There is so much to say about a superyacht holiday; the sense of adventure, the stunning scenery, the unexplored coves, the lazy days and the starry nights, of course, we don’t need to persuade anyone that it is the ultimate holiday option.
So we thought we’d delve deeper into the world of superyachts and explore below deck, more specifically the galley. We catch up with Stuart Chambers, Head Chef of MY Starfire, to discover what it’s like to be responsible for tantalising the taste buds of sophisticated palates whilst out on the open waves.
Stuart, you’re originally from Cork in Ireland but have worked in restaurants all around the world. Tell us where and how you discovered your passion for cooking?
I first started cooking the summer I left school. I studied business and finance in university and also worked as a full-time chef throughout my 5 years in college to support my studies. By the time I finished my BA Honours in Business Studies I was already a successful Chef and had spent my college summer holidays working as a Chef in Germany, Spain, America and Canada. I also worked in numerous restaurants in Ireland and Wales. When I graduated from college I quickly realised that I could travel the world with my cooking skills and didn’t want to settle down to an office job. I am still discovering my passion for cooking and will for the rest of my life.
Before working in the yachting industry you spent some time in the mountains, tell us more about this experience.
I worked as a chef for four ski seasons, in Canada for one and France for the other three. In Canada, I worked in Whistler in two award-winning restaurants. In France, I worked in luxury ski chalets in Chamonix and Courchevel. In the chalets, I catered for 12 guests, and we often had high profile guests. This was very much like working on a yacht and gave me the right experience for my career in yachting.
So how did you venture into the world of yachting?
I first considered working on a yacht when I visited a friend in Antibes who I had been working within a ski chalet in Chamonix. I applied at one of the agencies there and within a few days, I was working on the largest privately owned yacht in the world.
How does running a restaurant on a yacht differ from running one on dry land?
They are similar in a lot of ways. Provisioning and sourcing supplies can be more challenging on a yacht. But this is also one of the most interesting parts of my job as I get to experience the culture and atmosphere of the local markets and shops.
Obviously, attention to detail is something that is integral to a superyacht holiday, how do you ensure that this is also delivered in your guests’ culinary experience?
This is done in a number of ways. Firstly, we usually receive preference sheets from the guests, which contains their likes and dislikes. Then we will often speak to the crew of previous boats they have chartered or to their house chef if they have one. Then the Captain, Chief Stew and I will often have a conference call with the guests and try and get as much information as possible to ensure the guest has a truly memorable vacation. Once the guests arrive we will speak to them again about their likes and dislikes. We put a menu on display for the evening meal and if anyone doesn’t like anything we always have plenty of other things to choose from.
Where does your inspiration for your menus come from?
My inspiration for the daily menu comes from a combination of the guests’ preferences and from available local in-season produce.
In your opinion, where in the world stands out as being a culinary leader and why
I think the Scandinavian countries at the moment stand out as being world leaders in cooking. They are doing some very innovative and creative things while utilizing local produce and recreating and redefining traditional Scandinavian dishes.
Going back to your guests, I believe you’ve been a personal chef to a F1 driver – can you tell us more about this experience?
I worked for Eddie Irvine shortly after he retired from Formula 1. I was first hired for a weekend to cater for about 50 people on his yacht during the Monaco Grand Prix. After the weekend he asked me to follow him to his various houses and I spent the next year travelling between Milan, Dublin, New York, Miami and to other various places to visit the yacht. It was a fantastic experience as he has a hectic fast-paced lifestyle.
You’ve worked in the yachting world for over ten years now, what do you love so much about it? ’ And where is your most favourite place to sail and why?
I love travelling to new and exciting places. I enjoy learning about their local cuisine and culture and to be able to share this with my guests and crew. My favourite place I have travelled is to the Fjords in Norway. The scenery and hiking are unparalleled anywhere else that I have been, and the seafood is fantastic.
And what’s next on the cards for you? Continue to sail, open restaurant (if so where), go back to mountains to snowboard / hike?
I would like to open a restaurant in a few years but I’m happy on Starfire for now, so I will stay put for the time being.