You always hear people say: "Do what you love, and love what you do."
For Miami Beach native Justin Lindemann, it's not just a hopeful wish. Thanks to a 40-foot boat he's fashioned into a floating restaurant, it's become reality.
"A few years ago, I went fishing with some friends in the Bahamas. We dove, caught fish, cooked, and watched the sun set over the water while we enjoyed our meal," says Lindemann. "I've always loved cooking, and I thought to myself, I could do this every day. Now, I actually get to do that."
In March, Lindemann began taking his repurposed vessel, dubbed Food Yacht, out to feed hungry boaters on the weekends. When the weather is good, he will launch Food Yacht from the dock around 10:30 a.m. to head to the Jupiter Intracoastal where the boat becomes a sort of floating food truck, serving upscale takeout fare to people aboard boats and Jet Skis — and even the occasional paddleboarders and kayakers. He heads back when the food runs out or the sun begins to set, whichever comes first.
The self-taught chef says he grew up with a "foodie mom" who instilled a love not just for cooking, but creative cooking.
"She always had something new or different she was experimenting with, be it a sous-vide machine or some weird technique," Lindemann says. "I'm still waiting for the day she comes home with all the equipment to make some crazy foam or gel."
Lindemann got his first introduction to real kitchen life when he began working at the Tavern at Jupiter and later for Little Moir’s Food Shack, a north Palm Beach County institution best known for its daily changing menu and fresh-catch dishes. After ten years working his way from prep to become one of the restaurant's veteran line cooks, Lindemann says much of how he prepares his food today comes from skills he picked up from the Little Moir's team.
"I remember thinking the owner was crazy when he told me to figure out what I wanted to put in the ceviche for the day," says Lindemann. "It's still one of my favorite things to make, any crazy riff on traditional ceviche."
Yearning to work for himself, Lindemann said it took him two years to find the perfect boat that would be able to float his dream. He originally considered a 60-foot, aluminum-hull Lazy Day houseboat, but it was just a little too big. Today, it's his family's floating bed and breakfast docked in Sanford, Florida.
Lindemann's vessel of choice for his floating kitchen is a two-floor, 40-foot Top Deck catamaran complete with a custom-built kitchen, bathrooms, and a rooftop deck for al fresco dining. Like Food Shack, the Food Yacht's menu changes daily. Much of it is handheld foods that make it easy for people to grab and go, like sandwiches, wraps, and salads.
"I've done everything from a shrimp salad or blackened scallop BLT to a seafood boil, jerk chicken, and crab cakes," says Lindemann, who also sells basic boating necessities like safety equipment, flares, and first-aid kits as well as hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
Food Yacht specializes in what Lindemann terms upscale takeout food, with recent menus offering everything from a seafood boil and crab-cake sandwich to fish dip, a meatball sub, or a barbecue chicken wrap with gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, and strawberries. The two things he won't take off are also the easiest for hungry boaters on the move: a burger of the day and the biggest wiener in Jupiter, a 12-inch, half-pound, all-beef hotdog.
If you don't have a boat to float out to Food Yacht, Lindemann can come to you instead. The chef, who holds a U.S. Coast Guard Master’s license, offers pop-up and weeknight dinner cruises for up to six people. The format is casual "tapas 'till you tap," a three-hour cruise along the Jupiter Intracoastal waterway or around Singer Island where diners can indulge in as many two- to three-bite courses as they can handle.
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In the future, he hopes to introduce onboard cooking classes to teach people the basics of how to clean and prepare a fresh catch to lessons like making sushi, sauces, and dressings.
"I try to give people a number of different flavors and tastes, and that's the crowd I'm looking for — the foodies: people who want to experiment or try something new," Lindemann says. "And, luckily, I get to do it as the chef with the best view in South Florida."
Food Yacht. Operates on the south side of the Intracoastal between the A1A and US 1 bridges over the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter; 561-389-2975, or visit foodyacht.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.