Crew. The bane, or boon, of the majority of chefs in the yachting industry. No matter how loftily you ascend the ranks of the galley you will, at some stage in your seagoing career, cook food for the hungry minions that staff the vessel.
It’s a common concern for a lot of new chefs coming into the industry: cooking for the crew, a refrain that repeats itself in the DMs I receive via Instagram. Queries about what and when and how much, echoing over and over. I’m not sure this will dispel the anxiety completely, but perhaps a tentative introduction to the famished souls you’ll be expected to nourish may assist?
Over the past seven years in the industry, any astute chef would notice a trend, a selection perhaps, of stereotypes that persistently pop up on many vessels. Like an array of moles in a Whack-a-Mole game, but I’m afraid actual bopping on the head is not encouraged. (Shame, my rolling pin is well balanced and feels good in the hand.)
Listed below, in no particular order, are the most common types of crew you will cook for. There’s no need to feel stressed out about them; simple acknowledgement will suffice. Much like that chopping board cupboard that never closes properly, you just learn to live with it.
The Plain Jane, Meat-Loving Engineer
Introductory phrase: “Don’t worry, I eat anything — not fussy at all!”
What they really mean: Meat and potatoes, maybe some boiled broccoli when they feel the need to be “healthy.” To them, meat is the star of the meal. If there is no meat, they may throw a tantrum. Meat-free Monday may result in mutiny. You get the idea.
The Glutton — Typically Deck Crew
Introductory phrases: “What’s for dinner?” “When will dinner be ready?”
Lurks around the galley at mealtime, piles plate high with the good stuff before the captain has even dreamed about going down for lunch.
Think you’ll get to try your crispy calamari? Forget it. He’s gone back for thirds as you’re still sweeping up. The positive: this is good for tidying up leftovers.
A true galley ally. Passionate about food and quality, this is the person you call to the galley just to try an exquisite nibble of truffle pecorino. They can be relied upon to dine out a moment’s notice and won’t blink at the monstrosity that is often a Michelin-starred bill.
The Innocent Youth
First time living away from home and they’re greener than Kermit. The Innocent Youth has only just discovered sushi and pulls out a tin of Heinz baked beans when feeling threatened.
Them: “That chicken soup was a bit spicy!”
You: “Do you mean the Thai green curry?”
(Disclaimer: not a type, more “specially selected.” Also, don’t judge me, I need my kicks.)
Each season, I select a crewmember and deliberately try to fatten them up. Leftover guest desserts? They are the chosen one to be beckoned to the galley. Yes, it’s a bit Holda the Witch from Hansel and Gretel, but goodness, I get a buzz watching them polish off the rest of the chocolate fondants with a few extra scoops of vanilla. Eat, my pretty.
The Coriander Hater
Catchphrases: “Vile.” “Hate it.” “Tastes like soap.” It’s sadly a common affliction among crew and I really just feel sorry for them. It’s a perfectly delicious herb and you have my sincere sympathies regarding your underdeveloped taste buds.
The Just Get On With It
One of the chef’s quiet favorites who flies under the radar with their preferences, they quietly remove the offending item (read: pickle, tomato, olive) from the meal and continues on without making a fuss. A true hero of the mature, adult response.
Choses the small plate when dishing up their meal, tries to avoid the carbs, and often layers a blanket of green leaves atop to disguise the items below. Highly commendable initially, but their willpower often falters, and they will later turn to the toaster with Marmite and butter in hand.
The Smoothie Maker
(Closely related to The Dieter.) Ignores the well-balanced meal on display and plugs in the NutriBullet. Unfortunately, their typical concoction of bananas, oats, and peanut butter has way more calories than the original offering, but explanations often fall on deaf ears, so I’ve given up.
The Eyes Are Too Big for the Stomach
Day in and day out, this person won’t finish their plate, instead leaving a small pile of perfectly edible nosh to be scraped into the bin. I think some deeper undercurrents are at play here — perhaps subconsciously rebelling from a childhood of being forced to consume every morsel before they left the table? Regardless, someone else could have enjoyed that food but now it’s got your cooties all over it.
The Condiments Abuser
Kewpie mayo on a Sunday Roast. The default salt and pepper grabber. Your lovingly prepared grub is masked by a sickly sweet splash of Mrs. Balls.
At the very least, if you’re going to commit a condiment crime, at least use a suitable one for the dish! Sweet chilli sauce with beef rags is not fusion, William, it’s a travesty and you should be strung up with spaghetti.
The Half Muffin/Yogurt/Can of Coke Leaver
Wreaks a plague of residue upon the crew mess, leaving behind a scattering of partially munched items with either the vague promise of “I’ll finish it later” or they’re laboring under the delusion that someone will joyfully finish it for them. No one wants the rest of your Fage Total 5% Milkfat, Sarah! Be a grown up and finish it.
Well, one could go on forever, really.
I hope that you can feel more prepared having had a brief overview of the characters you will encounter in the industry. The crew mess is a colorful place, where one can witness humanity in its hungry, sleep-deprived form, and I only wish you the best when dealing with the crew.
Deep breaths, everyone!
DIY Sandwich Day: The Ultimate People Pleaser
> Bread / wraps / GF bread
> Sliced meat / grilled chicken
> Selection of sliced / grated veg
> Cheese board
> Green leafy bowl
> A soup
Truly, after writing about the multiple personalities that need to be fed, the only recipe that sprung to mind was more of a meal: the DIY Sandwich Day. It’s a crew favorite; literally no one has any right to complain about it. Pick, choose, and assemble at will — they will only ever have themselves to blame.
This article originally ran in the August 2021 issue of Dockwalk.