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Yacht chef offers Willy Wonka-like peek inside galley

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When Neal Salisbury was young he wanted to be an explorer and travel the oceans. He imagined his journeys on Christopher Columbus-type ships.

Now at 46, he does sail the seas, but on much fancier vessels as a chef on megayachts. Salisbury’s has shared a look at this part of his life, as well as the chef industry onboard, in his first book, “The Billionaire’s Chef: Cooking for the Rich and Famished” released in September.

“It’s a Willy Wonka tour of the industry, like winning a golden ticket,” Salisbury said. “You get an honest, nothing-held-back, look at who we are, who our bosses are, the statistics, and what to expect when working for the multi-billionaire.”

As a chef, Salisbury has seen a lot of the world since he was 8 years old, baking Jiffy brand box mixes at home in Nashua, N.H.

“I never followed the recipe and they never turned out,” he said. “My family doesn’t let me cook, since I left a burner on in the kitchen.”

Since those days he has cooked for what he described as 20 of the world’s most reclusive billionaires, as well as Martha Stewart, P. Diddy, and Jerry Seinfeld on more than 100 boats. He specializes in large yachts and difficult programs.

“I work where the owner is impossible and he hemorrhages chefs,” Salisbury said. “I don’t leave unless in I’m fired or in a body bag.”

In “The Billionaire’s Chef,” he shares views from the yacht galleys and estate kitchens he has worked in. He explains rules of private service, how to work with a team and what to do when starting a new job, as well as meal planning, provisioning and how to outfit the galley or kitchen.

Salisbury covers the routine for chefs, lists who reports to whom onboard, plus details job titles and descriptions for crew on yachts, planes and estates. He includes tips he has learned about the lifestyles of those he works for from the perspective of a chef.

“You have to know how to read a table silently, how to provision on an island, how to meet the requirements of celebrities at work,” Salisbury said.

“Did you know that in a plane your taste buds taste 10 percent less under cabin pressure?” he said. “You need to know how to flavor at elevation and what to do if you’re delayed or stuck on the runway.”

Not a typical galley book, it has just one recipe (a royal family’s scone recipe). Salisbury said the book is about the industry, not about the food.

“Recipes won’t help a chef in the Med or cooking for a certain owner’s dietary needs,” Salisbury said. “They will cook the way they cook, I can’t give them the recipes that will work for them.”

Salisbury said someone helped him when he began as a chef and he figures he has helped up to 200 crew with advice. He sees the book as another way to help people from South Africa, Australia, United States or anywhere, get started.

“The book goes through the process in detail,” he said. “I’ve been told the book is worth it just for that, as a career guide.”

The first draft was begun in 2002 and Salisbury said he enjoyed sharing knowledge he has accumulated during his 15 years of experience onboard. He said he remembers when he first saw Oprah Winfrey’s chef on television and wondered how and where he could do that type of work.

“Back then, there weren’t places to learn about that,” Salisbury said.

He hopes his book will answer all those questions and more.

To order or learn more visit www.thebillionaireschef.com.

Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at dorie@the-triton.com.

 

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