef.

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

The produce and the different preferences of the guests. 

Our guests are some of the richest people in the world and they are used to high-quality food and produce. Some of them visit the best restaurants around the globe as easily as I go to a MacDonalds.

I always design the menu’s to their personal preferences, and it gives a real kick to surprise and “wow” them with my food. It helps that I have the best suppliers and the budget to buy the world’s best ingredients. 

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

As a sole chef, I found it difficult to clear the head after a busy day. Being alone in the galley for long hours and for weeks on end without having someone to really talk too can be mind-numbing and difficult.

I found that podcasts and audiobooks are a good way to tackle that issue — also regular workouts, meditation and reading help to quiet the mind down.

Who are the yacht chefs that you look up to?

I don’t really look up to any particular yacht chef. There is a lot of talent around, and I would love to work in a team on a large yacht next.

What restaurant chefs are you inspired by?

I am mostly inspired by my mentors during my education. They taught me the necessary skill set to become a yacht chef and person who I am today.

Also I love reading cooking books and watch documentaries about food.

The documentary Jiro; Dreams of sushi especially. I have seen it many times and sometimes watch it when I feel a bit down or unmotivated. His passion and love for his craft is very inspiring.

During my visit to Japan I tried to get a table at Jiro’s but its almost impossible to find a seat there. Instead I went to his apprentice Masuda (who starred in the documentary).

Masuda has its own restaurant now and is awarded 2 Michelin stars. The meal was, of course, amazing and one-off the highlights of my trip to Japan

What are your favourite Instagram accounts to follow for inspiration?

Chefstalk

Culinaireinspiratie

dutchcuisine

How is life on board a yacht different to your previous restaurant based work?

Cooking at restaurants comparing to yachts are completely different. In restaurants, your work mainly with the same menu for at least a couple of weeks.

Mostly for different guests each day.

On yachts the menu’s are ever-changing, and you have to cater for guest for long periods on end. It makes menu planning and diversity much more important. I love the freedom and creativity that comes with it.

Frankly, I am not sure if I could work in a restaurant again. I probably get bored.

Tell us about your first yacht job?

I was pure luck to find my first job on a yacht. At the time I never heard about the yacht industry, but it crossed my mind to find work on cruise ships, I even attended a seminar in Antwerp, Belgium to start working at a 6 star cruise liner. After that seminar I decided that cruise ships weren’t for me and started travelling instead. 

In 2010 I was travelling in south-east Asia but had to cut my travels short because my cards got skimmed and I ran out of money quickly. I didn’t want to home yet and started to search online for opportunities abroad. 

After a week I found a job opening on a Dutch market website for a 33-meter sailing yacht owned by a Dutch family with a Dutch crew.

I was totally green and didn’t know where I got myself into but thought it was very cool to earn bit of money while travelling on a superyacht. Initially I’d planned to stay only 6 months but ended up working at this yacht for nearly 2.5 years. I loved the superyacht crew life and got me hooked for the rest of my career.

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

I mostly get interested in new techniques or flavours from my travels or eating out. After getting intrigued I’ll do some research online or buy some books about the matter. After that, I’d just experiment on board.

What are your favourite dishes to make?

I don’t have a favourite dish or signature dish. I learned that on cooking on yachts its different than in Restaurants. 

In a restaurant, guests often come for the chef and his cuisine. On yachts the guests come for the yacht and the cruise and the chef has to adapt to the guests wishes. It’s always a challenge to engineer the best menu for the guest’s personal preferences. I love to surprise them with familiar dishes but done in a new and exciting way

I also really enjoy making simple comfort food from all around the world. Of course, with good techniques and fresh ingredients, it’s maybe not always guest worthy, and lack wow-factor but those dishes are so delicious that you can eat them time on time again. 

I am currently have taken an interest in Ramen and can’t get enough of it. I can’t wait to get back into the kitchen and get started on my own recipes.

Where do you get your inspiration for dishes, ingredients or plating?

I can get inspired by a lot of things, tv, books, restaurant/market visits, my travels or literally any of my senses. I love to feel creative and express myself through food.

How do you deal with crew dietary requirements on board?

Sometimes it’s difficult to cater for every dietary requirement on board, especially during charters. But luckily most crew members will understand when it’s really busy.

I usually make two or three vegetarian salads, one veggie soup, one carbohydrate, a hot vegetable dish and one or two proteins. So there is always something for everybody.

If you could have a table at any restaurant in the world for a dinner reservation tonight, which one would it be?

I have a long list of restaurants to visit but if I had to choose one it would be Noma in Kopenhagen, I never been to Denmark and been a huge fan of Rene Redzepi, I have all his books, and he is a true genius. I would go alone and beg him to let me stay for a stage.

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

I work a lot with my water bath circulator and the vacuum machine. I love the technique and its very useful onboard for many different reasons.

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

Galapagos, Ecuador. I always wanted to visit those islands, and I never been until this day. I love wildlife nature, hiking and diving. Galapagos would be paradise for me I think.

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

It would be between Thai or Japanese. I could easily eat ramen everyday Thai food is just so delicious and versatile too. Very difficult choice.

What is the last item you bought for the galley?

 A handheld digital scale. They are so useful when underway or on anchor when you can’t use the regular scales.

Superyacht chef Stefan Schenk





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