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Culinary Waves: Yachting bears hard workers prepared for success

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Culinary Waves: by Chef Mark Godbeer

Yachting – my life for 15 years, a life I would not change for anything.

I wouldn’t call myself “old school.” I envision those old skippers, smoking their pipes on their wooden-hulled ships and reminiscing about the days when Nixon was running the show, as old school. But then reality strikes and I realize that, compared with the large contingency of yachties nowadays, I am that guy, sitting on my wooden boat and reminiscing about pre-Facebook days.

Yachting showed me the world, afforded me to experience it and, luckily, my profession allowed me to grow in it. Take away the mile-long beaches, the envelopes filled with cash, VIP bottle service, eight-week boss trips, beautiful sunsets, the best photo albums, boat shows, Leatherman, khakis and hip side VHFs, and what are we left with? This is where we need to see ourselves – take all the glitz and glam away, and take a look.

I find myself in a position of power. I find myself a honed professional who  was thrown in the deep end more times than my scarred, beaten hands can count on, and expected to deliver the moon and the stars. Which I did, on every back-to-back charter, on every extended boss trip. I did this because that is what my position required of me, and more importantly, because I was not only a yachtie traveling the world, I was a chef, one who loves to the core what he does.

Over the years I was being trained, not only by my ambition, but by the circumstances of yachting: the grueling hours, the highest expectations, the egos and the need to be best. At the time, all of it seemed a soul-breaking task, and I’m sure it came close to, in fact, breaking me – but it didn’t, and I am stronger for it.

The transition, in my case, played out very nicely in a professional sense. Stepping initially into a chef position in one of Australia’s top luxury lodges, Longitude 131, I found myself working with a team of 10, producing mind-blowing cuisine.

I was attracted again to the luxury, the elevated palates that appreciate the 15-hour sous vide wagyu beef cheek and the lack of eye batter at the price point.

But then I started to see my own cracks show. Not in the sense that I was losing my mind, but in the relinquishing of job duties, in accepting the fact that I wasn’t a one-man show anymore, that now I had to delegate and take a step back. I still have trouble not wanting to do it all myself. I found that doing everything at the standard I had grown accustomed to had instilled a sense of time management and multitasking that isn’t as common as one would think. Having that high pressure in yachting all the time had trained me, molded me into a hard-working, perfection-orientated chef.

However, I have come to learn that this can help others. I know quicker ways of doing things. Ways that can accentuate flavors, elevate dishes and please those individuals who sit down for a meal. Yachting has not only helped me, it is now helping those under my command. I find my patience at an all time high. The knowledge I have retained over the years from the multitude of locations I have visited informs the culinary tour we offer here. And now that I can take a step back and lead from outside the trenches, I feel the invoked sense of confidence that I literally never before had the time to admire and trust.

You see, yachting was more than just a lifestyle to me – it was my life, and years later I am realizing it still is.
It was an education, one you do not pay for with money but with blood, sweat and sleepless months. Everything I learned (except the ability to cook in 12-foot, confused seas) I utilize today in both my professional and personal life.

We will all have unique outcomes after leaving the industry. I am just happy to acknowledge that in my own story, yachting allowed me to have a happily ever after, a past I would never go back and change, and a future that I am now more than capable to make my own.

Mark Godbeer was a yacht chef for more than 10 years (chefmarkgodbeer.com) and The Triton’s  former Top Shelf columnist. He left yachting in 2017 to become executive chef at Longitude 131°, a luxury resort in the Northern Territory of Australia. Comments are welcome below.

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