Chef-Stew -- Two Jobs for the Price of One

16 June 2009 By Joanne MacKenzie

My mother has an expression: “chief cook and bottle-washer”. It means that your job title says one thing, but you really you do everything. And so it is for the chef/stew.

A chef/stew on a 95-foot motor boat says, “The ‘slash’ means you do two jobs and get paid for one. You are all the girls. You run all day.”

Her job includes everything from provisioning and cooking for guests and crew to doing laundry, ironing, cleaning cabins, bartending, hostessing, helping on deck when needed and even translating for the captain and crew. It also means answering a million questions from the guests. “It’s hard to finish everything you need to do,” she says. “There are always interruptions. If someone wants anything, they always end up in the galley.”

The chef/stew says multitasking and being super-organized are the keys to getting her work done. She also has to be very flexible and constantly change priorities through the course of a day, especially when guests are on board. That sometimes means compromising quality. “I have to find shortcuts so I can get everything done,” she explains. “It might mean that whatever I was going to make for dessert, I have to change it to something simpler that I can make in less time. Settling for less than perfect is not the way I like to do things, but when there is so much to get done, I don’t have much choice.”

She says the good thing about being both chef and stew on a smaller boat is that, “You don’t have to answer to anyone or deal with other crew as much. It’s just me. I have my system and just get everything done.”

However, she adds that getting things done yourself only works if you can call on other crew for help when you need it. When she first joined the boat, the captain was great and chipped in all the time. But when that captain left, the help stopped. “It’s too small a crew (only three) to have two crew sitting around watching me work. The captain and engineer would complain about the owner and his family using the galley table because they couldn’t sit there and watch TV. If the dishwasher was full, they would leave their dirty dishes in the sink. The engineer was always eating and the captain would sit in the bridge and play solitaire.”

The chef/stew says that during one really busy trip, the owner offered to help out with food prep. He liked to cook and told her, “I can see you could use a hand.” His wife told the kids to start helping by offering to help serve plates and clean their own plates after meals.

Eventually, she left her job as chef/stew. She says, “I really liked the owner, but it was too much. I had enough and moved on to a job with no slashes. Now if there’s a slash in the job description or it says, ‘willing to help out in other areas’, I say no way.”

Do you have a slash in your job title? Does it mean doing more than one job on board?