Cook at CocoVivo, Get Paid to Live in Paradise! (Panama)

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Chef job opportunity! – Looking for 1 or 2 adventurous and flexible humans to cook for guests at our magical jungle eco-retreat called CocoVivo in Bocas del Toro, Panama.


Our private chefs are taking a vacation, and we are looking for one or two people to take over meal prep for groups of anywhere from 2-10 guests, while at the same time living rent-free at the property and taking full advantage of the glorious paradise that is CocoVivo. While there is no set menu, we would expect our chef to integrate local ingredients grown at CocoVivo into their dishes – including local chocolate, a vast variety of tropical fruits, local fish, and tubers. Meals are served three times daily, and most of our guests join us for at least breakfast and dinner. Traditionally, this job has been done by a husband-and-wife team, but could be performed a single chef who knows their way around the kitchen.

Date range

October 25 – November 31, 2019


Note that professional culinary training is NOT a requirement for this job. Rather we are looking for someone with a good balance of the following skills and interests:

  • Flexible able to adapt to a new environment rapidly and enthusiastically
  • Interested in innovating with local ingredients
  • Curious about other cultures and learning local dishes
  • Excited about the challenges of off-grid living
  • Has some (practical, not necessarily formal) food safety training or experience
  • Loves connecting with travellers from around the world
  • Able to ‘get the job done’ in unpredictable conditions (see ‘challenges’)
  • Plan meals (we can suggest some dishes that have worked well in the past, but feel free to create your own!). Breakfast and dinner would ideally be three courses, while lunch is simpler: like a sandwich.
  • Buy groceries. Note that CocoVivo is on an island, but our boat goes to town almost daily to pick-up and drop-off guests. There are several groceries stores in town with a large selection of ingredients.
  • Query guests about their food allergies and preferences (we try to do this ahead of time, but occasionally the only way to find out is when they arrive).
  • Prepare meals (80% of our guests eat breakfast and dinner with us, but only about 20% eat lunch)
  • Some kitchen clean up (Although we also have on-site staff who can help with doing dishes when there are larger groups).
  • Basic hosting (chatting up guests, answering questions, pointing out where different things are located, just generally being friendly and helpful)

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Guests pay you directly for food and you keep all the revenues after grocery expenses.
With our current set of professionally trained chefs, we charge $12 for breakfast, $10 for lunch, and $18 for dinner. We may drop that by a couple of dollars depending on how elaborate the meals come out (for example, when I (Elisabeth) am filling in, I usually charge $10 for breakfast and $15 for dinner because I donโ€™t have as much time for food prep as Iโ€™d like).


This is not a full-time job.

Occasionally (like if we have a big group) you can expect to work a full 8 hours… but most days it will be more like 4-6. Some days we won’t have any bookings at all, in which case the day is yours!


Now, for the best part! There are TONS of perks of spending a month at CocoVivo… like the chance to live for free in paradise and take full advantage of the magic of the jungle and the coral reef.

  • Free accommodations in a private eco-friendly home with 360 views of the jungle and the dolphin-filled bay. Also, a private bathroom.
  • Access to 55 acres of trails in a jungle teeming with sloths, monkeys, kinkajous, and fruits you never knew existed.
  • Free use of the snorkelling equipment, kayaks, and standup paddleboards, which you can use to explore miles of the spectacular coral reef right at our doorstep.
  • Good wifi (we have two ISP’s) for getting work done or simply posting beautiful photos of while you’re @cocovivopanama. (Note that it would be a bit slow for regular YouTube video streaming).
  • A chance to meet interesting people from all over the world who share your love of adventure!
  • Hang out and go on adventures with Elisabeth & Ulrich ๐Ÿ™‚

Note that CocoVivo is rural and remote! Located on an island with no roads, it takes 30 minutes by boat to get to the nearest town. Jungle life comes with several challenges:

  • Bugs! While we don’t have many mosquitoes, we do have small sandflies (or no-see-ums) that bite around dusk and dawn. They can be relentless, so bug spray is part of the daily routine. In addition to that, we’ve got all the usual jungle critters as well: spiders, snakes, geckos, cockroaches, etc.
  • Freak storms. Sudden thunder and wind storms are par for the course of living in the tropics. While the lush rain can be rejuvenating, it also poses challenges for cooking. The wind may cause the stove to unignite or rain to pour into the kitchen. If dinner’s a little late, guests are usually understanding.
  • Off-grid living. Our electricity comes from solar panels and our water, from rain catchment and wells. After many years of working on the infrastructure, our systems are becoming more robust, but occasionally we’ll have power outages, issues with the fridge freezing or thawing, or a need to conserve water.


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Chef job opportunity page

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Author: Voluntouring staff

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