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Excess on the High Seas: Confessions of a Private Chef on a Superyacht

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As part of Whale Week, Eater is going yachting with sister sites Curbed and Racked. See The Super-Yachts of Super-Rich Fashion Moguls and Outrageous, Opulent Yacht Interiors For Filthy-Rich Boaters. And here now, a private chef on what it's like to cook for a Whale on a Superyacht. The chef remains anonymous, of course:

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[Photos: Giancarlo Liguori/Shutterstock; Lev Dolgachov/Shutterstock]

As a private chef for well-known personalities, I witness a lot of private things. There are private jets and private bungalows, private back rooms and private beaches. And of course there are private yachts. I once worked for a man who owned a yacht big enough for 100 people, though he only ever brought eight or so friends on at once. It was always floating somewhere along the West Coast, though usually in South American seas. While I worked for him, I got to cook on this yacht a few times.

I remember getting a call the night before, really late, "Hey, so, do you want to go to Panama?" The client had become obsessed with the idea of taking his multi-million dollar yacht through the Panama Canal. Hopefully someone was going to talk him out of this, but that someone wasn't me. I was just going along to cook.

They sent a helicopter to pick me up and take me to the airport, and then a private jet flew me to another airport, where another chopper picked me up and flew me directly to the massive boat. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie and the job hadn't even begun.

Once on board, I was introduced to my sous chef (I had a sous chef for eight guests, yes), servers, bartender, and kitchen porter. The kitchen porter and sous chef were also going to fillet all or any of the fish caught during the trip. They told me about the types of fish that we might get, and how they liked to prepare them, and showed me around the kitchen. This was no galley kitchen. On the main level, and with 360 degree views of the ocean through brilliant glass windows, the kitchen crew and I had about 600 square feet to work in. There was every piece of equipment a chef might ever need: Wolf stove, oven, built-in fryer, grill, steamer, freezer drawers, wine refrigerator, and the list went on. I got right to work checking in the items I had pre-ordered, making sure everything had arrived and was in good shape.

The sous chef then started making some guacamole and fresh tortilla chips to feed our guests, who were busy at a bar on an upper deck. I whipped up some salsa. While we passed through one of the lounges to deliver the snacks to the group upstairs, I noticed that one of the servers was giving the boss a blow job on a sofa, in plain view. In situations like that, you just keep walking.

We asked the group upstairs if they felt like having a meal in a few hours, gave them a few options, gathered as much information as we could from the fully inebriated group, and then took a different route back to the kitchen, to avoid the blow job situation, of course.

Later, while serving lunch, we heard security tell the client that he couldn't swim with sharks, because that would be too dangerous. Naturally, he didn't pay any attention to this warning and promised me that I would have shark to cook for dinner that night. It's somewhat unfortunate that I wasn't able to make the shark ceviche I had planned (they didn't end up catching any shark), because ceviche is ridiculously easy and also delicious with a tough meat like shark. Though no sharks were caught, the client did dive in and swim with sharks. That same security guard who advised against the mission ended up being the one who had to go along for the trip. He came into the kitchen completely pale faced before leaving, "If I don't come back, tell my wife I love her." I gave him a bottle of water, a bag of bloody meat (for bait, per the client's request) and a pat on the back. I said a small prayer that they would return unscathed, but decided not to focus too much on it. I had other guests to feed.

A few hours after lunch was served, everyone was passed out on an upper deck. I wondered if they'd want dinner later, and if that dinner should be some sort of hangover cure meal. Walking around the main deck, I then spotted the client with his good friend trying to fish off the side of the boat. They were both drunk beyond reason, because they weren't even listening when the captain of the boat explained that it was impossible to fish off the back of the yacht. The motor was too large and usually scared fish away. Eventually, this led to some kind of fight, and someone got thrown off the back of the moving yacht. I found out later that we never went back for them; security made arrangements for the local Coast Guard to pick them up.

Apparently, the client, in a moment of drunken anger, had ejected one of his guests. I mulled over this for a minute before returning to the kitchen to think of a good hangover cure meal. It was hard to process this level of ridiculous information, and not to be callous, but sometimes it was better to focus on my work instead. The last thing you want to do as hired help is freak out.

I knew the client liked desserts, so I planned to make five different desserts for the group that evening. After serving dinner, I went around to ask what everyone wanted for dessert, presenting them with the options. Naturally, the client asked to be served all five desserts. When money is no object, and you can have absolutely whatever you want, why not order every dessert on the menu? Life is your oyster-colored private yacht.

· 8 Superyacht Chefs on the Luxe Life Sailing With Whales [-E-]
· All Whale Week Coverage on Eater [-E-]