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Interview with freelance yacht & estate chef: Grace Dvornik.

You’ve most likely have seen or heard of Grace Dvornik if you work in the yacht industry. Grace is a very influential freelance yacht chef who has created a name for herself in the industry. Grace has been honoured as a top 3 finalist at ACrew in 2020 and a nominee in 2021. Plus, Grace has been featured in several media outlets, including the Daily Star, Superyacht Chef, Flightless, Dockwalk, Oceanscape, Luxury Lifestyle magazine and many more! If you do not know about Grace by chance, CrewPass was lucky enough to interview Grace Dvornik, who is officially a CrewPass Approved crew member!


I’m Grace Dvornik, a freelance chef from Clearwater Beach, Florida. I have worked on boats for about 7 years and as a yacht chef for 5 years. In addition to yachting, I also frequently work as a personal chef on private estates. When I’m not working, I enjoy watching Hallmark movies with my grandparents, visiting Saturday morning farmer’s markets, and volunteering as a scuba diver at a local aquarium/marine animal hospital.

Can you describe what a typical yacht charter looks like as a freelance yacht chef?

When working freelance, being able to adapt to your new surrounding and having the ability to improvise are crucial as no one contract is the same as another! Typically when I’m hired, I try to get as much information as possible about the itinerary of the trip and the food preferences of the yacht owners or guests. Preference sheets are a big help and, after speaking with the captain first, I try to set up a call with the yacht owners or send them an email to introduce myself and discuss the trip. Sometimes, I’ll even look up pictures of the style of yacht to gauge what kind of galley I’ll be working in. Before arriving at the yacht, I plan a tentative menu and place orders for provisions, as usually I arrive 24 hours or less before guest arrival. After guests depart, I organize and clean the galley before I leave to try to leave it in the best shape possible for the next trip.

“Being as prepared as possible beforehand and consistent communication during the trip paves the way for a successful contract.”

How did you get into the industry?

I started sailing right out of college after applying for a job on a gaff-rigged schooner as a deckhand/prep cook on a whim. What was supposed to be a 3 month summer job ended up paving the way for my long-term career. I did 3 seasons as a deckhand/mate on charter sailing vessels before transitioning into yachting and landing my first chef job on a 64ft sailing yacht. I had the goal to get into the yachting industry for over a year before getting my first contract and obtained my STCW, ENG1, Powerboat Level 2, and Advance Medical Care Provider certificates. Once I hand my certificates, I signed up with as many yacht agencies as I could to make industry contacts.

What made you want to be a yacht chef in the first place?

I loved working on sailboats and noticed that while working as a deckhand, I was spending a lot of time in the galley watching and helping the chefs. I had always had an interest in and love for cooking, and I thought that becoming a yacht chef would allow me to have a long-term career in the industry. My passion for cooking, paired with my sailing experience, was what led to my first job as a yacht chef.

Why did you choose to do freelance?

After I left my first full-time position because the boat was put up for sale, I went to a chef academy to gain additional experience. I decided to start taking short term/freelance jobs before committing to a permanent contract to see what types of boat I liked working on best – sailing vs motor, private vs charter, different size crew, etc. While on the search for the perfect job, I realized that working freelance was the perfect job for me. Freelance contracts allowed me to work on a variety of boats, meet more people, and travel to interesting places that I likely would not have been able to had I stayed with one program long term.

What are the pros and cons of working on a yacht?

Pros of yachting: meeting interesting people and travelling to incredible locations that you wouldn’t other have the chance and low personal expenses while getting excellent pay and tips.

Cons of yachting: tight crew accommodations, being away from friends and family, and missing events like holidays, birthdays, and weddings.

What job would you want to do if you weren’t a yacht chef?

If I weren’t a yacht chef, I’d want to fulfil my childhood dream of being a yoga teacher while working in a smoothie shack on the beach in Costa Rica (but I think there’s still time for that dream to become a reality).

What is the go-to meal or food item that you like to make?

Key lime pie! I’m most known for my key lime pie with a graham cracker crust. It’s my personal favorite, and whether it’s my clients’ favorite dessert or the first time they’ve tried key lime pie, it’s always a hit!

What would you say is the most challenging meal you’ve cooked?

The most difficult meal I’ve had to cook was when I had a Middle Eastern prince and princess as charter guests in the Caribbean. The prince requested a sheep to be slaughtered and butchered for him onboard! Thankfully, we did not procure a live animal due to a miscommunication with a local farmer, but I had to butcher the sheep using a hacksaw. I had to saw through bone in order to break down the rib rack into lamb chops that could fit in a frying pan. At the prince’s request, I also dissected the innards and served the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys as the first course. Without a doubt, that is the most difficult galley task I’ve ever had to do, and I’m happy to say the prince was pleased with his meal.

Tell me a bit about your ‘Upscale Down-Home Cookbook.’

My Upscale Down-Home Cookbook is a digital cookbook containing a selection of 27 recipes inspired by dishes I prepare for clients on yachts and private estates, as well as some of my family’s favorite recipes. The name is a term I borrowed from a former head chef of mine who coined the phrase to describe the elevated comfort food style cuisine we served to our boss.

“My goal was to put together recipes that anyone could make – from the at-home cook to a yacht chef.”

Can you tell me how you come up with content for your social media?

I use Instagram to share stories about my travels for work, cooking tips & recipes, and food photos. It’s become somewhat of a social media portfolio to give people a sense of my personality and skillset. When I started my TikTok account, I used videos that I had recorded onboard over the years – mostly funny videos I had originally taken to send to friends. Some of those videos gained a lot of attention as people were fascinated with my job. I find the most authentic videos are the ones I don’t plan. Most often, I grab my phone to record clips in real-time (safety permitting, of course) of funny or interesting events happening onboard the yacht or in the galley while I’m cooking.

Were you ever background checked before working on a yacht?

I have worked on 22+ boats, and 8+ private estates over the span of my freelance career and only remember having a background check conducted for 3 of these jobs.

“I find it surprising the vast majority of superyachts do not require a background check before hiring as I feel it would provide an additional level of safety for the owner, crew, and vessel.”

Superyachts are essentially an extension of the owner’s home, so it’s crucial that those who work within their inner circle can be trusted. Background checks would provide an additional level of security, and I feel that CrewPass could be the new standard for yacht crew certifications along with the STCW and ENG1.

Lastly, what advice would you give to someone wanting to become a yacht chef?

My best advice to anyone interested in becoming a yacht chef is to create a portfolio! Having sample menus and pictures of your food shows captains and yacht owners your style of cooking and what you are capable of creating. They are often requested during interviews so having a portfolio ready streamlines the hiring process and helps you market yourself.

We want to say a huge thanks to Grace for taking the time to provide these valuable answers. If you want to find out more about Grace or you would like to get cooking inspiration check out Grace’s website and social media pages:
@gracedvornik (TikTok)

Not only is Grace Dvornik an excellent yacht chef, but she is also CrewPass Approved, which means Grace has completed and passed her background check and has been awarded the CrewPass accreditation. The CrewPass accreditation allows employers and crew agencies to know that you are a safe candidate option. We recommend any crew members, especially green crew, to subscribe to CrewPass and get their background checks so that they can stand out from the crowd and promote safety onboard.

If you want to know more about the role of a chief stewardess, please read Brooke Laughton’s blog post or if you want to learn more about the role of a yacht captain, check out Corey Adcock’s blog post.

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CrewPass partners with Wilsonhalligan

CrewPass announces a new partnership with the ‘Best Superyacht Agency 2021’ (ACrew, 2021) Wilsonhalligan. Wilsonhalligan offers the latest Superyacht job roles and provides shoreside jobs plus jobs in private households.

Wilsonhalligan sees the values CrewPass brings in furthering the profession of yachting and providing safety within the industry.

Crew members can easily search vacancies, get advice and download a CV template with Wilsonhalligan. The crew agency hosts a range of job types, including freelance, full-time, part-time, permanent, rotational, seasonal and temporary vessel positions. In return, the scope of job vacancies that Wilsonhalligan offers best suits any crew candidate looking to work onboard.

Anyone looking to get hired but struggling to stand out from the ever-growing industry, use CrewPass’ services and become a start candidate and be recognised by leading crew agencies like Wilsonhalligan. Kick start your dream yachting career today and register with Wilsonhalligan on their website:

Our ‘CrewPass Approved’ accreditation makes you one step ahead of the rest!

Wilsonhalligan Social Media links:


For 10% off your 2-year subscription please use the discount code: Wilsonhalligan10


Interview with Captain Corey Adcook

At CrewPass, we aim to give our audience the advantage they need within the marine industry. This is why CrewPass are interviewing multiple people from different vessel positions to provide individuals who are new to the industry advice and tips straight from the best before choosing which route they want to go down.

A couple of weeks ago, we interviewed ex-Chief Stewardess Brooke Laughton about her path to becoming a Chief Stewardess and how she ended up on Below Deck Mediterranean. This week we interviewed a Captain named Corey Adcook. Captain Corey has been working in the yachting industry for over 16 years and has brilliant advice for those desiring to become a Captain themselves.

Can you describe what you do day to day as a captain?

My day always starts with a cup of tea! Then I check in with the bridge. If we are at sea, I will catch up with the navigational officer in charge and ensure everything is as it should be. We don’t like things not being as expected when at sea! Then I’ll have a meeting with all heads of department for updates on guest movements & operations. Followed by a check in with the guests at breakfast and any updates for or from them. 

“The day could require me to handle the manoeuvring of the yacht, do some navigational planning, deal with the running of the ship’s business, or, most importantly, anything the guests require.” 

Being the Captain of a luxury yacht brings great responsibility, not only from the safety aspect but also the welfare of the crew onboard. It is similar to being the Managing director of a business, except this one floats and has many hazards to avoid.

How long have you worked in the industry?

Over 16 years now. I started out on very small boats in comparison to what I am now involved with. It has been a challenging career, as it takes a great toll on your personal life. I’ve missed endless weddings, funerals and life events. Even now, I only see my wife and children half of the year. There are great sacrifices.

What training did you need to get to Captain level?

Captains’ certifications vary depending on the size (Gross Tonnage) of the vessel. I have the MCA Master 3000 certificate of competency, enabling me to be in command of a yacht up to 3000 gross tons, which would be about 80-90 metre depending on the design of the yacht. The MCA has a certification route that ensures that a balance of hands-on training and experience is acquired as one develops through the ranks, along with a minimum time frame, hours on the bridge and some shore-based courses, followed with a final 1-2-1 interview style exam. I would recommend an MCA approved training centre such as Warsash Maritime Academy for the latest info and guidance.

What has been the highlight of your career?

 Of course, we get to go to some breath-taking locations, off the beaten track beaches, crystal blue waters, see amazing wildlife and all the famous high glamour places. But this is with work, so I rarely get to truly enjoy them. But bringing a yacht in and out of New York City was something special as it was so different to the usual yachting scenery. We arrived via the back of Long Island, so we popped up right next to the freeway running along the water’s edge. Police siren’s wailing and New Yorkers going about their everyday life and then coming round the corner to the Statue of Liberty. It felt like we were in a movie. We had to take a local Pilot on board, and he was like a tour guide as we passed under every bridge, telling us the name and any history related to it.

What is the proudest moment in your career?

Many to choose from… from a personal aspect, My granddad was in the merchant navy during WW2 as an Ordinary Seaman (the entry-level position) and was on a vessel involved with the construction of the Mulberry harbour by Omaha Beach. (Read up about it if you don’t know the history of it.) When I achieved my Captain’s certification, my grandad was literally lost for words. He left the merchant navy and never progressed any further, so my achievement was made all the better by him being so proud.

From my work side, I would say helping out and mentoring crew, some who would have got overlooked by others, Who have then gone on to develop their life into something special, be it on yachts or in the “real” world.

Have you experienced working with difficult crew members?

 Yes, of course. Crew are people, after all! Except the difference compared to working with someone in a shore-based job is that you don’t get to go home at the end of the day. As a Captain, I have to manage that accordingly. The starting point is recruitment. Aside from the certifications required for the position, I hire on character and see what will fit well with the rest of the already established team. I always make it a priority to listen to people. What might seem insignificant to someone else could be a real problem for the person, and they may be allowing that to be disruptive with other crew members. One of my many cliched phrases is “the small things become big problems”. And that’s certainly the case when you are working and living together, often in very demanding conditions where you can’t be the priority. The guests get that luxury. So it’s key to focus on crew welfare. I really struggled on one boat when I was coming through the ranks, and I’ll never forget that when dealing with others. If a crew member is unhappy on a yacht, it is hard to contain, which isn’t ideal when stuck inside a tin can.

Do you think background checking crew members should be standard practice?

Absolutely. The industry, even in my time have developed from something people could do as a summer job to a highly competitive professional industry. As a Captain, I am responsible for extremely expensive assets; the guests and the yacht. Often crew will chaperone guests on excursions or activities or be in control of some very expensive equipment.

“I need to be as confident as I can that in a competitive job market, I have got honest, genuine crew members, where what they state on their CV is genuine.”

What makes an ideal crew member?

A perfect team is made up of players with all types of varying skills and strengths. I need crew that can do their job to the best of their ability, be selfless, genuine and mindful of the rest of the crew. If I get that, we have a great operating yacht.

What is your favourite yachting destination?

I enjoy the Croatian islands; there isn’t quite the same glamour of many Mediterranean hotspots. But there are endless picturesque bays to explore, quaint fishing villages and something different for the guests to experience ashore. And a new destination is never too far away.

What tips and advice do you have for anyone wanting to get into a yacht or wanting to become a captain?

If you want to get into yachting, be aware that it is not a glamourous life. You are not the guest; you are the person ensuring the guest has a luxurious time. The horrible jobs won’t do themselves, and as the newest person in, they will most likely fall on your lap. If that still hasn’t put you off, also be prepared to make major sacrifices. If the guests are on board but you want to attend a friend’s wedding, it most likely won’t be possible. It’s not like other jobs where you can book time off whenever you like. If that still hasn’t put you off, then contact a reputable yacht crew training centre and find out what basic safety training is required as a minimum to get a job on a luxury yacht. You might be the best sailor in the world, but if you haven’t completed your basic safety training with a certificate in hand, a Captain can’t recruit you. Once you get that first job, listen, listen and listen.

“Work hard, and use your time wisely to enjoy the experience but also develop so that when the time comes, you are the person being considered for a promotion.”

If you decide to make a career out of the industry and want to be a Captain, then keep listening and asking questions (at the right time!). Use your time wisely to study, do your courses and develop your skills. Have a timeline in place to complete your courses and sit your final exam. Keep the focus. Don’t expect to become a Captain with a click of your fingers.

We want to say a massive thank you to Captain Corey, who took the time to answer all these questions! We hope that this advice is helpful for anyone questioning to become a Captain. If you are a Captain yourself, CrewPass offers a free vessel account for Captains that allows you to add your CrewPass Approved crew onto our daily operations app, which includes a digitalise watch rota, an automated crew list, an effective in and out board system, and a fully-encrypted inter-crew chat feature.

Comment below what vessel position should we interview next!


Personal Trainers, Yoga Teachers and Spa Therapists Onboard

Did you know that if you are a personal trainer, yoga teacher or spa therapist, your services are in demand on superyachts? The current superyacht market demands fitness and wellness crew on board as the shift towards wellness-focused lifestyles increases in popularity. Luxurious superyachts have specifically requested gym and wellness spaces incorporated in designs. Many guests have also explicitly sought out wellness yacht charters which have become super popular.

Image from Ocean Independence

Superyachts with outstanding gym designs and wellness spaces

According to BOAT International, some of the best superyachts include the Flying Fox, Joy, Amaryllis and Titania. The Flying Fox has two floors with the best treatments executed by skilful therapists and professional trainers. Plus, the Flying Fox offers a range of water toys perfect for anyone who thrives on adventure. Joy offers beautiful views whilst guests work out. The yachts large windows fold open to create an indoor-outdoor space. BOAT International lists all the impressive gym equipment on board, including “free weights, a bench press, elliptical, treadmill, exercise bike and more.” The Titania superyacht is “home to a climate control gymnasium” (BOAT International) and a personal trainer who does personalised workouts to benefit all guests. Lastly, the Amaryllis has a range of exercise equipment, including a treadmill, versa climber, spinning bike, a cross trainer and a rowing machine!

Image from BOAT International

What do you need to work onboard a superyacht?

Personal trainers will need a minimum of a recent Level 3 Personal Training Certification. According to Wilson Halligan, you will need a 200hr certification if you are a yoga instructor. Plus, if you are a Spa Therapist, you will need an NVQ Level 3 with experience in nail care, massage skils and facial skills. All three professions will need to acquire maritime qualifications, including an STCW and Eng1 Medical Certification. If you work on a yacht, you will predominantly work as a stew(ard) or a deckhand and practise your specialised services when required by guests.

Wellness yacht charters

A rise in the importance of self-care and wellness has caused a rise in guests requesting to go on wellness charters. Bluewater highlights: 

“A yacht not only provides tranquil accommodation and deck spaces for exercise and contemplation, but also comes with a private, highly-trained chef who tailors healthy menus to accommodate any health request or special diets, from weight loss and detox to gluten free, raw food, or paleo.” 

Guests request meditation sessions, pilates classes, hair treatments, plunge pools, beauty salons onboard, massages and more. Large yachts can offer these services on board in their own spa facilities, but smaller yachts have to dock up and visit a local spa venue.

If you are thinking about switching to a yachting career and want to streamline the onboarding process, sign-up to CrewPass and become CrewPass Accredited and stand out from the crowd!