When a famous Michelin-starred chef comes on board and is delighted by your food, you know you’re doing something right. This is what happened to Chef Salvatore De Luca, who pursued his dream of becoming a yacht chef in 2021.
Formally trained at the Luigi De Medici College in Naples, Italian-born Salvatore De Luca had already had a phenomenal career before joining the yachting industry, with a resume spanning chef positions in high-end restaurants across Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Denmark and England, where he worked at London’s Carlton Tower.
This cross-cuisine experience lends his charter food an enviable versatility, allowing him to turn his hand to a range of food styles, from the heights of elegant molecular gastronomy to American classics, petit fours, Spanish tapas, and the rustically Delicious ‘cucina povera’ style famous in the Italian south.
Charter guests on board LADY TRUDY this summer are in for a real treat. Cruising against the backdrop of Corsica and Sardinia, dropping anchor in the crystalline waters of La Maddalena Islands, Chef Salvatore De Luca will take charter guests on a culinary journey of their choosing.
We sat down with Chef De Luca to discuss the transition to life on yachts, his culinary influences, and yes, that great feedback from one of the world’s celebrity chefs.
1. Your career spans so many countries, do you think this varied experience has helped you when cooking on yachts?
Yes, my varied restaurant experience across so many countries helped me a lot. Working in these places introduced me to different ingredients, different techniques, and different cooking styles. The more chefs you work with from different countries, the more different things you learn. I’m now deeply familiar with multiple cuisines — in a way you can only get by living in the country and cooking for its people, rather than learning a new cuisine from a recipe book.
I also loved working with people from different cultures and I speak several languages- Italian, English and Spanish, which has helped me both with working with multicultural yacht crew, and often being able to talk to European guests in their own language, which is a really nice experience for guests I think.
2. What led you to move from restaurants to yachts, and how are you finding that transition? What are the challenges?
I have a friend that used to work on yachts, and when she was telling me about all the places and the experiences she’d had, I immediately thought “I want to try it”. I like travelling and I love new challenges, so I made the move onto yachts and am loving it.
I’m very adaptable, so the transition wasn’t difficult. The only challenge I’m finding is that the food storage and fridge space is more limited than what I’m used to in restaurants, but that just means I get to go ashore and find great fresh produce at markets and fishmongers more regularly, and I really enjoy that. Guests get the very best local ingredients that way too.
3 Yacht food budgets tend to be more generous than restaurant budgets. Is this allowing you to buy top ingredients and push the culinary boundaries?
To be honest, I always worked in high-end restaurants so I always used the finest ingredients. As for pushing culinary boundaries, that depends on the guests. Some prefer classic cooking, while some want to be surprised.
It’s great when a group of guests are happy to be surprised and allow me to lead them on a culinary journey throughout the charter. However, some people don’t like changing their food habits, and I’ll always respect that and deliver food that makes them happy. It’s their charter, not mine!
4. What do you see as a really successful dining experience on board?
For me, a successful dining experience is going out to the table and seeing that everybody is enjoying the meal that I made, or having a guest drop by the galley and chat about the food. When the charter broker passes on feedback that the guests loved the food, it makes me incredibly proud. I love what I do and I do it with passion.
5 What’s the craziest food request you’ve ever had? Did you manage to meet it?
So far I haven’t had any crazy requests on board, and if I get them I will try my best to meet them. I’ve worked as a high-end chef for a long time so not many requests surprise me, and I have the philosophy that if they want the food a certain way, it’s my job to deliver that without getting upset about it. Even though I’d prefer not to cook a beautiful steak to well done, if that’s what the guest wants, I’ll do it with a smile!
6 What do you think is special about dining on a yacht rather than a restaurant? How is the food central to the experience on board?
The difference from dining in a yacht than in a restaurant is the intimacy, the special attention that you get, and of course the stunning view you have every day as the yacht passes through new landscapes. We plan every meal to the guests’ tastes- something you simply can’t do in a busy restaurant, and we can also utilise the most spectacular local produce when we see it, whether that’s buying a lobster off a passing fishing boat or getting incredible fresh cheese from the market.
7. What are some of your standout dishes? What kind of food is your favourite to cook? And to eat?
As a true Italian, I love to prepare fresh pasta, but cooking with outstanding meat and seafood is also always a highlight. My cooking onboard spans a lot of styles, bringing together all that experience from years cooking in different countries. Presenting elegant fine-dining dishes is something I really enjoy, but I can also make a great classic American burger, Spanish tapas for sharing, and farm-to-table food using local produce. I also enjoy baking, and there’s nothing better than waking up on charter to the smell of fresh bread and pastries coming from the galley.
For me, if I’m going out to dinner in Italy, I cannot go past a lasagne made with fresh homemade pasta, but if not, I will go for a nice rib-eye steak.
8. What's been your favourite moment on a yacht so far?
I’ve already had a lot of good moments on board. I love the variety and constantly changing environments, cuisines, and challenges. For example, one day I’ll do the shopping in Capri, two days later in Saint Tropez, and maybe the day after that in Sardinia. There’s so much inspiration for a chef in these places.
My biggest highlight so far was when we had a very famous Michelin star chef onboard and he made a lot of compliments about my food. He thanked me personally for the dining experience that he and his wife had on board.
9. Have you held a passion for cooking since you were young? Where did this passion come from?
I knew I wanted to become a chef when I was 13 years old. I went to study for that, and I worked weekends and through the summer to learn as much as possible. The passion for cooking comes from my mum, she is an amazing cook. Thanks mum!
Thank you, Salvatore! We look forward to hearing more great feedback about your food this summer on board 43m charter yacht M/Y LADY TRUDY.
For further information on M/Y LADY TRUDY and enjoying the cuisine of Chef Salvatore De Luca, please contact her charter manager Barbara Grgurevic Skoda at firstname.lastname@example.org, +385 99 819 5889