Belinda Jane Robinson – Yacht Chef to Catering Entrepreneur
How long did you work in yachting? Can you tell me about your yachting career- highlight, low points?
My introduction to the yachting community happened by pure accident in 2001. A late bloomer you might say. I was born in Scotland, grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, worked and studied in New Zealand and also I worked as a mental health nurse in Australia, the concept of work and life at sea was very foreign to me, but at the same time, the pull was irresistible.
Following a friend from New Zealand, I flew to the UK and then onto Ireland to briefly join the Irish peace movement moving river boats down the River Shannon. This was a venture set up to unite kids from the north and south of Ireland in an attempt to create harmony between the two. This proved to be a challenging and fulfilling venture.
I then flew to Antigua and embarked on my first role as deckhand/crew cook, a horrendous experience that resulted in me flying back to the UK with my tail between my legs. Once back, I joined my first ‘Superyacht’ in the form of a Falcon 86 in Viareggio as stew/cook for an Egyptian family. This was my big break. Apart from meeting some amazing people, visiting markets for the first time, cooking food I had never dreamed possible, my confidence sky rocketed and I was absolutely hooked! I got to travel to Egypt through the Suez which is a memory I will never forget. It was there, I got my PADI beginner dive certificate and a whole new underwater world opened up to me.
Time to move on, change from power boat to sail, my passion. I successfully gained my Yachtmaster certification and flew to Palma de Mallorca and it was here my vocation as a cook/chef at sea became a reality. My biggest challenge was provisioning in foreign territories, especially those where English was not the mother tongue, but working with some amazing provisioners, and selfless chefs, the transition from novice to professional was so much smoother than I expected. I grew from strength to strength in my cooking and often surprised myself in presenting dishes that left my guests in awe. It became clear to me that I was becoming a very rounded chef, unafraid of challenges and totally loving my job!
My highlights included going to places that very few people get to see in a life time. Working with the freshest and most beautiful of produce imaginable and with some inspirational people who remain firm friends to this day still.
How did you know it was time for you to make the move to land?
Moving on was an easy decision. After working and living at close quarters out at sea, I wanted a home, a place to hang my hat and everything else, reconnect with friends and finally have the chance to populate that home with dogs I had so long wished for in my life.
What was the most difficult thing about the transition?
The most Challenging point for me was how to make a living ashore. Utilising and encouraged by the network of amazing people I had met along the way, I decided that shore based freelance work was the way to go. The sporadic nature of this work, creating budgets and reduced earning potential were just some of the challenges I had to overcome. However, as can happen with best laid plans, life got in the way and I had to re-evaluate just where it was that I wanted to focus my energies.
What was the best thing about it?
Discovering an incredible source of support from strong, influential women on both a professional business and personal level, all whom have been instrumental to my new-found purpose and determination.
What do you miss the most about yachting?
The life lessons, skills, tireless work and incredible people I have met, are all still with me today, but now it is a life I am happy to have moved on from.
What are you doing now?
As a resident of this beautiful Island, I am re-inventing myself with an amazing and very innovative project on the drawing board, involving fresh produce and unique design concepts in food. I am in the early stages of setting up a bespoke catering service, so watch this space!
Do you have any advice for fellow yachties about going land-based?
My advice; live for the moment, work hard, keep positive and always have a back-up plan! Good luck everyone and thank you for reading.