The Triton


The reality of yacht chef rotations


How does three on, three off sound? Appealing, right? To think you could work three weeks or even three months straight, then get a month or three off certainly sounds like a good deal. That’s how a lot of charter yachts and the largest private yachts work.

Commercial ships have used rotations for as long as I have been around so it is nothing new. It just took a while for it to trickle into yachting. Don’t forget, yachts weren’t so big 20 years ago and the need for a lot of crew, especially crew that came and went, was not the protocol.

The beneficial side to rotation is that it gives the crew time to recuperate after a long charter or season. It keeps them fresh and, supposedly, helps reduce accidents. Charters are extremely hard work and to go through a whole season without a break really takes its toll on the crew. From a chef’s perspective, rotation helps, especially because of the long hours and burnout that accompanies our profession. It makes sense for rotation on charters. You wouldn’t want a chef skilled in vegan cuisine for a charter full of professional football players. To find the right fit is the main objective, and having several chefs in rotation is the key.

The down side of rotations for chef is that all the chefs have to agree on the way the galley will run. One chef can’t just change things; certain stock items must stay in place, food inventory must remain the same (give or take what the charter guests or owners want). There are certain ways the yacht’s galley was set up and every chef who works in that galley must adhere to them.

Also, with more than one chef in the galley, everything has to be shared. Some chefs are not into sharing, especially the limelight, while others are quite content to follow the rules and guidelines.

Another downside is that rotational work is not full-time work, so you need to weigh it for yourself and even try it if you think this is what you might like to do.

The real reason rotations were created was to lessen accidents and improve the enjoyment for the charter guests. Imagine having worked three months straight and facing the end of the last charter only to find out you have another charter in a few days. You get discouraged and you are just plain tired. It is difficult to stay creative for that length of time without feeling the consequences. You can see why rotations are more common on charter vessels.

But imagine being the lone chef on a busy private yacht, working six months straight with no time off. Is that any different? When we work this way every day, chefs soon become burned out and quit, just to get a rest.

Enter the rotational chef. Though it might not work for everyone or every boat, it sure looks good when the days and charters are long. When the end of our rotation is near, we don’t mind the long days and hard work. Rotation is the continuous wave that keeps us afloat.


Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 20 years. Comments on this column are welcome at

About Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson

Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years.

View all posts by Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson →

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