Daniel Hirschberg is literally riding a wave in the culinary world!
The 23-year-old, who hails from Kamma Heights in Port Elizabeth, is currently working on a private yacht in Abu Dhabi.
“In keeping with a non-disclosure agreement, I cannot state the name of the vessel nor for whom I am working,” he says, “but I can tell you that I am working as the crew chef which is quite a demanding position.”
So how did this young man get into cooking and find himself whipping up three delicious meals a day for the crew of a luxury yacht?
“I have always taken a keen interest in cooking ever since I was a young boy. My mother used to cook a lot and I would help her in the kitchen. She had a full-time job so I usually had to fend for myself for breakfast and lunch, so I suppose that’s where the interest started.”
After he matriculated, Hirschberg enrolled at the PE campus of Capsicum Culinary Studio to study for a two-year diploma in hot and cold and patisserie. But what made him choose Capsicum?
“I was researching culinary institutes in and around PE and one that immediately caught my eye was Capsicum. They have a fantastic programme, with international recognition, and came across as very professional and well set up. My decision was made almost as soon as I found their website.”
After graduating last year, Hirschberg went to Cape Town to complete a series of yachting courses, and from there travelled to the south of France in search of work.
“I landed a chef job onboard a 32-metre yacht where I worked for a full season. Then I came back home and spent a couple of months here before going back to Europe in search of my next job. It was there that I got recruited to work on a vessel in Abu Dhabi.”
But it’s not all glitz and glamour and sunbathing on the deck and Hirschberg concedes that is hard graft, but he loves it.
“I get up at 6 am and start preparing the crew breakfast which is served between 7 am and 8 am. Normally breakfast includes eggs, fruit salad and pastries or something sweet like pancakes and French toast. I try to mix it up and cook a variety throughout the week such as eggs benedict with croissants and berries one morning and chocolate chip crepes with scrambled eggs, hash browns and some cubed melon and papaya the next.
“Lunch is served at noon, and I always make jasmine rice for the Asian crew and incorporate a different salad each day, soup, some form of protein – usually fish, seafood, chicken or beef and carbs such as pasta, potatoes or bread. So a typical day would be jasmine rice, ciabatta, butternut soup, Caprese salad, chicken teriyaki and lemon butter prawns.
“Dinner is at 5 pm and is usually along the same sort of lines as the lunch, with rice, veg, salad, proteins and carbs on the menu.
“After work, I go to gym, watch a movie or a series or visit friends on other yachts. Before bed, I put together the menu for the next day and take out anything I want to defrost.”
Clearly relishing life on board sailing vessels, Hirschberg says that in five year’s time he would like to be the head chef onboard a 60-metre yacht, travelling all over Europe or the Caribbean. But he is quick to acknowledge that getting to that sort of position takes a lot of hard work, passion and dedication, and he urges others who are currently studying or thinking of joining the culinary industry to learn as much as they can and not be afraid to take risks or try new things.
“There are so many different career paths you can take as a chef – restaurant, hotel, catering, private, baking, opening a business, yachting and cruise ships. Don’t be scared to broaden your horizons and step out of your comfort zone.”
Advice Hirschberg has clearly heeded himself as he continues to ride on the crest of a culinary wave.