At the Antigua Charter Yacht Show 2015, the Yacht Charter Fleet team had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Michelle Bonetti on board the 37m/122ft motor yacht ZEEPAARD.
What inspired your passion for food?
I was brought up on a farm in Beega – a small town in New South Wales - where we grew our own fruit and vegetables, and my dad reared all the meat we ate. Everything we had was organic and this gave me a real appreciation of food. Also, both my parents are from Switzerland and my dad is half Swiss, half Italian, and this background inspires my cooking style.
How did you get into the yachting industry?
When I worked as a waitress, while still studying at school, a colleague told me about his experience in the yachting industry. It sounded like something I would love to do so, at 19 years old, after finishing school, I joined motor yacht BARCARELLA as a stewardess. But, I had always wanted to cook, so after one year I returned to Australia to do my professional training. My plan was always to return to the industry as a chef once I had qualified.
Where did you do your training?
Perth in Western Australia, in a restaurant called Print Hall. It’s a multi-level restaurant and I always worked in the fine dining section. I was part of the team that opened the venue in 2012 and I absolutely loved it there. The head chef – Daniel Fischer – was amazing. He taught me really well and, after my apprenticeship, I stayed on for an extra year as I enjoyed working there so much.
It’s fun to be able to have a play around with food and create something a little bit different
What is your favourite cuisine?
I like fine dining and, because of my family’s background, my cuisine has a lot of Italian and Swiss influences. However, I also love cooking Thai food as it’s really fresh and healthy, which is ideal for the crew on board ZEEPAARD as they like to eat well. The crew are like my guinea pigs – great to test new ideas out on!
Do you find it difficult to cater to different dietary requirements?
No, in fact it’s fun to be able to have a play around with food and create something a little bit different. One of our crew members is a vegetarian, who tries to avoid diary and gluten too, and I cook for her on a daily basis. So, I believe I’m well-equipped for catering for charter guests with dietary requirements.
What are the differences between working on a yacht and working in a restaurant?
I can’t make things quite as extravagantly on board ZEEPAARD as it’s just me working alone. Whereas, in a restaurant, there would be more than one chef working on each course. This means I have to organise myself and the way in which I cook my food differently. You just need to be organised - I think organisation is the biggest key to cooking successfully on a yacht.
Growing up on a farm where we ate our own produce has given me a valuable appreciation and understanding of food in its natural form
Do you use organic ingredients?
Growing up on a farm where we ate our own produce has given me a valuable appreciation and understanding of food in its natural form, and I use organic produce whenever possible. It is difficult to get organic food when you’re working on a yacht, but in Antigua, where we’re based at the moment, there is a really good farm where you go round with your basket, hand-picking and cutting off all the fruit and veg you want. I always try and find local places like this as the produce tastes so much better.
Who is your favourite chef?
Daniel Fischer, the head chef who I trained under at Print Hall. When I began my apprenticeship, I originally worked in another restaurant where I was constantly yelled at and treated differently as a female working in a male-dominated environment. When I stared working with Daniel 10 months later, I fell back in love with cooking. He was a great boss and treated everybody equally, and he’s the reason why I’m still in the industry today.
What is the best and worst thing about working on a yacht?
I love to travel – that’s definitely the best thing for me. While the main thing I struggle with is not having someone to teach me new things. I’m still young and I still love learning. On the off-season, I hope to do a stage, which is where you work for free in a restaurant – usually Michelin-starred – for about a month and learn from some brilliant chefs.
For further information on M/Y ZEEPAARD and enjoying the cuisine of Chef Michelle Bonetti, please contact your preferred charter broker.