You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties
Banging on the pots and pans in a superyacht galley
It’s late August and the sun, a glowing crescent of pinks, oranges and deep reds, is slowly dipping behind the darkening ocean horizon. The lights are beginning to twinkle ashore the island of Capri, its pastel-coloured houses tumbling down the cliff to meet the traditional wooden fishing boats and sparkling modern tenders that are moored side by side in the little harbour. The sounds of voices, laughter and melodic music waft across the gently rippling water, and an idyllic summer ambience envelops the superyachts as they gently sway on anchor in the bay.
Aboard the guests are taking their seats around the great teak dining table on the aft deck. The stage has been set and the table glitters with the anticipation of the evening ahead, sumptuous floral centrepieces and soft candles setting the tone. The great table is adorned with an exquisite mix of perfectly contrasting tableware creating a wonderful balance of theatre and sophistication.
Chefs look for an efficient food-flow as a sign of a good galley
As the chief stewardess pours Riesling Cuvée Fréderic Emile, the crisp, sharp flavours chilled to perfection, the mouth-watering aromas of the meal ahead drift to the table. With a flourish the starter is served – spiced scallops served with cauliflower purée, apple, coriander and cumin velouté cooked to five-star perfection. This is soon followed by the main course - fillet of wild sea bass with watercress, Jerusalem artichoke purée, cured ham and red wine sauce - the pièce de résistance of the dinner and the perfect showcasing of the chef’s talents. The closing act to a flawless meal is a dessert of caramelised blood orange tart with rose sorbet, the final flourish to an evening of elegant flamboyance and theatrical gourmet.
As with any great theatre, however, behind the scenes is a flurry of activity, preparation, careful planning and expertly honed skills. To create the perfect production, every detail must be considered, tailored and crafted to suit the owner, the guests, the yacht’s design and the chef’s expertise. As the final curtain falls on a sumptuous evening of fine dining we take a look at the cast, crew and tools that go into making it a success.
At the centre of any integrated galley system is the marine cooker, the beating heart of life in a busy yacht galley
As director of a superyacht’s dining production, selecting the right chef is crucial to the success of a season of fine dining. Most yacht chefs come from restaurant or hotel backgrounds, and many have worked at the top of their profession before making the move to superyachts, arriving with a wealth of experience and talents, as long-time yacht chef Robert Ginsberg explains. “I spent many years as a New York city restaurant chef before yachting, working in two-star New York Times restaurants such as Black Sheep, Cafe Tabac and The Lemon. I’ve had the likes of Anthony Bourdain and John Tesar in my kitchen.”
Stepping from land to sea is a new challenge for many accomplished chefs, and adapting their skills to the trials of provisioning far from their trusted suppliers, storing and refrigerating for an entire season and creating masterpieces in a kitchen that moves underfoot can be taxing. While cooking schools such as the Paris-based Ducasse Education train kitchen brigades in haute cuisine and sommelier disciplines, specially-designed training centres such as the Superyacht Crew Academy offer courses which can help bridge the gap between the restaurant and yachting worlds.
According to trainer and yacht chef Helga Kramer, these courses offer “Special skills for galley management and menu planning, including preparation and planning for extended cruises, finding and buying supplies in foreign countries where the foods, labels and spoken language may present challenges, storing the supplies in the limited space available, and confidently preparing meals while at sea.”
As with any artist, a chef needs a platform from which to perform, and state-of-the-art galleys are their tools of choice. A yacht owner wants the best food, and for that their chefs need restaurant-quality kitchens. While the equation seems simple enough, designing a galley has to take into account myriad features and considerations, from the owner’s nationality and respective culinary influences - whether that may be sushi bars or pizza ovens - to whether it is a private - use yacht or charter vessel catering to different diets and tastes. Of course, the interior décor of the yacht itself is a major factor in the design, and owners will want it to make a statement about their personal style.
Smaller yachts may opt for a more standard design galley with high-end consumer appliances more than adequate for servicing smaller groups or a single owner family. Work surfaces and backsplashes can be adapted to suit interior décor and add attractive accents to the galley design, or the increasingly popular open-plan or ‘country kitchen’ design - with islands for show-cooking and more interaction with the chef - can be implemented, allowing the kitchen to be at the heart of the family life on board the yacht.
Charter yachts require a different design, their main focus being on functionality, food flow, safety and efficiency. In terms of design, galley architects no longer talk in appliances but in systems, bringing together all the essential kitchen elements into one smooth, efficient and ergonomic unit. Ralph Olingschlaeger from galley design experts GN Espace explains, “Top chefs look for an efficient food-flow as a sign of a good galley. Whether they specify state-of-the-art induction hobs and combi-steam ovens, or equipment specifically for Oriental or sous-vide cooking, an efficient food-flow is a must have on the yacht. It adds to space efficiency, safety, hygiene and ultimately helps the chef achieve high quality food.”
As with any artist, a chef needs a platform from which to perform
With years of experience in designing and installing superyacht galleys, GN Espace understand the value of space and appointed work zones, as Mr Olingschlaeger notes, “Other really important features that chefs look for in the galley are plenty of work surfaces (essential for prepping and plating), ample refrigeration, robust easy-to-clean furniture that can cope with hard use day-in, day-out, good ventilation, as well as natural lighting in the galley.”
Cooking for crew and guests has to be planned to perfection long before the bow lines are dropped
The innovation of the GN Espace galley is that it works around the tried and trusted Gastronorm professional cookware and server system. Used extensively throughout the professional catering industry these systems have been designed to transform the galley space into an ergonomically more functional and significantly safer place to prepare and cook food whilst at sea. The true beauty of the system is that it is totally modular and completely scalable to the space available. Previously only seen in large professional cooking equipment, Gastronorm cookware is now starting to appear on high-end domestic ovens as the manufacturers have recognised the huge benefits that the system provides. The result is a fully integrated food-flow system and working environment which deals with storage right through to food serving to the guests.