An Interview with yacht chef, Nikolaas Barrezeele
Nikolaas, 35, is from Ghent – a medieval city in Belgium – that he claims is ‘a bit like Bruges, with a younger attitude!’ It was there that he got a taste for cooking at his parents’ big restaurant and catering business, which demonstrates how even yachting chefs can come from a more conventional culinary background. He fondly remembers cooking his first meal of ‘spaghetti with ketchup’ at a young age. Fortunately, he has moved on to creating more appetising dishes and hasn’t looked back.
Early in his career, he had the pleasure of working in an esteemed restaurant, working in a team of eight and helping with everything from cleaning fresh fish and cutting meat to baking bread and making ice cream. The Belgian/French/Mediterranean cuisine was handmade on a daily basis and Geert Van Hecke, the now renowned chef, taught him ‘all about flavors, herbs and spices.’ He now counts Thomas Keller’s American-French New York restaurant, Per Se, as his favourite.
Nikolaas has high standards these days and cites Gordon Ramsay as one of his favourite chefs. He admires Ramsay’s ‘good culinary vision, sales and business sense, as well as his many Michelin star restaurants all over the world.’ He also rates the work of Van Hecke, the chef and owner of Bruges’ three Michelin-starred restaurant, De Karmeliet, as his inspiration.
Nikolaas discovered yachting in 1999 when he was working in the South of France as an apprentice in Hotel Le Juana, Juan Les Pins. It was the first time he had seen superyachts up close and it was a case of love at first sight:
“One day I travelled to Monaco, where M/Y Lady Moura was sitting at anchor… I said to myself, I have to be a chef on that boat!”
Indeed he did; he became the second chef on that vessel in 2004, working in a team of four. Cooking French and Mediterranean food, he sailed around Mallorca, Sardinia, the South of France and Monaco.
Of all the sumptuous ingredients he prepares, Nikolaas loves to work with ‘fresh fish’ above all. He has his own methods of quality control:
“I like to buy the whole fish and clean it myself, that’s the only way you know it’s really fresh!”
However, his guests are very partial to his desserts, which they often compliment him on, prompting him to suggest his desserts with freshly turned ice cream and Belgian chocolate are probably his signature dish.
When pushed to choose his ideal fantasy charter guest, he picked Frank Sinatra, although his taste in music isn’t confined to the swing era. Nikolaas states:
“Paul Kalkbrenner is one of my favourite DJ’s. I like Ministry of Sound or even some good rap artists.”
In fact, he claims that any decent house or techno music gets him going in the galley!
If you are interested in becoming a chef on board a luxury yacht, please contact YPI CREW.