Top Shelf: ‘Breakfast Queen’ key to impressive buffet

Nov 11, 2019 by Timothy MacDonald

Top Shelf: by Chef Tim MacDonald

There is no more important session on charter than the breakfast session. It may be true to say that easy points are scored with desserts, but the breakfast buffet is the first eyes on what’s to come.

This is when things can, and do, go pear-shaped – sometimes. The head stew cannot be on guard 24/7,  yet it’s in these early morning times that the point guard has to be sharp. 

Breakfast is when the guests are at their weakest – and crankiest.

Which brings me to this question:  Who is the most valuable crew member on board during charter?

Well, my answer may surprise you. In my opinion, it’s the second stew. Frown you may at first, but any chef worth their salt will agree that it’s the second stew with whom they work most  closely during charter. 

I consider myself lucky enough over the past two to three years to have worked with the best upper-level interior team, and it’s not until you compare apples with apples that you realize this.

The second stew has to be able to run the show faultlessly and to essentially be the head stew on guard. If you do not have a strong second stew, you will notice from the galley. Eggs go cold, toast is mistimed, communications on dinner times break down, etc., etc. Chefs, you know what I am talking about.

The table settings for lunch and breakfast have to be done by the second stew as well as – if not better than – the head stew. Crockery and cutlery, the oft-forgotten crab crackers and pickers and the shell bowl – all has to be covered.

What can I say? You’ve either got it or you haven’t. On Elixir, we were lucky enough to have a seamless powerhouse unit and it just worked. They had it.

But, back to breakfast. The breakfast buffet must exceed the guests’ expectations. Not only with food content, but also in appearance. It really must pop! 

The trick is having that strong second stew to carry on while the head stew is not on guard, and this is why the second stew is the most valuable crew member on charter.

The goal of any breakfast buffet is to WOW the guests first thing in the morning, but also – and even more  importantly – to slow them down so that the wretched “eggs to order” is avoided at all costs. 

In the heat of battle, the last thing we want is a cooked egg order, especially when we are trying to cater for crew as well as guests.

Most chefs would agree that they would rather wake up and cook a hamburger at 1 a.m. than receive an order for eggs Benedict or eggs Florentine at 11 a.m. By supplying a loaded buffet, you are vastly reducing your chances of having to deal with this most aggravating of aggravations.

Going into battle, I would have berry muffins, French pastries, cinnamon rolls, cut fruit, fresh berries, cheese and meat (for euro clients), artesian granola, berry and yoghurt cups, dried fruit compote, banana bread, a bread and bagels basket, smoked salmon, sliced tomatoes, vegan seeds, soaked goji berries, and so on.

The list is dictated by the location, but generally, the menu is a result of years of breakfast food requests.

Tim MacDonald ( has more than 20 years experience as a chef. He was named Concours de Chefs winner for Yachts over 160 feet at the 2011 Antigua Charter Yacht Show. His recipes are designed for the owner and guests. Comments are welcome below.