Getting to know charter yacht chef Tasia Haag

On any luxury yacht charter vacation the chef plays a paramount role, from the moment guests step aboard and savor the first set of canapés, to waking up for breakfast on the aft deck, bbq lunch at the beach and a gourmet multi-course dinner to follow—the chef makes the holiday flavorful, unique and spectacular in every way. Motoryacht Remember When is proud to welcome New Zealand native Chef Tasia Haag who's been delighting charter guests throughout her career and whose repertoire goes from classic cuisine to edgy and modern culinary adventures. During a recent casual chat, Chef Tasia shared a bit of her story, what inspires her, what challenges her and even some interesting secrets. Read and find out everything you want to know about the incredible lady who commands Remember When's galley.

1) How did you get into yachting?
I started working in restaurants in London and throughout the UK, but I then took a job in Australia, followed by another in the Caribbean. I have always loved traveling and I moved around Nevis and St Kitts on a 6-month contract. When that finished, someone offered me my first superyacht job purely by chance, which took me to Hong Kong, where I discovered the world of luxury yachts.

2) How was your first luxury yacht experience?
My first bosses were Asian and I had spent lots of time with great chefs who had given me lots of Asian-culinary experience. In the UK I had been head-chef of a restaurant with a strong Asian influence so this was very helpful. I've always loved cooking for guests with different cultural backgrounds and my worldwide travels have given me a broad palate and appreciation for the different kinds of cuisine.

3) What is your biggest challenge as a megayacht chef?
Pastry work can be tricky when you are cooking for twelve guests and eleven crew! But I find that success comes down to time management. My secret is usually working backwards, knowing at what time a meal should be served, and organizing a schedule around that time. I also plan meals in relation to one another. Sometimes it's useful to have a week’s menu ready ahead of time, with the absolute flexibility that is so important in yachting, but with a general idea of what the overall charter looks like.

4) How do you handle special requests?
I generally like to allow 2 proteins per meal so guests have a choice, this helps take care of special requests. I am always happy to provide options for guests who are vegetarian, vegan, paleo, pescatarian, and I have also cooked for guests with nut and fish allergies, on a celiac diet, etc. Guests are often onboard for a week so I strive to give them a unique culinary experience that meets their dietary requirements so they can enjoy themselves fully. Preference sheets filled out prior to each charter are a huge help in preparing suitable menus and I often find that guests without specific restrictions and requirements love trying the delicious alternatives offered just as much as the main menu options.

5) What's your schedule when on charter?
I get started early, around 5 am, especially on the first day of a charter. Guests often come from various time zones so it's important to understand their individual routines and schedules, particularly as they adjust to their destination and to the pace of their vacation. Charters are busy for a yacht chef, so I normally don't go to bed before 11pm, or sometimes later if guests are enjoying late evening activities.

6) When do you try new things? When do you go with a proven dish?
I love experimenting with food, I spend lots of time simply thinking about a dish. Sometimes it’s fun to take the crew suggestions, they might be craving something specific—a Thai curry, for example—and that will become the starting point for a new recipe or combination. I also write all my menus in a book and I save them for future reference. We have lots of repeat guests and I do look at my notes both to remember their favorite meals and also to make sure there is plenty of variety from one charter to another.

7) Any tips for charters with kids?
Kids love cooking projects and a Gingerbread making competition is one of the most fun activities that I have organized. They enjoy exploring the galley, and it can help during a rainy day or a longer passage. I've also had kids look into the fridge and choose one item they want to have cooked and then I've come up with a menu around that specific item or ingredient. Kids also love special presentations and to my delight I have found that young charter guests are usually happy to eat the same or similar foods as the adults.

8) What’s a favorite dessert you love to cook?
One of my favorite desserts to make is a Blueberry Creme Brûlée. But I'll make anything I am asked. I trained for a certificate in France and had to pass a 5-day test that involved lots of old-school, classic cooking, including making everything from scratch, so I am prepared to make anything even if I have never made it before. During this course I created my first-ever Baked Alaska and it came out fabulous which was so rewarding. I also love making souffles, I once made souffles for 50 guests onboard a megayacht and it was an amazing feat to accomplish given the small oven. I went with a quick recipe and everyone was pleased. My previous experience in fast-paced restaurants has taught me how to manage stress and make the best out of the present circumstances.

9) Where does your inspiration come from?
I think a love of food and cooking runs in my family. My father was a baker. My brother and younger sister were chefs. My cousin is also a chef. My father was born in the U.S. but was raised in Africa, while my grandmother was French-Belgian, so I grew up surrounded by a wide variety of foods and flavors. As a kid I went to school in Belgium so I had a lot of french cuisine in my childhood, from snails to foie gras, they were part of how my palate developed.

10) When do you eat? Any favorite foods?
I'm not a picker, I don't graze throughout the day, but I am a "taster" I need to make sure the taste is right, so that's when I try things I am cooking. I love spices. And I love to relax when I finally sit down to enjoy a meal. Among my favorite meals are a rare steak, quail and a whole baked fish like snapper or trout, and of course, foie gras!