International career opportunities – working on a private yacht.

Interview with Antonie Botha.

A qualification in the hospitality industry can open many doors for you during the course of your career. One such opportunity is working as a private chef onboard the luxury privately owned yachts.

Antonie Botha has been working as a chef on private yachts for 15 years, and he sat down with Denise Lindley for an interview to discuss the pros and cons of a life at sea!

Q. How long have you been working as a chef on a private yacht?
A. I have been working on yachts for 15 years

Q. Was it an easy process in applying for the position?
A.The process is easy to apply once you have the necessary papers, which are;
ENG1 – medical paper
STCW – roughly a two week course that teaches you first aid, firefighting and all other aspects needed to work on a boat safely.

Q. What are your biggest challenges of the job?
A. The fact that sometimes for a month or two, you don’t have any days off. Plus never being able to get off the boat working up to 15 to 16 hour days! That each client is unique, so each cruise is completely different regarding their requirements, and you have to be completely flexible and have a huge repertoire of dishes. You work under a super stressful environment with other crew members, so tempers do tend to flare once in a while! When you are experiencing rough seas, you actually get tossed around, as the boat moves a lot .

Q.What are the positives and negatives of the job?

  • Very good salary package
  • Not paying tax
  • All food, toiletries, alcohol, laundry, gets provided
  • Often waking up in a different country.
  • A chance to experience different cultures and cuisines.
  • An annual paid return flight home


  • Sharing a cabin and living space with people you would not normally choose to share with!
  • You work hard – with virtually no time off, for about 4 months . (depends if you work on a private or a charter yacht)
  • You are responsible for all the purchasing, cleaning and cooking, as you are the only person working in the galley (depends on size of the yacht)
  • You will be cooking for both the crew and guests (on my last boat, that meant feeding 22 people all on my own!)
  • If you have to do shopping, you really struggle in the supermarkets unless you speak many languages, as very few people speak English! Google translate the becomes your best friend! But translating becomes harder if a different alphabet – like Greek, Hebrew or Arabic, is used!

Q. Take us through your typical day at work

  • Generally get up around 7am, depending what time your guests want breakfast
  • Start doing prep for the guest’s breakfast. Once completed with that prep, you plan the lunch and dinner menus, which have to be handed to the Chief Steward for printing and approval by the guests.
  • As most of the time guests don’t stick to the meal times, there is a lot of hurry up and wait!
  • Quite often guests will have breakfast almost at the same time as the crew has their lunch.
  • Crew lunch is served at 12.00 and dinner is at 18.00.
  • Generally the crew have a choice of protein plus 3 vegetables or salads, and they have different meals to the guests
  • The guest’s lunch is usually in the form of a buffet, so other than preparing lunch for both guests and crew, you also have to place orders with your provisioner in advance for delivery (if your captain is ok with that) and also have to place orders for the next charter as well. Plus some days you also have to receive the orders and pack away.
  • If you are lucky, you may get a short break in the afternoon, but this all depends on the different timing of lunch and dinner. Then you start prepping for the crew’s dinner, and once that is done, you start the guest’s dinner prep.
  • You have to wait for guests to actually sit down and then start their dinner, as this can be split for the guests – adults – children plus their nanny.
  • No charter is the same! The knocking off time depends on the guests, as some want to eat at 19.00, while others want to have dinner at 22.00 or 23.00, so that will determine when you finish for the night. If you are unlucky, you may have guests who want snacks served at 04.00, after they return to the boat from being out on land. As you are the only chef on board, you will get woken up to prepare the food!

Q. Would you recommend this job to an aspiring chef?
A. I would absolutely recommend this job to an organised, even tempered person who has loads of people skills, and definitely a person who does not suffer from sea sickness!