Voyaging Tips, August 2021
A cook for the voyage
Good skippers don’t experiment with long-standing shipboard routines. They know how to delegate important duties to qualified people and then let them do their jobs without micromanaging them. Choose one cook to be in charge and one assistant cook to occasionally help out. Don’t make the cook stand watches and swab the decks too. Meals take time to prepare, cook, serve, and clean up. Multiply that by three meals per day, and that’s enough work right there for anyone. Don’t forget to give your cook some days off by using that assistant cook as an occasional relief. No one wants to spend the entire cruise shut inside the galley. Another reason for only having one or two cooks comes down to their important training.
It’s easy to discuss the menu with one person with a culinary background. Also discuss the food that needs to be purchased, how it’s stowed on board, and how it’s to be cooked. Making sure that they have a basic understanding of food nutrition and food hygiene is a must. Food contamination can get everyone sick and ruin the entire cruise. You don’t want a bunch of different people going in and out of your galley contaminating your food. One person needs to be in control of which food packages are opened and when.
Only that one cook can ensure the correct cold storage temperature of your food as well as the hot food service temperature. One cook can also make notes as to whom is allergic to which foods or maybe just can’t eat them for various reasons. No one wants to be forced to eat certain foods against their will, get an allergic reaction, or get food poisoning on a cruise.
The cook can also make preparations for the following meal while preparing the current meal. Cooking a roast beef one night and then immediately shredding some of it for tacos for the next night makes sense. The roast is already cooked and on the cutting board. You only have to wash the utensils once. You put the shredded beef in a zip lock bag and refrigerate it for just one day. If you try to save half the roast for taco night two weeks later, it may have gone bad by then. Multiple disjointed cooks can’t do that, because they won’t have the big picture of the entire cruise menu. One person can read all of the recipes in the cruise manual and determine the meal service order. They can also tell if any special cooking utensils will be needed on board. That same cook can also create a shopping list and perform the shopping in an economical way with that overall menu knowledge in mind. Rotating cooks won’t have these perspectives.
Rotating cooks is a poisonous idea that seems to come up every now and then. Nip it in the bud if it comes up while you’re planning your voyage. Having one cook in charge of the galley with one backup assistant cook will save you money and prevent disorder on board. It will ensure on-time, well-cooked meals. Those meals will provide the necessary nutrition everyone needs without getting anyone sick. The order of the meals will make better sense, and those meals will be better balanced as to their quality. This means that you won’t have to deal with a lot of food complaints. The galley is a serious area of your boat. It’s too important for inexperienced cooks. You as the skipper should take seriously the cook who’s going to be in charge.
Capt. Marc Deglinnocenti has sea time on various types of vessels dating back to 1974. Those vessels included conventional and tractor tugs, sailboats, training ships, warships, cargo barges, containerships, passenger vessels, and research vessels to name a few. He was a master mariner in the U.S. Merchant Marine for 30 years, but he was also a qualified engineer on board a passenger vessel. He has held many individual certifications and positions on ships such as engineering officer, deck officer, and even commissary officer.