Chef Daniel Isberg: What does it take and what is it like to lead the kitchen of a mega yacht?

Chef Daniel Isberg: What does it take and what is it like to lead the kitchen of a mega yacht?


Being a Chef is so much more than just knowing how to cook... that is actually the easy part of the job. The hard part is managing the kitchen and the staff. Dealing with personnel as much as you deal with ingredients. So, how is it to run the kitchen inside a 279 foot mega yacht?

We asked celebrity chef and culinary artist Daniel Isberg to give us some insight. Daniel is the head chef at M/Y Bold, a 279' motor yacht built by SilverYachts in Australia.  The yacht's distinguishing exterior is by designer Espen Øino who created a unique glass-enclosed loft on the upper deck that covers over 300 square metres of interior space. The modern interior is built to accommodate up to 12 overnight guests in eight luxurious staterooms on the main deck and can carry up to 96 passengers while cruising thanks to Bold’s PYC build specifications. Complete with two helicopter landing pads, two 9.5-metre Rupert Marine tenders and an autonomous range of 5,500 nm.

Before we start, why don't you tell us a bit about yourself?

I have been cooking all my life.
I started when a was a little kid spending time with my grandparents in the Swedish countryside picking berries, mushrooms, fishing, baking, making jams, etc... we cooked everything from scratch and that awoke a passion for cooking inside of me that fueled me to become a chef.

I went to culinary school in Sweden, my home country. After school I worked with some of the best chefs in the country at some of the best restaurants. Then I started to travel the world, to explore, to cook... I went to cook in France, Germany, Poland, Greece, Spain, USA and Thailand.

As of today I have been a chef for over 30 years. Never married, never had kids... my work is my life and I would not have I any other way. 

 

How does someone make their way in the culinary world?

It is not really about how good you are or a specific dish that you can cook. It is about working my heart out and showing my boss, whoever the chef was, how good I was. It took a lot of studying, a lot of research and a lot of experiments.  If you have it in you... the more you do it, the more you like it.

When it comes to the kitchen, hard work pays off. Then it is all about collecting experience. 20 years ago I was working on the "Sea Goddess" an ultraluxury small cruise ship that can hold 116 guests on a full ship.

At this point I have done almost everything, from running my own restaurants, to catering companies to working as a private chef...I have always consulted and worked with yachts, then when COVID hid I decided to temporarily close my catering business and go back to yachting full time... I got to say I love it. I always have.

I will always be thankful to our Chief Stewardess Stefan, who not only has made me change the way I look at life, but also convinced me to come be the head chef on M/Y Bold in August 2020.

Any chefs you admire?

 Chef Thomas Keller (French Laundy) is a genius. His food is amazing, I have met him a few time and opened my ears to his advice. The quality of his work is unmatched.

 

So... Mega Yacht... what is it like?

When you are with the owner, you have to be available to the owner and his guests 24/7.

When on a charter all meals are on a set time and menus must be planned way in advance. As a mega yacht chef your time is not necessarily yours. The boat gets chartered, sometimes months in advance and sometimes last minute.

Provisioning is paramount, working with amazing suppliers like Meat N' Bone is important. Price is not everything, when you are dealing with the finest clientele, only the finest ingredients will do... and of course service, your suppliers need to understand what the Chef really needs.

Everyone plays a part, the head chef, captain, chief steward. We got to get the stocks in place and the mise en place ready: mayo, ice creams, sorbets, reductions, baked goods, basic menus.

The typical charter means a 12 hour shift. The day goes by quick, work can begin early and end late. Compared to the rest of the crew the chef does not really get much rest.

Breakfast is in hotel hours, 6am to 10 am. Usually fresh fruits, chia pudding, smoothie bowls, waffles, pancakes, omelets, eggs any style, cold cuts, cheeses, baking fresh bread, pastries, croissants or any kind of special order like smashed avocado on dark bread with poached egg, egg white scrambles, etc...

Lunch time is around 1pm. Usually multi-course menus that include 5-7 dishes. Anything, Italian, Thai, Greek, Sushi, BBQ, Paella...

Snacks, sweets and crudités happen mid afternoon. Dinner around 7:30 pm. Another 3-5 course menu that usually starts with an amuse bouche.

Late night snacks around 11pm. 

I have fun doing it. That said you never get used to the rough sea, it is impossible to cook when all the pots and pans are literally flying around. But I do not regret a single moment.

Do you get a day off? 

I do get a day off and I enjoy it doing watersports or exploring new places. I have been to over 60 countries in the world, I have many favorite places, two of them is the Italian riviera and saint lucia in the Caribbean. 

Days off occur in between charters as well.

Most important crew member?  Most annoying?

The captain is the most important. No doubt. Life at sea can be stressful and the crew can get on your nerves. It is key to be keep a mental health routine. Mine is music & yoga.

What would you tell your younger self or anyone looking to get into this business? 

I grew up in a different world. You had to have discipline and say "yes chef" all the time. Old school, 16 hour days. You had to work your way up.

The advice I want to give to the younger version of myself get into yachting is – stay focus, be humble, respect all, always do your best, always try to get better.

Cooked for any big names?

When you are on one of the fanciest and coolest boats in the world, you do. I cooked for many celebrities and musicians... The Swedish Royal Family was a high point for me as I am Swedish. But I have cooked for Sean Connery, Alicia Keys, Bill Gates, Robin Williams, Kate Moss, Paris Hilton and many others...

That said, one of my fondest memories is cooking atop the Angel Falls in Venezuela (the world's tallest waterfall). A close second is when I won Chef of the Year in Poland in 2008.

Best kitchen you ever worked in?

Must be American embassy in Paris, the kitchen is huge,
old school with hundreds of copper pans and pots hanging on the wall. The kitchen has all the top of the line equipment you can imagine and separate rooms for cold kitchen, warm kitchen, pastry, baking, etc...

Any new trends?

Guests are asking for a lot of Asian food and healthier breakfasts. Chefs at sea will soon be expected to do more baking, molecular cuisine and to stay on top of trends.

I think the world of yachting will get better and better. I will say, rotation of the crew to keep them motivated is paramount.

What does the future look like for you?

Personally? I'm working a new hot sauce line. I also want to open a boutique hotel somewhere in a paradisiac place with a high-end restaurant. I'm very excited about it. The market is hot but to me it is more about making guests happy than making money.

I will stay on yachting for the next 2-3 years. The future looks bright!

Thanks for your time Chef and Bon Voyage!

Follow Chef Isberg on instagram or visit his website www.chefdanielisberg.com

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