I have often worked with yacht stewardess that have debated working as crew chefs. And I have worked with crew chefs that have debated working at stews onboard superyachts. I thought I’d outline some of the pros and cons for you to help make this decision if you are tossing up between working in the galley or being a part of the interior.
Firstly, you must understand the differences between the two roles. Working in the galley as a crew chef and working on the interior as a stew has very different workloads and demands. Both roles also suit different personality types and work ethics. A career-driven person who wants to climb the ranks quickly within yachting will find themselves as a very serious roadblock if they attempt to work in a galley with no Michelin restaurant experience. And a crew chef who doesn’t like standing all day may find themselves at odds with their chosen yachting path.
Let’s explain them both.
One of my favourite reasons for being a yacht stewardess is how many different jobs you can do within the stewardess role. These all range from laundry, crew mess duties and housekeeping to cocktail, dinner service and events.
The list is truly endless because every single yacht is so different. If you happen to have land-based skills such as hairdressing or massage, additional doors can open up for you as a stew. There are also yacht owners who will pay for you to do these additional courses if you prove longevity and they want to expand your skillset.
Of course, you may have to start your stewardess yachting career as a sole laundry stew. It is often considered an entry-level junior stew role. Generally, you will be in this role for 6 months or so to get a season’s experience under your belt.
Within the interior department on a superyacht, there are two subcategories. Housekeeping and service. As a green yacht stewardess , you will most likely be doing a year or more focussing on housekeeping before being bought upstairs and learning more about table setups and silver service.
This is reasonably self-explanatory. You will be tasked various departments onboard such as the crew mess, laundry or general housekeeping. When guests are onboard you will be changing bed linens, pressing napkins, washing towels, detailing guest cabins, cleaning the crew mess (it’s never-ending!) vacuuming, polishing, tooth picking, you name it, the list is long!
Often considered the more “fun” of the two sides of the interior department. Depending on the type of yacht you are working on, you could have a party one night, a birthday party for a kid the next day and then a beach set up with the whole family. The service girls are kept on their toes with the constant guest demands and the amount of face time they have with guests.
You will be making and serving cocktails, pouring wine, serving and clearing away meals, washing expensive dinnerware and catering to their every other demand. The service yacht stewardess is usually the first point of contact for the guests.
Skills needed to be a stew on a yacht
You do not otherwise need any special education or degrees to be a stew on a yacht. Sure, the usual requests for working on a yacht are there, and transferrable land-based skills are always in demand, but this is a job you can start doing the minute you turn 18 if you want.
As a stew, you will learn a range of skills from how to deal with different personalities, different types of service from casual dining to caviar to fine dining which may be silver service.
Don’t get me wrong these opportunities are great but they do come with hard work, and I mean A LOT of hard work. You have to work your way up in the industry (if of course, this is what you want to do) just as much as you do in any job, and once you gain experience, are able to manage other stews and teams then this is when you often move up and can take on more responsibility.
General progression from a stewardess role is simplified in yachting. You will start as a green stew and slowly work up to a lead stew, and either branch off into your service stew role, or a head of housekeeping role. After some years within these roles on various sized yachts, you may find yourself landing a second stew role, and eventually a chief stew job.
Some yacht stews are starting to push more for purser jobs on yachts. And it is possible to skip the chief stew rung of the ladder and skip straight to purser if you happen to be very good with numbers, people and prefer the office environment more.
A chief stewardess is your interior department manager and is your go-to for everything from problems and queries to training and development on board plus so much more.
A purser is also there for problems and queries but also to manage the boat, the guests finances, travel itineraries, budgets and so much more.
The galley also offers an entry-level position for green yacht crew coming into the industry. A crew chef if often present on yachts from 60m and up, or you might nab yourself a seasonal winter crew chef position on a yacht.
A crew chef works similar hours to the rest of the crew but it is often more structured. You know what you have to do, and you have your deadlines (ie, lunch!) so as long as you work towards those deadlines and targets, your work is mostly done.
What is a Crew Chef?
The general role of a crew chef is to create a balanced and varied diet for the crew onboard a superyacht. You may have 20 crew to feed which includes nut allergies, dairy intolerances, vegans, and gluten-free crew. The crew chef is responsible for putting up a menu of food that caters to everyone’s needs 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It needs to be served on time, and well-cooked, with a nice presentation. After all, you have to live and work with your customers, you want them to be as happy as possible with your work!
The crew chef usually works as part of a team. Your galley may have a head chef, or it may be part of a larger team of 3-5 chefs. It really depends on the size of the boat you are on. Either way, the crew chef is the bottom rung of the galley ranks. Expect to be the main person doing all of the cleaning and general maintenance such as cleaning the deep fat fryer, oven hoods and sometimes even general clean downs at the end of the shift are done exclusively by the crew chef. That part is mostly dependent on how much of a team player your head chef is though. Fingers crossed you get a good one!
Skills needed to be a crew chef
While you can walk into a crew chef job on a yacht without any culinary training, it is not advisable. Again, this depends on the size of the boat and your own pathway within yachting. Most CV’s that come in for a crew chef job have some experience behind them, already. Perhaps they have done some short cooking courses at Ashburton or mymuybuno or they have some restaurant experience. You should really have something substantial on your CV if you want a job as a crew chef.
A ships cook certificate is becoming necessary for crew and sous chefs on vessels with more than 10 crew. So keep that in mind if you are looking for a seasonal winter crew chef job. You may still need it!Ideally, you will be a clean and tidy worker. You will understand the fundamentals of cooking and require only a small bit of assistance from your head chef. You must be willing to stand for long hours (upwards of 10 hours a day!) and be steady and quick on your feet.
Unless you have amazing land experience before taking the entry level crew chef role, expect the battle to raise up the ranks in the galley to be difficult and lengthy. The reason being, many exceptional chefs come into yachting as a crew chef too. However, they have vast land experience that puts them in a sole or head chef role after a season or two proving they are cut out for life at sea. As a crew chef with no qualifications or high end culinary experience before yachting, the path with be longer. You should look at doing additional courses on your leave and pushing yourself always in the galley to learn more.
Hopefully, this helps you see the differences between working on the interior as a stew or working in the galley as a crew chef. Both are entry-level yacht crew jobs, but both have very different demands and skills required.
Check out a more in-depth post on How to get a job on a Superyacht as a chef and once you had decided on your chosen career path, check out how to write a killer yacht cv. If you still want to be a yacht stewardess over being a crew chef for your first role, google for some other yacht stews blogs. They will be able to help you further with questions you have about working as a yacht stew.
Check out Thecrewchef to see the career path Nina Wilson has taken from being a deckhand to being a crew chef, and finally landing a sole chef job.