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It’s a kind of a reverse travel for Chef Zachariah Rath after 13 years working on megayachts.
“I continue to meet people from around the world,” Rath said from his bed and breakfast in Darien, Ga. “Before I was going to them and now they are coming to me.”
Rath’s travels have taken him far from his start at the Chances “R” Restaurant and Lounge in York, Neb., during high school. After earning a degree in food service management and culinary arts he headed for the Clipper Cruise Line as executive sous chef and then to chef on megayachts including Northern Lights, Muse, Milk and Honey, and Miracle.
But Rath held a dream since high school to own a bed and breakfast.
“The end goal, for the end of yachting, was to be on land,” Rath said by phone while working on the grounds of the property on a late January afternoon. “To one day have a big-kid bed, not a bunk, rolling around at anchor.”
Rath decided to leave M/Y Miracle last April. He researched his dream and it was time for he, his fiancee, Carrie Mae, and her two teenage sons to move. The family visited, studied and decided to buy Open Gate Bed and Breakfast, a small inn about an hour south of Savannah.
The five-bedroom, 1876 house is definitely not a yacht, but Rath is happy he’s settled in this old house under live oak and magnolia trees.
“Yachts are more high-end but my skills carry over,” Rath said.
And although he wouldn’t mind a few appliances from his previous yacht galleys, (his current kitchen was most recently refitted in the 1960s), Rath feels at home making fresh bread and pastries, and capitalizing on local cuisine.
“Darien is known for its shrimp, so we have a breakfast special, the Darien Shrimp Delight,” Rath said. “Breakfast is half the name.”
Guests can start their day with a fan of avocado, lightly breaded fried shrimp with a poached egg, Hollandaise sauce and chives.
“It’s not really a recipe, but, yes, it is mine,” he said.
Aside from the Spanish moss in the trees, his work at the bed and breakfast is much like service onboard. Guests fill out a preference sheet with allergies and requests so Rath can prepare for issues beforehand.
“I really like to tailor to the guests,” he said.
He also serves as concierge and makes recommendations for local activities and sites. Rath confesses to a few other holdovers from yachting, namely the neat folds on the toilet paper spools and fancy napkin folds on the table. Plus, he said a cookie and chocolate factory is across the street, which does turn-down service at Open Gates.
“That is one more thing we can do for our guests, another extra perk to make us memorable,” Rath said.
One day when the inn can support his family, Rath said he expects his fiancee will leave her job with an insurance company and make it a true family business. The bed and breakfast is three blocks from the river so guests can visit by small boat.
“The city dock offers two free nights with water and electric to encourage people to visit,” Rath said.
Rath visited every continent during his time at sea, and although the southern United States can seem like another country, Rath is quickly becoming a local. He recently hosted a traditional southern social event, a low-country boil, which is centered around shrimp, potatoes and corn in a big pot.
“We had a low country boil for 33 people, a busload of visitors,” Rath said. “It was my first ever to eat, cook or serve.”
Rath is making plenty of sweet tea, another Georgia tradition, but he is still absorbing the local language.
“I wish I had a Southern accent, the gentlemanliness is appealing,” he said.
Rath admits he misses his friends in yachting, but not necessarily the boats, the maintenance issues, the small bunks and some of the personalities onboard. But he is grateful to be his own boss.
“For now, I’m everything,” Rath said. That means cook, housekeeper, groundskeeper and marketing director.
“Right now there are no other staff, this is my day from sun up to sun down,” Rath said with lawn clippers in hand.
He knows he will miss the beaches, the new scenery and the travel. But Rath said it is worth it to be living the dream he has had for more than 20 years.
“This is for myself, for me,” Rath said. “Yachting was an adventure, but this is an adventure of the unknown.”
For photos, rates and more, visit Open Gates Bed and Breakfast at www.opengatesbnb.com or contact at 301 Franklin St., Darien, Ga. (31305), +1 912-437-6985.
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.