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Dealing with Dietary Demands

Mar 17th 11
By Joanne MacKenzie

In yachting, nothing makes a chef happier than hearing “I will eat anything.” However, there can be as many food preferences as there are guests and crew. With so many diets to cater to – from vegetarian and vegan to low-carb, gluten-free or just straight picky – what’s to stop a chef from going mad?


"The owner [ of one vessel I worked on] listed 29 things he wouldn't eat," commented one chef. "The owner’s wife was vegetarian, his daughter was vegan and their guests had various food allergies."  The chef said cooking for them was like maneuvering through a minefield. “I always had four different menus to put out every meal. I tried to have as many common things as I could, then would add or take away accordingly. I got used to it, but it always was so much extra work planning and plating…and I had to cook for the crew, too. If I hadn’t had help with prep and dishes, I think I would’ve lost it completely.”


The guests pay top dollar for charters, so they have a right to be picky, but persnickety crew are another story. “I have three guys on a high-protein diet,” said another chef. “They go through a dozen eggs each a day and will put away three big steaks a piece. I have a budget and no refrigerator space. These three guys eat as much as nine crewmembers and I have to reprovision more often because of them. I complain, but it goes nowhere because one of the meatheads is the captain, so I have to keep cooking for the Flintstones.”


High-protein is just one type of specialty diet that crew may choose these days. One chef had two crewmembers on raw food diets. In order to cope with their demands, he made them bulk bean dishes and conceded fridge space. “I gave them space for their produce and special drinks. It’s just easier.”


One stewardess told the chef on her vessel that she couldn't’ eat meat for health reasons. The chef gladly complied with her meat-free requests, until the chef saw the stew chowing down on some red meat.


Whether dieting or saddled with a food intolerance, both guests and crew will cheat, mentioned one chef. “I cook for a lactose intolerant crewmember who eats chocolate and vegetarians who eat bacon. I had an owner’s wife who refused vinegar and a whole list of things in her food. She would have her own special plate, but eat off others’ plates. People claim that they don’t like so many things, but if it’s chopped small, say like onions or garlic, they don’t know it’s in there. I try to work around the picky ones and to look after people who really can’t eat certain foods, but there are limits.”


“It’s like your mother said when you were a kid, 'eat what’s on your plate or go without,'” said one captain. “If a crewmember has legitimate food intolerance or allergies, they have to be catered to, but it’s up to the chef to establish reasonable limits. I don’t hire picky or high maintenance crew anymore. I had a girl arrive one time who had so many allergies that I told her the yacht wasn’t the boat for her."


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Tags: Essentials Chefs 

Rating  Average 4 out of 5

  • I once had a "severe shellfish allergy" guest who I cooked special meals for and went as far to prepare them in a separate galley (crew galley was spacious and well-equipt) No plate crossed over, no utensil. It was a logistical nightmare, but the crew helped and made it work.
    Funny enough, on the last day of the charter, the chief stew watched the woman reach over and eat a coconut shrimp off her husbands plate.
    "Allergy" has become too over-sured and abused of a word.
    Posted by victoriaallman 19/03/2011 15:12:36

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