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Interview: Charter Yacht Chef Joseph Henningsen

He is cooking aboard the 150-foot Richmond motoryacht Excellence


Date interviewed: December 2014


The lunch you just prepared was one of the best I’ve had in 15 years of covering the charter industry. Your sauces, your attention to detail, your execution and creativity—all of it was off the charts. Cooking must run in your blood.

Actually, my grandfather was a chef. He came to America from Germany in 1915 and learned to cook at a boarding school before World War II. He could speak seven languages and cooked at the Waldorf Astoria before becoming a private chef for the Anheuser-Busch family.


Did he hand down his knowledge to you?

I definitely got the cooking bug when I was young, growing up in St. Louis. In high school, I worked for an Italian guy as a pizza maker. I felt very comfortable in that game. I just loved to cook.

I skipped university and went straight to culinary school in Switzerland. I studied baking and chocolatiering in Switzerland and Germany, I learned classic French cooking in Geneva and I did a lot of training in the Swiss-Italian region of Europe. For seven years, I was immersed in European cuisine.


How did you make your way into the yacht charter industry?

I had a restaurant in St. Louis, and one of the patrons asked me to become their private chef. That was in 1998. They had yachts (today, they own the Trinity motoryacht Lady Linda and the Lurssen motoryacht Linda Lou), so I learned about the industry. I’ve done private and charter yachts ever since.


What are your specialties?

Seafood is my specialty, and it’s easy to get some great seafood working on the water. But I also specialize in wild game: elk, reindeer, wild board, wild duck and hare. I import it from New Zealand and make dishes like elk chops with lingonberry glaze or cranberry coulis. I know it’s unusual, but I was eating at a restaurant in Switzerland that was doing a full-force wild game menu, and that introduced it to me. It was amazing.

But main-course seafood, on charters, that’s where I go full blast. I could do a collage of seafood and mollusks and shellfish. A tasting, maybe, four courses, all small and wonderful.


Excellence is part of the RJC Yachts charter fleet. She accommodates 10 guests at a lowest weekly base rate of $145,000. Any reputable charter broker can help you book a week aboard.

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