Superyacht Chief Stewardess Jamila Garcia Lillo

We, as Superyacht Chefs, would be silly to think that the Chef is the only person who makes the dining experience complete for our guests. No, there is an entire interior team dedicated to the guests well being and enjoyment. From wine pairing to silver service, it’s the stewardesses who help create the whole theatre of a meal.

Charter guests especially love the pizazz and effort that the girls (and sometimes guys!) do for them. Table decorations that wow them when they walk in can often tie the theme of the occasion to the food. It sets the scene and creates hype for the guests. Then, you, as the chef, can come in and really wow their socks off with the dishes!

It seemed fitting then, that we had a chat to Jamila Garcia Lillo. She is a superyacht chief stewardess with almost 10 years in the industry. Jamila also has a crew consultancy for Spanish speaking crew looking to break into the industry. She also has a really informative Instagram page for yachties no matter what department.

Can you tell us more about how you landed your first superyacht stew job?

As I always say: “I won the lottery”…

Back in May 2010, I was finishing my Masters at University in Madrid. I used to do little hostessing and waitressing jobs, just so I earned some pocket money to get by. I knew absolutely nothing about the yachting industry, not even that it existed. Literally.

One Monday morning, I received a phone call that changed my life.

It was from my first Owner’s PA. She called me in for a job interview, but couldn’t tell me much on the phone “for security reasons…” I was like: “Yeah sure, I’ll come to this mysterious interview”…

To be honest, I thought nothing of it at that moment. But, because I was about to finish my Masters I was already picturing myself at the unemployment queue. So off I went! It turned out that I went to the headquarters the Owner’s company, and was interviewed by his wife herself. She started talking about their new 56 metre superyacht that they owned. It was supposed to cross the Atlantic and cruise the Caribbean shortly and so on…

As you can imagine, everything sounded like Chinese to me. 

I let her speak without saying much myself. After an hour or so, I thanked her for her time but declined her offer to join this “superyacht” as a Junior Stewardess. Afterall, I was just a student and had to finish my Masters.(At this point, I could only think about mafia, drugs, and prostitution and wanted to get out of that office ASAP).

But she asked her PA to call me back on the 24th of May. I had mentioned that date as my last day of Uni during the “interview”. And she did!

Next thing I know, I was flying on the Owner’s Private Jet!! from Madrid to London in order to join the yacht, which at the time was in Falmouth. I am just SO glad she did call me back! If she hadn’t, I would still probably be in an unemployment queue. Spain is a wonderful country, but good jobs don’t come around that easily. I joined a stunning explorer yacht in June. My initial idea was going back home in September and continue with my “normal life”.

Almost nine years later, here I am! A superyacht chief stewardess who is self employed!

So you never had to dockwalk or use crew agents when you were green?

No, I did not use crew agents, have never dock walked or anything like that. I didn’t even know what that meant at the time. I instead got flown to the yacht on my Boss’s private jet without even having my STCW.

When I got to the Isle of Man to do my STCW (all expenses paid, of course) I just thought that what was happening to me was completely normal and how everyone found their first job on a yacht. It was only after talking to the new friends I met at the school when I realised, I was the luckiest person on earth. Of course, I tried to convince everyone that they were doing it all wrong!

“First, you get a job on a yacht”, I used to tell them.“After, you get them to pay for your STCW. Why are you paying for it yourselves?!”. It just seemed so obvious to me at the time, ha-ha

Can you tell us more about Starfish Crew?

Starfish Crew is an online consultancy company where our clients can find different services according to their needs:

– CV Writing

– Recruiter’s Pitches for different roles onboard

– Consultation and guidance through the whole process of starting a career on superyachts

– Many other kinds of consultations. For example, many clients that are already yachties but seek my advice for various issues 

For many years, I used to receive SO many emails and messages to my social media asking what to do to get a job “like mine”. I really did try to reply to as much as I could, but I really had no time. Because I was working full time onboard with a really busy charter yacht at the time. I felt I just could not explain how the job hunt and our industry works in an email properly. So I started to think about a way to share as much info as possible and reaching the most amount of people.

That’s how my blog was born.

After a few months, many of my posts had a few thousand readers. After many emails from readers asking me to “coach” them, I started realizing that I could make money out of it. That’s how, little by little, Starfish Crew was born. In the beginning, I still worked full time so didn’t have much free time. Money was certainly not an issue, I just wanted to see if it would work.

And slowly it did!

To my biggest surprise, the website was receiving more visits. I got more emails from people interested in my services and I started to think I could maybe make a living out of that. A few months after that, I felt comfortable enough to leave my full-time position to only doing freelance work. Not going to lie, it’s been an absolute roller coaster! I’ve been tempted SO many times by SO many amazing yacht jobs that I really had to convince myself not to go back to boats full time. My business is my future.

What’s one thing you have learnt from working so closely with yacht chefs?

I have learnt a lot about people’s reactions and behaviours under pressure and how to deal with those situations.

In my “normal life”, I have a very strong character. (Spanish lady “haha”) But when it comes to life onboard, especially when working with the Chefs, I have learnt to control my reactions. I know to be patient, kind, understanding and not let my emotions or personal feelings towards the person to get in the way of my work performance.

What’s your favourite trick to win over a grumpy galley team during a long charter?

I find that just little things like offering a glass of juice or a coffee while you are setting up for breakfast in the morning work so well.

OK, So how can chef’s win over the interior department?

Many times I’ve had the feeling that the Chef thought that he/she was working AGAINST us, not with us.

When, for example: a guest mentions to the superyacht chief stewardess that a certain meal was a bit too salty, I just think that it is my responsibility to let the Chef know. Lots of Chef’s take that feedback personally and feel that we are criticizing their food. This is definitely not the case.

In my opinion, the best thing Chefs can do is to understand. When the interior team relays comments from the guests, all we are trying to do is help. I think that appreciating the feedback they get from the Stewardesses, not getting offended and thanking them for this, is essential in order to build a good and healthy relationship between both departments.

How important do you see the line of communication between the galley and interior departments?

I have worked on many boats during my career, especially during the past two years, when I was performing freelance work. I have had the pleasure of working with absolutely marvellous Chefs that, apart from cooking the most delicious food, are amazing human beings.

In these cases, I have always felt free, motivated and happy to provide them with any feedback or other points that I have seen or overheard during meal service. I always, always, let the Chef know how it went after every meal service. I think that this is essential in order to guarantee success.

In some cases, unfortunately, I’ve had to deal with Chefs that did not want to hear any kind of feedback, advise or help from the interior department. Or anyone else. In their own words, “they are amazing Chefs and don’t need anyone to tell them how to do their job”.

This, obviously, put a huge amount of pressure on the interior department. Sometimes, the interior team is not able to let the Chef know what the guests said about the food from fear that they will be shouted at. It is not a pleasant feeling and the whole crew ends up suffering for it.

What has been the best perk of working so closely with the galley?

Well, I think we’ll all agree on this one…Being the first ones to get to eat all the left-over guest food, and desserts haha!

One of the first things I say when I meet a new Chef is to PLEASE, do not make extra dessert for me. I’ve had many amazing Chefs that treated me all the time with an extra dessert. Which I really appreciate and think is SO kind of them, but I always feel forced to eat it to not be rude. This doesn’t work too well for me as I try to stay as fit as possible while onboard. Especially on charter, as I don’t have much time (or energy) to work out

What is something the galley team can do during charters to make the interiors day a little bit easier or more enjoyable?

Just keep positive, happy and kind to everyone thorough the trip, despite how tired or stressed you are.

During charter EVERYONE works extremely hard, everyone. Not just the Chefs.

What are some of your favourite yachtie Instagram accounts to follow?

There are SO many yachtie accounts I absolutely adore, but just on the top of my head…

@yachtieworld because @alexhaubrich is responsible for connecting us with other yachties, which I love. Apart from the stunning pictures and whole global vision he provides about our beautiful industry

@sabrinanogueira because of the light and positive vibes she promotes

@knotyyachtie because all of her pictures make me want to put my bikini on and go on holiday, and her table decorations are absolutely stunning

@nauticnomad because, amongst many other reasons, I am obsessed with her podcasts

@theyachtstew because she is an incredible source of information for everyone that wants to start a career in the yachting industry and I love that

And @thesuperyachtchef! Because ever since I discovered this account I have discovered so many yacht chefs profiles and I adore “meeting” other yachties haha

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

The Indian Ocean! I’ve never done the Indian Ocean and I am not happy about that haha. Visiting the Maldives, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles on a superyacht must be an amazing experience.

I would just ask for holiday during the navigation to get there though…Crossings are not my favourite thing to be honest! Haha I don’t think I’d necessarily enjoy transiting the Suez Canal too much… 

If you could have a dinner reservation for any restaurant in the world, where would it be and who is your dinner date?

Ithaa Undersea, an underwater restaurant in the Maldives.

I have always dreamt with going to that restaurant, and spending a few days at the resort where I will be doing absolutely nothing.

I’d go with my husband, obviously ?

We loved this insight from Jamila and think it was great to mix up the interior and galley departments a bit. We really hope it provided you with a bit of valuable insight into how we can all work better together. Let us know if you have any other ideas or tips on Galley/ Interior relations.

Jamila is also still a freelance chief stew, so get in touch with her if you need her expertise on board.

For more chef interviews, check out Ryan Clarke, Chef Gjorgi, or Tali Preuss. For another Stew perspective read “how to be a yacht stew

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