An Olympian & Chief Stew with an eye for Design
As yachties we wear many hats, join the conversation for everything tabletop at Sea & Land.
Meet Chief Stew CC Childers from M/Y Chasseur 160' (48.79m) Christensen, who joined yachting in 2013. Previously, she was on the US Olympic Sailing Team (yes you read that right!) and attended the California Maritime Academy. With a total of ± 20 years in the water, 10 (so far) in yachting, this is an interview you don't want to miss.
"I have worked on motor yachts ranging in size from 70- 240 ft, but have found that the sweet spot seems to be in the 160-200ft range. I am the Chief Stewardess but also manage a lot of other aspects for owners and crew on the side", shares CC.
Photo Credits: Photo on the left Stacy Childers Photography.; on the right Frank Quealey
Q1. How or what made you decide to switch from Sailing at such competitive level to working on a motor yacht? What skills translated? Do you miss it?
When I went to college at Cal Maritime, my Olympic sailing endeavors slowed down and translated into more offshore and collegiate racing. When I left CMA I took a summer job working at a sailing start-up in NYC, it was at the point operating out of North Cove that I met many yachties, and was eventually invited to do a delivery from NYC to Newport, RI.
I ended up landing a job full time onboard M/Y GEORGIANA, a one-of-a-kind Poole Chaffe. It was a match made in heaven because the yacht owner was a fellow sailor with a sailing team, and I was able to bounce back and forth between sailing and working on the yacht, similar to the fishing/yachting lifestyle.
10 years in, and looking back I see a lot of transferable skills between competitive sports and yachting, the biggest ones being teamwork, dedication, leadership, and being a self-starter are key points in my eyes. While I no longer compete, I still follow along and support the sailing community actively and similar to yachting the networking from sailing has allowed me to create life-long connections and unbreakable friendships. In the end, I believe that being on and around the water is my ultimate passion.
Q2. What do you love most about Top Notch Tabletop? Explain how the crew can benefit from participating on tablesetting events.
A. I struggled to find community within the yachting industry when I first started. In fact, it took many years to find my people. It was at my first FLIBS when I heard about Top Notch Tabletop and decided to go to the awards ceremony. It was there that my eyes were truly opened to the community of men and women who were able to bounce ideas off of one another. With the competition growing each year it has been fantastic to see so many different creative outlooks on each theme, and get an inside look on some of the tips and tricks of the trade that open up opportunity for further conversation about other topics and events within the industry.
Photo Credits: CC Childers
Q3. Switching gears, let's get into it!
How would you best describe your process of tablescaping?
A. I find that the location tends to inspire the menu for the day, and in turn that the menu inspires my table setting. If we are in the Bahamas and we caught local fish or found treasures throughout the excursions we will try to incorporate those items on the table.
You don’t always have to use the conventional methods for table top decorations/brands. If something strikes your inspiration run with it, and let your intuition guide you. I have used raw fabric, and ‘stitch-witched’ it to create a custom size runner.
Photo Credits: CC Childers
Q4. What are the most common mistakes when setting the table?
A. Setting the outside of the table first without designing your center piece. I understand that this may range from boat to boat especially factoring in the style of service and space allotted. However, we have a very large table and it’s hard to reach the center, so if you do this last you are likely messing up the spacing, and at higher risk of knocking over crystal. In addition, I find the most common mistake for newer stews is that they tend to get into the rush of dinner service and forget to check the table, in such they are trying to turn on or light candles or place butter around guests once they are seated or moving towards the table.
Q5. What are your favorite themes and design hacks to create a big impact?
A. On MY CHASSEUR we have a luxuriously chic interior to which we aim to keep our table aesthetic in line with. We have done a very classy chic lobster dinner while in New England, and both years doing this theme have turned out beautifully.
Creating height (but not so high that the guests can’t see each other) is a must. It adds depth to the table, and shows that things were thoughtfully placed.
Photo Credits: CC Childers
Q6. What are your must have supplies?
A spray bottle of 50/50 alcohol and water is handy to keep with your table linen’s. This will help get any creases out of table cloths, and will dry quickly.
White Gloves & Riedel Polishing Cloths – A must for keeping china, crystal, and silverware fingerprint free.
Quality absorbent service napkins for sweaty water pitchers, and wine service.
Q7. What do you do on short-notice?
A. It is inevitable that on occasion you are going to be faced with an additional last-minute guest. Keeping an extra place setting ready to the side is always helpful, especially if you are doing a fancy napkin fold that requires ironing or folding. This will help you’re panic calm, and keep your mind at ease. For last minute cocktail parties, or surprise large groups of guests we like to keep as many welcome towels as possible in the fridge near the passerelle. This ensures that if an interior member is not available to greet that at least the passerelle watch stander has something to offer, along with a beverage out of the fridge.
Q8. How involved is the rest of the crew when setting up for a special gala onboard?
A. Our big theme of the year is disco, which requires the assistance of the deck team and the engineers. They assist in hanging the disco balls, ensuring our lighting and sound systems are operational, setting up outfit/costume distribution and all departments are ready and willing to step in as bar back at any time or be a runner for food/beverage service. They also assist in moving through the crowds to clean up any empty plates/cups that could be around.
Q9. What has been your favorite tabletop or biggest surprise setting a table?
A. We have the pleasure of operating with a 53’ tender. When we have the opportunity of having a small enough group I love setting up the bow tables with a small intimate table setting, and providing the guests with a plated 3-course meal while out on their excursion. On the big boat, I would say that the above-mentioned Lobster Dinner in Nantucket was probably one of my favorites.
Photo Credits: CC Childers
Q10. On a vessel, we struggle with storage solutions, especially for table décor. Do you have any tips of how you store your linens and décor?
A. I was lucky to inherit a very thoughtfully designed and laid out lofting system for our China, Crystal, and Flatware. Our larger table linens we like to store hung, so that they require less spritzing or steaming. Our napkins are folded in quarters and stacked in a cabinet separated by an acrylic board to make moving and stowing easy. Napkin rings and other décor are stored in clear boxes so that we visually see each design when making our selection.
Photo Credits: CC Childers
Q11. Talk about a learning curve.
When push comes to shove, you have to do what you have to do. This photo was taken in Harbour Island, Eleuthera. We had been abroad for a little over a month going from one small port to the next, and believe it or not supply chain issues were still a thing. Storm after storm grounded planes, and delayed ships with provisions to the out islands for at least a week, and over Easter nonetheless. We were preparing for an even larger passage down to the Crooked Islands the following week and the provisions options were slim to none down there. This was our only hope, get two pallets worth of goods shipped in via BFS, BWA, & Bristol from Nassau.
This was a learning curve to say the least… In my mind I was waiting for 2 pallets to come off for CHASSEUR. Easy enough.. Oh no. The first pallet was sugar, just sugar, and then they opened up the pallet and started passing out individual bags of sugar rattling off names, then Bananas, lemons, limes, oranges, chicken, you name it! In this photo I had been standing at the port for 6.5 hours watching as each pallet came off the ship and waiting for ‘CHASSEUR’ to be called, and simultaneously checking the individual items off our list. Eventually we recruited half the deck team to come over and start breaking open and checking pallets to help speed up the process. I would radio the deck team to bring a golf cart over once I had enough items to warrant a run, who would then take them back to the vessel get stowed. The last pallet came off the ship around 10:30pm totaling roughly 11.5 hours of standing in the sweltering sun, and under the stars and waiting for all 79 items to make it to our hands.
Q. 12 In your experience, what does it take to create a long-lasting memory for the guests at the table?
A. If you have the means to do so with the size of your interior team, synchronized placement of each dish, and moving in unison as an interior team is at the top of my list. Standing by when the chef or head service stew is announcing the meal, with identical body language is another key point. Other things are making sure waters and beverages are topped up in a timely manner and passing along notes to other service stewardess about who is done drinking wine, or which guests are drinking sparking v. flat water. When a guest steps away from the table mid meal, making sure that their chair is tucked in and napkin folded and laid on the seat.
CC dishes on one of her favorite hobbies:
I also love to attend the annual Home and Interior Design Market in Las Vegas, Atlanta, or NY. Here you can get wholesale vendor ideas for not only tabletop needs but gift bags, giveaway swag, bed linens and so much more! Talk about inspiration overload (just wear your comfy shoes and be prepared to walk 10 miles a day… but who am I kidding, we're stews and that’s an average day for us!)
CC and her previous crew at the time, won Best Beverage Presentation & 3rd Place for the Category of Outdoor Chic @FLIBS 2018. The following boatshow, CC took home Best Overall Design Title, Stylish Menu Design and 3rd Place for the Category of Outdoor Chic at TNT PBBS 2019.
Nothing less than AMAZING awaits YOU, thank you CC for sharing with our community your top notch tabletop skillfulness and expertise.
Your discipline, dedication and strength are inspirational.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with us tips and tricks of the yachting hospitality trade.
See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
Grazie mille, Merci, Muchas Gracias, Pura Vida!