The lifestyles of the rich and the famous have always been baffling to the 99 per cent. Seeing stars swan around in fancy cars and fancier houses has been an annoying curiosity for normal folk for far longer than the Kardashians have been clogging up valuable screen time. Show us a flashy piece of jewellery or an unnecessary hissy fit and we’ll all be suckered in, popcorn in hand.
However intriguing their onscreen antics may be, there’s a lot more to the life of luxury going on behind the scenes. Issues that confront all of us in everyday life are, for these people, handled in an altogether different manner. Nowhere is this divide more starkly obvious than in the way the wealthy eat when on the move.
Most of us have been subjected to a horrific eating experience when travelling. Whether it’s peeling back the seal on a steaming grey pile of airline goop, or having to wolf down a sandwich under someone’s armpit on an overcrowded train, it's rarely an enjoyable experience. For the average commuter, it’s tough to imagine how food on the move could be anything other than intensely messy and stressful. Clearly, the average commuter has never had a private chef.
For decades, there have only really been two options for the super rich when it comes to getting around - private yacht and private jet. Luxurious 200ft super-schooners, complete with staff and facilities fit for royalty, are ideal for slowly cruising around the Caribbean or pulling stylishly into port in the Med. Jets, on the other hand, are the perfect way to arrive at your destination a mere nap after you left, unruffled and utterly prepared for a day of business.
Chefs on board ship have to be trained to cook for clients who are used to enjoying the best food in the world, and must also be able to reproduce that food in conditions that would cause most of us to leap into the nearest lifeboat.
Speaking to CNN, director of recruitment agency Yacht Chefs Efrem Leigh revealed: "In a normal kitchen you might have a pastry section or a fish section. But on a superyacht you've basically got to do everything in one confined area," adding that, "The standards are incredibly high. You've got to be trained to at least a sous chef level to know enough about food and run a galley. If you're just a cook, you're not going cut it."
Current superyacht chef and former private cook to Jon Bon Jovi and his family Jeremy Kelly agrees. In another CNN interview, Kelly revealed that the demands from picky, wealthy clients can be incredibly difficult to predict. "I might have one guest who is vegetarian, one who is gluten-intolerant, one who is kosher. So you might be doing three or four different menus each day," he revealed. When you’re adrift in the middle of the Atlantic, catering to all these potentially angry tastebuds is no easy feat.
It comes as no surprise to learn that the richest clients often expect the most expensive food. The challenges that this attitude can present are even more obvious when it comes to air travel. Unless you have a trained firefighter on board, it is in fact illegal to light an open flame onboard a plane. The result is often ludicrously specific takeaway orders from hungry and demanding clients.
In an interview with Forbes magazine, Renee Avialikis of XOJET revealed that the staff of private jets are obligated to go all in to get you the food that you fancy. “If you want Nobu, we will get you Nobu”, she declared. In fact, many restaurants that regularly cater to wealthy clientele, such as Cipriani in New York and Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami package dishes in such a way that is specifically designed for travel on jets and can be easily reheated in microwaves.
Unlike at sea, air crews are unlikely to include top of the range chefs. Though almost all companies offer haute cuisine options to their clients, these crack cooks are most likely to keep their feet firmly on the ground and prepare food in advance. The difference is that every member of the cabin crew needs to be adept at inflight food preparation and a master logistician. Contract flight attendant Stephanie Kisling revealed to Forbes that even getting the snack selection right can take hours of planning, since options that might be perceived as “cheap” could have a detrimental impact on the client’s perception of the service. It’s a minefield for anyone to navigate.
For many in the business, however, the rewards are worth it. Speaking of his time aboard ship, Kelly revealed that, though he might not be able to explore everywhere he visits thanks to round-the-clock demands, the experience has greatly influenced his cooking. For him, the ability to experiment with local ingredients and present far-flung produce to enthusiastic clients makes the stress of slaving in a 15-foot galley absolutely worth it.
To most of us, the idea of combining fine dining with travel is about as alien as you can get. Unfortunately, we probably won’t get to find out what it’s like to be brought whatever your heart desires by highly trained and talented staffers determined to make sure your journey is as delicious as it is comfortable. If we needed another reason to be angry with super rich, this way of eating is surely it.