Cooking on a Yacht: Between Deviled Eggs and the Deep Blue Sea

It’s September, and right around now photos of beautiful people on summer vacation start popping up in supermarket-checkout magazines I pretend not to read. A handful of shots are invariably celebrities on megayachts, jumping from the top level into the deep blue sea or shooting from the water on motorized jet toys.

Although it may not look like it, people who rent those boats (a.k.a. “chartering”) for personal use have to eat. Food on the water occupies most waking thoughts of Nate Post, a 28-year-old chef. He works on Broadwater, a 163-foot Feadship with five guest bedrooms (plus crew quarters), seven baths, and lots of hungry people.

Each day Post, the sole chef on board, makes three meals per day for up to 10 guests, plus 11 crew who run the ship. That’s 63 meals with whatever he has on board. Because you can’t run out for thyme when the closest land mass in measured in nautical miles.

Yacht cheffing is a notoriously competitive business, with jobs that have virtually no cost-of-living, travel to the world’s best spots, food budgets that would make top chefs envious, and high pay. Post is at the top of his game—his game being, “having everything a client could ever wish for at hand,” as he describes it. Broadwater spends the summers in the Mediterranean Sea and winters in the Caribbean, hosting CEOs, film stars, and internet revolutionaries, so meeting their expectations is no small task.

Wherever Broadwater travels (at its guests’ whims), Post steals away to local markets to buy ingredients and incorporate authentic local flavors into dishes. “I love experimenting with the best ingredients in the world,” he says. Recently when shopping on a few-hour anchor in Corsica, Post selected olives marinated in the island’s fragrant mixed herbs, local raw-milk cheeses, and armfuls of its famed charcuterie.

Chef Nate Post

Chef Nate Post, slicing prosciutto for guests aboard the Broadwater. Photograph by Mary Beth Albright

“Guests generally want to eat local produce and have food in the style of their location. That means a lot of research and experimenting behind the scenes to get things right ahead of time. It’s definitely one of the perks of the job.” The Corsican charcuterie, similar to Italian prosciutto but bolder in flavor, popped up in several dishes throughout the week (see Corsica: Island of Legally-Protected, Exceptional Charcuterie). In addition to the standard charcuterie plate, the ham was fried into tiny chips and served ground into “bacon dust” atop a mushroom cappuccino soup; scattered over green beans; and served as high-end bacon replacement in a Corsican Cobb that should be the new standard for the old classic.

For his impromptu culinary creations, Post, a native Australian, draws on his four-year apprenticeship at a resort in his home country.

The difference between Post and his landlocked culinary professionals is, Post’s everyday life resembles a reality-show cooking challenge—you have to use what is on hand, because you can’t run out for curry powder. He provisions almost all of his basics for all 450 meals at the beginning of the week, storing it in an 8 by 4 foot walk-in refrigerator. And then supplements with “some lobster from the back of the boat of a local fisherman” whom Broadwater happens to pass by. He cooks, bakes, and garnishes. He is the saucier, the pastry chef, and the truffle-shaver.

Post is on his own with cooking, because the other 10 crew members on Broadwater lend a hand only if they can—they’re also busy setting tables, choosing wines and cocktails, making beds, and otherwise running a 163-foot ship with an engine room the size of my first apartment. Chief Stewardess Seldon Jones helps frequently in the kitchen, but never at the expense of the kind of service guests would find at a top restaurant. (And, Jones explains, often better, because the crew becomes familiar with guest preferences throughout the week.)

“If I have a soufflé that just came out of the oven, you better believe I want three people there to run that food straight up to the guests,” Post says. “Every second counts.”

Post usually works 16 to 17 hours per day but is on call all the time. He frequently receives calls in bed to serve unusual guest cravings, like gourmet cheeseburgers or pizza at 3 am. Then there are the people who just never sleep. Recalling one particularly challenging charter to Monaco on a different boat years ago, he recalls getting “about three hours of sleep per night due to incessant partying and late night/early morning snacks.”

All of this happens in Broadwater’s 12-foot-square kitchen, which sounds small until you remember that it’s floating in the middle of the ocean. More good news: Feadship, based in The Netherlands, is known for its precise storage design, and has an onsite woodshop where Dutch artisans work from whole teak trees to create a kitchen that lasts for decades.

A life constantly at sea is far different than a restaurant. “I miss delegating orders, the adrenaline of a three-hour crazy service with your team behind you, brainstorming with fellow chefs. But you meet amazing people, both the charter guests and the fellow crew.” Different from a restaurant; but beats working on land.

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