Living the dream is not the same as living on easy street.
Just ask chef Leonard and Midge Gentieu, owners of Morro Bay’s luxury dinner cruise yacht Papagallo II.
“From 10 years old I wanted a boat. We were seven kids and couldn’t afford a rowboat. My dad said if I didn’t drink or smoke until I was 18 he’d buy me a boat. I didn’t, but he died when I was 14,” Leonard Gentieu said.
Gentieu’s other dream — to become a chef — was not favored by his father.
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“But he gave me words I’ve always try to live by, whatever I do in life: ‘If you want to be a cook, then be a cook, but be the best cook.’ ”
Documented in his autobiography, “Chasing the Heat: 50 Years and a Million Meals,” Gentieu graduated with honors from New York’s Culinary Institute of America in an era when you had to earn your stripes as a chef, which he did while serving two three-star generals in the U.S. Army. He’s owned and operated five restaurants and has been an executive chef for restaurants, resorts and clubs throughout California.
Gentieu said he believes the restaurant business was the perfect apprenticeship for what he calls a successful dinner cruise business for 10 years in Morro Bay.
When he was 56, Gentieu found the boat while working as executive chef at Linn’s Restaurant in Cambria. Parked dockside in Morro Bay, he planned his future business.
“I’m a fan of motivational books like Zig Ziglar’s. I’d see my future yacht docked instead of three fishing boats. I started saving. Midge and I would plan travel around checking out yachts for sale.
“When I found the Papagallo, the broker asked me what I was moving up from. He was not impressed when I said a kayak. But the owner, Ernie Gabiati, the founder of Gallo Salame, liked that I wouldn’t change the name, and we wanted to offer quality entertainment onboard. Midge was not too excited, but sometimes you have to believe and take that calculated risk.”
While sailing their new yacht in San Francisco Bay, Midge said, “I could get used to this,” but the 19-hour cruise to Morro Bay made them question their sanity, according to his book.
Gentieu is visualizing a bed-and-breakfast yacht with several berths, offering the good life somewhere in the Pacific.
In the meantime, small group charters are available on the Papagallo II and chef Leonard presents stories from his book to local groups.
For more information, go to www.onboardnauticalevents.com or call 771-9916.