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!

Behind the scenes with a luxury charter chef

Chef Daniela Sanchez shares fascinating details about her culinary background, favorite restaurants & meals, and life onboard a luxury yacht.

The chef is one of the most important members of the crew of a luxury yacht, on a charter vacation, the chef can make the experience delicious, fascinating and unforgettable, and Motoryacht Remember When is fortunate to count with Chef Daniela Sanchez whose creations delight the most demanding palates with cuisine that varies from classic to avant garde, exploring a myriad ethnic flavors and worldwide ingredients of the highest quality.

On a recent afternoon onboard Remember When, Chef Daniela shared a little of her personal background, tips & secrets and even some of her favorite places to provision, restaurants and activities. Read on to discover the amazing woman behind the galley of Remember When.

1) How long have you been working in yachting?
I’ve worked in yachting for 6 years, before that I worked in the restaurant world, and in hotel and restaurant management. I love yachting because it can be very creative, as a chef I can design menus that are custom tailored to the preferences of the charter guests, their tastes, the season of year, our location, and even special celebrations that might take place onboard. Additionally charters offer a great opportunity to impress guests who are onboard to experience one of the most exclusive holidays ever.

2) What is your greatest challenge as a yacht chef?
Ironically… cooking for the crew! They are a very international group, with different preferences, and they are also used to having a culinary trained chef cook for them, so they know about good food!

I also had a fun soufflé challenge recently where the guests were really delighted by soufflé, so we created a dinner that involved various kinds of soufflés for the different courses of the meal. Because soufflé has to be served very quickly, the rest of the crew helped out so that every dish could go from the galley to the table in the shortest amount of time possible, while I was ready to create the next soufflé course.

3) At what time do you wake up? What’s special about your routine?
When we’re on charter, I always wake up at 5am, I love to get an early start.
The early morning offers the perfect time for Mise-en-Place. This is a french phrase that refers to the set-up that one needs to do before beginning to cool. This is the time for organizing ingredients, prepping for baking, cooking, sauces, etc.

4) What are your favorite things to do for kids while on charter?
Some charter favorites are:

  • Make your own pizza: this can be fun for various ages
  • Make your own cookies: this can involve a little cooking and baking if the kids are slightly older, or be as simple as decorating if they’re really small.

I find that it’s important to be flexible, things can change quickly on a charter, sometimes an afternoon of water activities can be cancelled due to rain, and some galley activities can save the day and be a lot of fun for the younger guests.

5) What are your favorite places to provision?
Every place in the world has something special, but I do have some favorite ones:

In Italy: While on the Mediterranean side, I love to get Italian porcini mushrooms, little wild strawberries, fresh as well as dried herbs, the juiciest most delicious tomatoes, cheeses of all kinds and of course wines.

In the Caribbean: St Maarten is my favorite place to shop for food in the Caribbean. It was a great blend of French / Dutch ingredients and offers lots of variety.

6) Do you ever practice for special dishes? Where do you get inspiration from?
I do practice, although the galley gets very busy while guests are onboard, when we have down time between charter groups I do like to experiment a little. Yard periods also offer a good time for exploration. And I draw lots of inspiration form Pinterest, I read quite a few culinary blogs, and I love perusing restaurant menus too.

7) What are your favorite restaurants?
Off the top of my head I love: 

  • MAHOGANY HOUSE in the Bahamas. 
    It’s in Lyford Cay, Nassau.
    I think they have the best mushroom soup in the world.
  • I also really like MARKET 17 in Fort Lauderdale. 
    It’s right by the 17th Street Bridge, next to the Convention Center.
    They have a very creative and unique menu.

8) You are so busy, when do you eat?
I taste the food I am cooking all the time, for me it’s the best way to check how a dish is turning out. I’m a snacker too. Because I spend most of my day cooking, I tend to have small meals throughout the entire day. However it can be a little strange to try certain foods at odd times of the day. So I may be working on a sauce for a meat or fish dish in the early morning, and I’d still try it even if it’s nor exactly a normal breakfast flavor.

9) What is your favorite food?
PASTA! And I always make my own! 
I love making ravioli, tortellini, pappardelle, and I love to add saffron, basil, spinach, etc.
I also love making my own ICE CREAM. I use a Paco Jet which is a micro pureeing machine that allows me to blend various frozen ingredients and it keeps them frozen which makes for delicious ice cream. Recently I have experimented with:
• Mango and fresh lemongrass
• Vanilla and truffle

10) A chef you admire?
Alain Ducasse, he’s a French / Monégasque chef who operates various well known restaurants (27!) like Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London which is a 3-Star Michelin Guide restaurant.

Any closing thoughts or words of wisdom…
—Never cook when you’re angry!
—Treat people the way you want to be treated.