Chef, 150-foot motoryacht Magic
Date interviewed: September 2006
How did you realize you wanted to become a chef?
What training did you undergo to become a chef?
After that, my first job was on a small cruise ship. I was the cook for 85 passengers and 17 crew. Everything was family style. I’d just come out of the culinary institute and I wanted to do all these fancy presentations, but this job was about platters of roast beef. I didn’t last long.
I ended up being promoted to head chef in a restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, where I’m from. We ended up becoming more fine dining with eclectic foods from Italy, Spain, wherever. The owner totally let me run the kitchen and do whatever we wanted as far as specials. I could use my creativity, experiment every day with lunch and dinner. We also developed a major catering business and a huge wholesale dessert business. We were really famous for our cheesecakes. They sold all over North Carolina.”
Why did you decide to work onboard yachts?
That Friday, I was flying into Fort Lauderdale for my first boat job.
My next boat was private, Robyn Lee, a custom 98-foot motoryacht from Italy. I met (my now-husband) Mac there. He was hired as a mate/engineer, but he really wanted to be the captain. Three months later, he was the captain. It was a marriage made in heaven. We stayed there five years.
Then came Sea Dreams, a 95-foot motoryacht that chartered. I stayed there for five and half years before moving to Camille, another motoryacht. I was there for five years with Mac, and we did a lot of charters.
I have everything in the world I need, plus some. And that includes continuing education. Anytime I feel it is right, I’m allowed to go to Greystone, the Culinary Institute of America’s continuing education branch out in Napa Valley, California. This is where you learn what’s new and trendy, to reinvigorate yourself. I’ve done it several times. It’s a huge, big thing that the boss lets me do whenever I feel the time is right.
Our stewardesses are encouraged, when we go to another country, Mac will line up with a wine distributor to come on the boat and do tastings for the crew. The point is that both Mac and the yacht’s owner feel the more we know about fine wines, caviar, this and that, the better we are going to be able to serve our guests. It’s fun, it’s team building and it’s good sense. We all go away—the deckhands, too—and we know a little more.
You’ve got to have crew that want to be a team and play together. That’s what we are.
How do you determine what meals you will prepare for charter guests?
On the day-to-day level, at some point, maybe as they’re just finishing their breakfast, I’ll say something like, ‘I saw some lovely sea bass at the fish market this morning, and I’m thinking about that for lunch. How does that sound?’ Most often, they say, ‘anything you want, Betsy.’
I never do a week’s worth of menus in advance. My thing is, then you’re forcing yourself into finding certain ingredients. I think it’s better to see what’s fresh and available and start there every day.
My lunches are 99 percent buffets because I can offer an array of three or four cold salads, plus at least one protein like chilled shrimp or lobster. Guests usually want light, local cuisine, and they want choices. It’s the choices that I think are so important. And the arrangements can be gorgeous on the buffet, these beautiful platters. It makes people think, ‘Wow, I am feeling the flavor of the Caribbean,’ or it’s the Mediterranean right there on the table.
We’ve been doing a beautiful paella that I’ve been doing in a pan that’s almost three feet across. It’s a spectacular presentation.
What else should CharterWave.com subscribers know about you and your yacht?
These people are paying $155,00 to $165,000 a week on my boat. That’s a massive responsibility that I have for those people. I sincerely think that what I owe to them is to always keep going, to do one more thing, to be a little bit more impressive. I’m supposed to knock their socks off, not just placate them.
I’ve heard of people who put out store-bought cookies on megayachts. That’s not what I think we’re here for. My job is to make people leave saying, ‘Holy moly, that was amazing!’ I want that beautiful feedback at the end, where people say, ‘You made our vacation amazing.’ That’s what I’m here for.
Also, our yacht’s owner feels he should take care of charter guests just the same way we on the crew feel we should. When we have charter guests, we do not nickel and dime them. If anything, we give thousands of dollars away every charter. You want there to be a bathroom and slippers that you can take away, Magic jackets, that sort of thing.