Chef David White of Below Deck Mediterranean reveals the key to being a yacht chef, interview

BELOW DECK MEDITERRANEAN -- Season:7 -- Pictured: Dave White -- (Photo by: Laurent Basset/Bravo)
BELOW DECK MEDITERRANEAN -- Season:7 -- Pictured: Dave White -- (Photo by: Laurent Basset/Bravo) /

On Season 7 of Below Deck Mediterranean, Chef David White has shown masterful cooking that has not only impressed guests but also Captain Sandy. While the guests on a super yacht have high standards and sometimes a litany of preferences, the chef needs to be able to use all his wares and pivot to any situation. For Chef David, he holds the key to becoming one of the best Below Deck chefs yet.

Although Below Deck often blends the crew drama with stunning scenery, the yacht chef is the person who makes or breaks the guest experience. Whether unexpected storms cause the ship to return to dock early or the guests’ personalities become heightened, a delicious meal can set the tone and bring everyone back together.

In the recent season of Below Deck Mediterranean, Chef David White has impressed with his creative meals. While the modern ship HOME might have all the bells and whistles, these intricate plates that deliver impeccable flavors have the guests fawning over the experienced chef.

Prior to his time on Below Deck, Chef David has stood behind the pass and had a hand in the success of his own European restaurants. While that experience might have helped honed his culinary skills, it is far different than working on a yacht.

When asked about the differences between the pressure in a restaurant kitchen versus a yacht galley, Chef David commented, “In a restaurant, you have a team to help pick up the pieces. Someone is there to wash the dishes. Kitchen porters are heroes of the kitchen. On a 50m charter yacht, it’s just you in the galley. As a chef, it is the hardest vessel to work on as there is so much more work which creates even more pressure. If you can master working on a 50m charter yacht, you can work on any vessel. I do miss the banter working with a team in a restaurant kitchen, really miss it. It’s so much fun.”

Still, Below Deck Mediterranean was not his first foray into a yacht galley. But, this experience is not the same as just any ship.

Regarding this new challenge, Chef David said, “It’s always tough walking into a new galley or kitchen where you don’t know where anything is and figuring out which equipment works. And on top of that, working with a completely new crew, having 24 hours until the first guests arrive, ordering produce and completely stocking up the galley. That is a huge order and not to forget, I need to clean the galley before I even start cooking. Those were all big challenges. And with all the cameras and anxiety with everything going on with me and Natasha, it was tough!”

Chef David White Below Deck Mediterranean
BELOW DECK MEDITERRANEAN — Pictured: Dave White — (Photo by: Laurent Basset/Bravo) /

As seen in many episodes, the chef may not always be able to have free reign on menu creations. Guests’ preferences often drive the direction. But, Chef David mentioned in one episode that sometimes he may not follow those preference sheets to the letter.

When asked about not listening to the guests’ preference sheets, Chef David said, “I say that because many times, I have experienced guests who change their minds at the dinner table. So sometimes, I will send something different for them, but they will end up saying, ‘Oh I will have the same as everyone else!’ Of course, I will always have back up-options, but preference sheets are a guideline and if I’m serving a tasting menu, why not try something new. They might like the way I cook it! Of course, if the guests have allergies, that’s a different story. I want to enjoy the cooking process at the end of the day and have the food take them on a journey. That’s why the risk is worth it.”

Chef David White said this one characteristic is key for any yacht chef.

Throughout the season, Chef David has pushed the creativity with his menus. From a simple breakfast to a multicourse meal, it seems that every offering has a new take. While he mentioned that he might have a general plan, on occasion a dish has been completely new.

When asked about a key characteristic for a yacht chef, Chef David said, “In my opinion, versatility on yachts is a must. You can never say no. It’s my job to give you what you want. My 20 years of culinary experience, cooking all over the world in multiple restaurants, is such a bonus and I’m so grateful for that. I will always have multiple options and menu ideas at hand, but I try not to make anything definitive because the guests could suddenly change their minds, decide they want pizza and all of a sudden, I have wasted my time.”

Chef David White Below Deck Mediterranean
BELOW DECK MEDITERRANEAN — Pictured: Dave White — (Photo by: Laurent Basset/Bravo) /

That ability to adapt is almost a thrill in the moment. At the same time, Chef David spoke candidly about why cooking and being a chef is so important to him.

Chef David said, “Cooking saved me – it gave me another chance in life. I was in-and-out of police cells. I was such an angry child and struggled with mental health issues including ADHD and mild Tourette syndrome. I put my family through so much, but they never gave up on me, especially my mom. I owe her all my success. What I’m trying to say is there’s so much adrenaline in the kitchen, especially when you’re learning to make mistakes and working with gnarly head chefs. Eventually, it will ground you. Trust me. I love it and I thrive. It has been the masterpiece of my whole life – it’s my journey, my second chance, and it gave me control of my mind! “

While Chef David has found solace through his food, he is always ready for the next big adventure. Specifically, he shared another journey that might change his outlook forever.

“Out of the kitchen, it would have to be Mount Everest! I had spine surgery 12 months prior to that climb. Because of the harsh climate and terrain, I got a cyst on my spine directly on the scar tissue, which popped and became infected. Also, to keep in mind, I was 7,200 meters high, and I hadn’t showered for five weeks. I smelled bad but with the infection, I smelled like death. I was stuck in a tent, in the blistering cold, and had to decide whether to try and push through the summit and potentially not make it back down or turn around and not put my Sherpa life at risk for a selfish dream! It truly humbled and changed me into a better man. Ever since then, I have never taken anything for granted and want to give and do as much as I can for charities, communities, etc.”

Chef David White shares why it is important for chefs to give back.

Like many chefs, Chef David appreciates that food can unite people and bring them nourishment beyond just sustenance. As a World Central Kitchen chef, he has helped support those in need during the war in Ukraine.

For this interview, Chef David was responding from Ukraine. He said, “I work on a luxurious super yacht surrounded by beauty 24/7. I like giving back because it grounds me and it’s the right thing to do. There are people suffering and starving out there, other human beings just like me and you. Families are being separated, women and children are struggling to find shelter. So, I use my profession and skills to do what I can and help save them from this horrific war.”

While his time on Below Deck Mediterranean has ended, there are more adventures ahead for the talented chef. Both in and out of the kitchen, the future looks bright for Chef David White.

“I’m excited to share that in April 2023, I will attempt to summit the south side of Mount Everest to raise awareness for mental health. Not only that, I’m also going to attempt a new world record and put on a dinner party for 10 people at 8,000 meters. This will be a three-course luxury meal suited and booted in the cold on the edge of the death zone!”

Chef David White is part of Below Deck Mediterranean Season 7. New episodes air on Bravo each Monday night. In addition, early episodes can be streamed on Peacock.