Head Chef to Founder & Owner of Port Profile
How long did you work in yachting?
I’ve worked in the industry for 15 years as a head chef, on both motor and sailboats.
Can you tell me about your yachting career – highlights, low points?
I started out working on yachts back in 2004, after being recommended by a fellow chef. I knew nothing of the yachting world, nor had I ever sailed a boat of any sort. Off I went to Hampshire for an interview with my friend’s previous boss, smashed it! Then off to the south of France, I went!
The position was only seasonal, six months or so, and oh boy, was I in for a surprise! Three crew, the smallest coffin bed I’d ever seen! Cramped conditions, and crazy French stewardess, who had no qualms in telling me that she couldn’t understand a word I was saying! We fought like siblings for the entire season, apart from when we were released from duty and in a bar! Only then were things all good! She was a feisty lady! Love you, Benoite!
It was a crazy, exhausting season, what was meant to be only twelve weeks, split into four charters with four-week gaps in-between, turned in to a non-stop, back to back, mental summer! This situation was due to the sale of the yacht halfway through the season. Of course, the new owners wanted to use the vessel as much as possible during the season.
At the end of the season, I was somewhat disillusioned, exhausted, drained! I headed back to the UK and never thought I go back to working in the industry again. Then out of the blue, came a call from sailboat captain Richard Foster, he talked me into coming out to Mallorca to join the boat for a week, and if I didn’t like it, he would pay for my return home. Equally, he said that if they didn’t like me, he’d also pay for my return home!
Off I went to Mallorca, joined the boat, loved it, thought Richard was quite mad! Ended up staying for three years! It turns out, Richard is nuts! In a good way!
That was me hooked on yachting! Didn’t want to leave, ever! I worked my way up to some of the most prestigious vessels in the industry, from Anemos, Lady M, Parsifal 3, Solemar, Siren, Alfa Nero, to Solandge.
15 years in total.
Highs for me were cooking for Beyonce and Jay Z, The Wrigley family, Crazy topless charter guests, huge tips! Antarctica! The Great Lakes, Mayan temples in Belize, racing across the Atlantic, meeting Tracy Bridges and Denise Wilson, friends for life! Introducing my best mate Ian Spencer to yachting and watching him flourish, he’s now the owners’ chef on a very well-known yacht, barely works, he got the coveted rotational gig! I’m not jealous, honest!
Lows for me were missing relatives funerals; thankfully, this doesn’t happen now that we have the new legislation in place which allows for compassionate leave. Crew politics, bitchiness, bulling, all the stuff we never talk about, that we should. Seeing crew members mental health deteriorate and then ignored or put down to them being ‘that’ way! There’s a big push at the moment for the industry to stand up and acknowledge that we have mental health issues in the industry. There’s been a spate of suicides recently in the industry; we must start talking about these situations openly and introduce an onboard support system for crew members to seek help when needed. We should no longer ignore it!
How did you know it was time for you to make a move to land?
After fifteen years, you know! I’d decided to four years ago to start my exit strategy, as I felt I was losing the love for the 18 – 20 hours a day, this was only during charter of-course and not every day! It would depend on the demands of the client and the planned itinerary. It had nothing to do with my age, honest!
My exit strategy was meant to be a simple support platform for yacht chefs; it has since grown into what is now known as www.portprofile.com a platform for recruiters, heads of department and candidates to come together to fill positions using the latest technology.
What was the most challenging thing about the transition?
I’m still going through it, and I might even do some freelance or temp gigs this summer, but the income would be the most obvious challenge.
What was the best thing about it?
What do you miss most about yachting?
I’m still ensconced in the industry with Port Profile, so I’m not missing anything.
Do you have any advice for fellow yachties about going land-based?
Plan your exit wisely, save money, pay the mortgage off first, ensure you have a solid strategy going forward. Use your yachting income to build a business that will provide you a similar income once you’ve left. Have a contingency plan; your first exit may fail!
Thanks for reading! x
Anton D Park