Globetrotting Chef Alix
In Alix Verrips’s life, it is nothing out of the ordinary to cook lunch for the likes of Barbara Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, royalty and billionaires. This self-taught Hartbeespoort chef has been globetrotting on yachts and private jets all over the world for the past 19 years, catering for the culinary tastes of the rich and famous.
It is thus no surprise that this successful 45-year-old chef has just published a very popular book on her travel experiences and the favourite recipes that have earned her accolades in continents all over the world.
‘Brunch across 11 countries – Recipes of a private chef’ has already been awarded two Gourmand awards and is currently shortlisted for the Gourmand Best in the World award.
“I am actually speechless. Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would one day publish a cookbook. It never even crossed my mind to write a book until a foodie friend suggested it and pushed me to do it after I told her someone I met on my travels had said I could cook in 20 languages,” she laughs.
St Tropez, the Hamptons, Bahamas, Aspen, Majorca, Spain, Miami, Beverley Hills, New York …. these have been some of Alix’s homes for almost two decades. She has worked on the yachts of the richest people in the world for over 15 years and only recently settled with one family with whom she travels all over.
“And it’s been a wonderful trip. I don’t think I will ever be able to settle down permanently. There are still so many places to see and so many things to do…”
Alix studied journalism and worked for the Citizen newspaper for a short while before the travel bug bit. “I initially went over to America to work as an au pair in Boston. One of the requirements was that I could cook. I couldn’t! I took my mother’s recipes with and I was amazed that cooking just came naturally, and I actually enjoyed it!”
“An encounter with ‘yachties’ convinced me to get a job on a boat, and off I went. Initially I worked as a stewardess, which was not my cup of tea, and then wormed my way into the yacht’s kitchen as crew cook. The next thing I knew, I was head chef and cooking for the yacht owner and his rich and famous friends on exotic locations all over. When on land, I attended cooking courses and worked in prestigious restaurants to improve my skills.
She started getting offers from other rich and famous yacht owners, and a life of living with billionaires followed. She was the only female chef to have been the head chef on four of the top 20 largest yachts in the world.
Currently she is working for a family based in Manhattan and it is not unusual at all to serve their favourite dishes to the likes of Barbara Streisand, Bruce Willis, Bon Jovi, Antonio Banderas, Gwen Stefani and Sean Connery.
Does she regard herself as a chef yet? She laughs. ‘Sometimes… but it is still a bit unreal. I was not traditionally trained like other chefs, I taught myself but people seem to like my food. I think my secret is that I listen to what people like and cook accordingly. With my own twist of course!”
Does she feel like a celebrity now that her book, and herself have been showcased on television, radio stations and in the press? “Not at all. I’m not a celebrity, I am a servant who washes dishes and cleans floors. It might sound glamorous, but I am the one sweating in a hot kitchen. However, what I love about my job is the instant gratification when I see or hear people enjoying my food.”
She spends four months in South Africa every year and that is her real life, she insists. “This is my private life and my employers and the people I meet in that opulent work environment know nothing about it. Living and sharing those extraordinary lavish lifestyles one can easily become blasé and lose touch with reality and the real world other people are living in. I have met other people in similar circumstances who have imprinted on the ridiculously extravagant lifestyles. That is why my time back home is so necessary, it gets my head out of the clouds and my feet back to earth.”
While here, she involves herself with various child welfare charities. “It is just nice to give back. It is an instant reminder that the life I live over there is not real for the rest of the world.”
Her favourite place in the world? “Definitely Portefino, an Italian fishing village. It is just the most beautiful place and it feels like it opens itself up to the visitor. It is so idyllic and picturesque. Every time we leave it, I get tears in my eyes. If I ever have to settle somewhere else, it would probably be there, but settling is not on the cards for a long time. Too much to do and see.”
(Brunch across 11 countries is published by Human & Rousseau and available at selected book stores)
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