Q: Jess, prospective stew, 22:
“I’m about to come to Antibes and have already booked my STCW, but now I hear that I have to do a food hygiene course as well. People I’ve spoken to are a bit confused about it. Which level will I need as an entry-level stew, and is it compulsory for everyone, or just for chefs and stews? I’ve found an online one, will that be enough- or do I need to do it with a trainer in Antibes when I get there?”
A: The Crew Coach:
A terrific question: and to make sure I am giving you the right advice I have reached out to the experts to get the full lowdown for you. Yachting is become more and more regulated, so it’s really important to not get caught up in the yachting gossip grapevine about qualifications and regulations, it’s important to go right to someone that is genuinely qualified to help you. I’ll run through a few of the basics and most common questions about this regulation here.
First things first. What is the Food Safety (Hygiene) Certificate?
The Food Safety Certificate is a practical course with an exam that prepares you to work safely with food on yachts, covering all aspects of food preparation, handling and storage. The Food Safety Certificate is accepted by the MCA, GUEST Interior program and ICT.
Who has to do the Food Hygiene Certificate?
The Food Safety (Hygiene) Certificate applies to all crew on MLC compliant yachts whose duties involve food handling; whether that’s serving and clearing guest or crew meals, stocking fridges, making sandwiches etc… which, you guessed it, basically means everyone on board! This is not a certificate just for chefs and stews, as pretty much every crew member will find themselves carrying meals to the crew mess, stocking the galley fridge or helping the chef with a guest beach barbeque at some point in their career. When we asked him, Captain Rod Hatch of the Professional Yachting Association said it makes good sense for deck officers heading towards senior positions to be familiar with the standards and regulations in relation to this important aspect of compliance: “Possession of a FHC does no harm on a CV, and underlines the credibility of the inspecting officer when discussing any deficiencies with interior or galley crew.”
What’s an MLC compliant boat?
Without going too much into detail, ‘MLC compliant’ means any yacht that is commercially registered (there are exceptions but this is a good rule of thumb). While you will find private, non-MLC boats in the industry that may not yet insist on you holding this certification, the MLC standards are increasingly considered the minimum requirements for most yachts and you won’t get far in this business without them. It’s certainly worth getting your Food Hygiene Certificate so that all possible jobs are open to you now and throughout your career.
What are the different Certificate levels and who needs which one?
Food Safety Certificate Level 2 is a one-day live (not online) course with exam, which then certifies you to serve and handle food for 3 years. As an entry-level stewardess, this is the right one for you at this stage of your career, and is also the one for general crew who might handle food now and then as part of their charter or watch duties.
If you wish to become a Chief Stew as you progress through your career and the GUEST program (the industry standard interior career pathway), then you’ll need to do Certificate 3, which is a Supervising Food Safety Certificate and is a 3 day course. See the GUEST website for more information about this: www.guest-program.com
If you were applying for a job as a yacht chef, you would require a minimum Level 2-but ideally a Level 3 as above. If you’re planning to do your Ship’s Cook Certificate, the Food Safety Certificate is incorporated so you won’t have to do it separately.
Who runs it?
There are many providers of the Food Safety Certificate, whether you’re choosing to undertake Level 2 or 3. For UK-based people, I can thoroughly recommend the Food Safety Level 2 Course provided by Yachtwork in Portsmouth. In Antibes, you can gain the Food Safety Cert through Bluewater Yachting and Secrets de Cuisine.
Can I do it online?
No, unfortunately an online course doesn’t suffice. You don’t want to be food-poisoning Beyonce on your first charter, nor your fellow crew, so you need to get this right! Food hygiene is so important in yachting that a one day course (or a three day course if you’re going for Certificate 3) is really not that much to ask.
What does it cost?
Prices vary depending on provider and country, so you can shop around, but prices for the one-day Level 2 course normally fall within the £100-£200 range.
Do they expire?
This one’s caused some confusion, because in the past they did need renewing every three years. Now it’s recommended that you do a refresher course every three years to stay up to date, but it’s not compulsory.
As you can see, it’s definitely worth getting this certificate under your belt now. I hope I’ve cleared up some of the confusion, but please do get in touch with The Professional Yachting Association or see the GUEST website for further information.