An Interview with Yacht Chef James McKeown

Yacht chef jobs, and their lifestyles, are somewhat enigmatic for those outside of the yachting industry: they are always in the galley during the party or dinner, yet they still get to tour the world aboard incredible yachts, meeting all kinds of interesting people - all the while doing something for which they possess a true passion. The position is an incredibly fascinating one, and certainly rewarding for the right candidate. YPI Crew caught up with James McKeown, a superyacht chef, for an insight into his background and what inspires him.

Where would you call home? I still live a fairly nomadic lifestyle. But I guess I would call Broadstairs, which is near Margate in Kent, home. Well, it’s where I store my stuff.

What is your first cooking memory? My Parents owned a hotel when I was young and I have a distinct memory of chopping huge amounts of parsley when I was 12.

Which Chef or Chefs truly inspire you? There are so many to choose from, I can’t pick just one. But to narrow it down to three, I think I would pick Tom Kine, Rick Stein and David Thompson – each for different and varied reasons.

What is your favourite restaurant(s)? The Square in London is truly incredible but I still have a few secret food venders in Bangkok that are wonderful. I also still have a soft spot for home comforts and the best Fish and Chip shop, which is in Sandwich in Kent, but I’ll never tell in case it is flooded by tourists!

How did you discover yachting and what was the appeal? I discovered Yachting when an old Head Chef of mine mentioned it. He had worked on yachts back when 40m was a big yacht! He highlighted to me not only how lucrative it could be, financially, but also that it offered a way of seeing the world and meeting interesting people. I was sold pretty quickly.

Which charter guest or guests would you like to cook for? If I could choose anyone from history I would have to pick Genghis Khan, Winston Churchill, Stephen Fry, AP McCoy and Muhammed Ali. A mixed bunch, and I’m sure very demanding, but that would be brilliant. I have one proviso for this though: I need to be able to join them at the table, because that would be one hell of a dinner party.

What music gets you going in the galley? This is a really hard one because I have such a varied taste. But I love Reggae, Drum and Bass (really speeds service up!), house, hip-hop and Eminem, if we’re having a bad day. I also love to listen to BBC Radio 5 Live cover the cricket.

Which is your signature dish that never fails to please? Well, all my dishes please of course, but if I had to pick, I would have to choose a spice crusted lion of tuna, served with a ginger, lime and coriander dressing with a side of crunchy Asian salad. It looks fantastic on the plate and always sets taste buds tingling.

Yacht Chefs may have one of the best jobs in the world. The role of the Yacht Chef is incredibly varied; it challenges them day after day with a constantly changing menu. Add to this the fact they are constantly moving around with their job and sampling different cuisines – it blends to create an incredible working life. Not only do they follow their passion, unbridled, with the freedom to experiment and determine the menu, but they also are allowed to tour the world aboard some of the most luxurious vessels the oceans have ever seen. As glamorous as this may be, we now know they still like to listen to the cricket in the galley! Either way we are just happy to eat their glorious dishes whenever possible.

To learn about the yachting jobs on offer from YPI Crew, from head chef to deckhand, please like the YPI Crew Facebook page.