“I talk to my food and my food talks to me,” says Michel Thomann, chef aboard the new 126-foot (36.4m) charter yacht Vista Blue. “I know you must think I am crazy, but I am serious. I simply intuit when a roast is done or a batter is the right texture. I never use a meat thermometer and I do not use mixers, machines or other fancy kitchen gadgets.” I can feel the food better when I do everything by hand, by sight and by smell. Thomann is not one to take the easy way out. He makes everything from scratch, including all the bread and pastries aboard.
A gregarious 56-year old with a shock of white hair, a big smile, and a suitably charming French accent, Thomann prepares five-star meals—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—for charter guests aboard the snazzy, Italian-built Custom Line 120 motor yacht that was delivered to her American owners just last year. As charter chef, he has a demanding job: he is on call from well before the guests wake up until after they go to sleep. He must be able to pack a picnic on a minute’s notice or provide midnight munchies for night owls. Meals provided by yacht chefs rival the very best restaurants in the world—and then of course there is the incomparable venue: dining on the aft deck alfresco under the stars in a beautiful harbor.
Thomann grew up in Alsace in the eastern part of France. He credits time spent on his grandfather’s farm for learning to work with his hands, digging in the dirt harvesting vegetables, and picking fruit only when it is perfectly ripe. “I was always passionate about food—the smell, taste, texture, and look,” he notes. Farm work was not all gentile and bucolic, however. “When we ate pig, we butchered it,” Thomann remarks. “It did not just appear in a cellophane package in the refrigerator.”
From the age of 12, Thomann spent summers working in restaurants peeling potatoes and performing other kitchen chores. “It would be considered child labor now,” he says, “but not at the time in France.” At 14, bored with school, he prevailed upon his parents to enroll him in Forck Culinary Institute in Alsace. His career trajectory over the last 42 years has taken him from a Paul Bocuse restaurant in Lyon to secretive chef assignments for high-profile individuals to posh ski resorts in Switzerland to chic clubs in Monaco to his own restaurant in Hollywood, Florida: FACE (French American Culinary Experience).
Thomann started working as a chef on yachts in 2003. Meals and service aboard a good charter yacht can make or break a charter experience. While the chef receives a food preference sheet prior to the charter with key information about likes, dislikes, allergies and desires, Thomann still checks in with his guests on a daily basis to see what they are in the mood for. Thomann does not simply want to feed his guests. He wants to blow their minds and palates with every bite. There is no restriction or limit. Gluten-intolerant vegan? No problem. A craving for a spicy Mexican fiesta? No hay problema. Biftek sous vide with a Béarnaise sauce? Aucun problème. Chef Michel speaks to his food, and his food speaks for itself.
Sample menu items
• Caviar Eggs with red onion mousse and dill infused crème fraiche on a mélange of radish, sweet pepper and fennel with a light vinaigrette vodka sauce
• Antigua caviar Napoleon
• Lobster Masala Thermidor
• Mahi and Tuna Mango Salad Exotique
• Red Snapper Provençal
• Triple chocolate cake with mixed berries
M/Y Vista Blue
Length: 126-foot (38.4 meter)
Construction: Composite GRP hull and superstructure
Cruising/Max speed: 20 knots/ 25 knots
Builder: Custom Line, Ferretti Group, Italy
Designer: Francesco Paszkowski
Guest accommodations: up to 12 guests in 5 en suite staterooms
From $140,000 per week + expenses
For more information about charter, visit fraseryachts.com or your favorite broker.