Superyacht chef shows life at sea serving the world's richest is far from glamorous — from grueling 18-hour days to a guest who asked to 'heat the Adriatic'
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Former superyacht chef Melanie White. Courtesy of Melanie White
Former yacht chef Melanie White reveals what it's like to work at sea in her new guide book.
White described the difficulties of preparing elaborate meals at sea and working in confined spaces.
The former yacht chef said life at sea can take a significant toll on seafarers' mental health.
Former superyacht chef Melanie White said life at sea is far more difficult than social media would have you believe - from assembling gourmet meals in a floating kitchen to difficult crew dynamics and weeks with little contact with the outside world.
"We live on the threshold of the rich and famous," White wrote in a tell-all book about the industry released last month. “We have a view of mega yachts and parties on private beaches, plenty of champagne and good food. We see numbers hitting six zeros so often that we become desensitized, and then suddenly back to what our reality should be. "
White's book, Behind Ocean Lines: The Invisible Price of Accommodating Luxury describes her experience working on her first yacht in her twenties. It follows her through training as a yacht stewardess and eventually cook to journeys through the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the Arctic.
It was then that White decided to quit her office job to embark on an adventure at sea. She told Insiders that she made between £30,000 and £40,000 (equivalent to about $36,200-$48,260) a year during her time with the Russian who owned the sailing yacht -- much of which she saves, White said, because she can did not have to pay for food or accommodation.
Melanie White works on a superyacht. Courtesy of Melanie White
In the book, White describes the often grueling experience, which included working 18-hour days cleaning bathrooms and guest rooms. At one point, she took on the role of two crew members, attending to guests' requests while cooking complete gourmet meals.
In the book, White likened her role to that of a fairy who magically and almost invisibly performs tasks to please guests.
"Excellent service is when the beds are miraculously made even though guests have full table service during meals," she wrote. “When the shower is bone dry just five minutes after taking one. But didn't Mel serve me champagne? When the towel is inexplicably refolded and replaced, and there isn't a single watermark on the faucet after every hand wash. "
During her time at sea, White said it was sometimes difficult for guests to understand that the crew was working with limited supplies. In her book, she recalls another "yachtie" describing an incident where a guest asked if they could "heat the Adriatic".
"Some guests just didn't realize that we don't have infinite resources on board," White told Insider, adding that she's become accustomed to considering very specific dietary restrictions when planning meals for guests.
The work itself is exhausting. White worked her way through the elements of the Arctic Ocean and seasickness while attempting to prepare elaborate multi-course meals in a kitchen she called "essentially booby-trapped." White said she often got "boat bites" from slamming into objects on the ship while underway, and food and cooking utensils were often thrown from the fridge or countertop.
The stress of the job was enough to prompt a crew to "mutiny," White wrote.
Melanie White said the crew is trained for survival situations, including rescuing guests who have fallen overboard. Courtesy of Melanie White
"The success of any company or boat lives and dies on the compatibility of its people," White wrote. "With sailing, space limitations compound this, and the complexity of living with work colleagues means there is little recovery from one another."
Crew dynamics have not always been healthy for White. In her book, she said she worked with a captain who verbally abused his crew and once "slapped" her on the butt. At the time, White said in her book that she lost a tremendous amount of weight and even got a kidney infection because she didn't have time to take care of herself properly.
She once said she slept on a table for days and waited until late in the day to go to the bathroom because there wasn't enough space on the catamaran to accommodate her.
Melanie White prepared lavish meals at sea. Courtesy of Melanie White
At the end of the experience, White said she found healing at a yoga retreat. She told Insiders that she returned to work on other yachts but eventually decided to leave her life at sea to pursue other opportunities. However, she said she still keeps in touch with some of her favorite guests.
Ultimately, White said she wrote the book to shed light on the mental health issues facing workers at sea.
Read more about White's entire experience in her book.
Read the original article on Business Insider
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