Zoe Parker Fitch is a yacht-chef who loves her job and the perks that come with it! She graduated from the 12 Week Certificate course in March 2012.
What have you been doing since completing the Ballymaloe 12 Week Certificate?
I took the course back in March 2012, really an amazing course in which I learnt so much valuable information for the career I was just beginning. I had worked as a cook on sailboats in Australia for 2 years but really wanted to know more and up my game. I finished Ballymaloe, and headed to the South of France for my position as sole Chef on a 23mtr motor boat. I was cooking for up to 12 guests and 3 crew. It was great. I got to learn about provisioning, planning menus and shopping at all the local food markets up and down the French and Italian Riveria to find the best produce for the guests. That was amazing as I had no budget and lots of freedom.
Since then (2012), I have progressed to cooking for up to 20 crew on a 52mtr Feadship on an Atlantic crossing. I've seen a Caribbean season, had a short 3 month break with Head Pastry Chef Kaitlyn Brenner ( also a graduate of the Ballymaloe 12 Week Certificate) at the Zuni Cafe where I staged for a few months. Most recently, I've been employed under a super Swedish head chef on a brand new 82mtr Feadship, where I have been involved from setting up the galley and buying great equipment from smoking machines to Paco Jets! Just had our first trip to Norway and saw all the wonderful fresh fish markets. There is a big difference between a yachting job and a cruise liner!
Were there certain aspects of the 12 Week course that enabled you in your chosen career path?
It really helped when we were taught to identify fish and how to fillet them, as sometimes we have guests onboard who like to buy local fish, so it's always good to know how to prepare fish properly. Also working with crew members onboard menu planning is a big aspect as I am responsible for giving them healthy meals.
What were the highlights and challenges for you personally on the course?
One of the main highlights was the amount that we learnt! So much information in the 3 months. The challenge....That 3 hour cooking exam! I would like to say I would sail through it now.
What's your favourite thing about being a yacht chef?
I never ever get bored, there are days where we are working 16 hour days! It's difficult when you get no breaks and your feet hurt. However, once there is down time, there is time to explore and look for new foods and think about new menus to prepare. I love the free travel, the people I meet and different cuisines I come into contact with. As there are usually no budgets, we get to see Wagyu beef, try the most amazing cheeses and sometimes are even treated to meals at Michelin restaurants.
What are your plans for the future?
Currently, I plan to stay on-board this yacht, we have a great itinerary planned. We are currently en route from Norway to Palma. Then the boss joins us for a trip round the Balearics, St Tropez, Greece, Turkey, and then Christmas at the Seychelles. I will continue to cook onboard yachts for a while as I enjoy it, I believe as soon as you don't, it reflects in your food.
Any advice for someone considering the 12 Week Certificate?
Yes do it, if you have the time and money, it really helped me kick start my life as a yacht chef!