Dealing with Dietary Demands

17 March 2011 By Joanne MacKenzie

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

"The owner [ of one vessel I worked on] listed 29 things hewouldn't eat," commented one chef. "The owner’s wife was vegetarian, his daughterwas vegan and their guests had various food allergies."  The chef said cookingfor them was like maneuvering through a minefield. “I always had four differentmenus 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 somuch extra work planning and plating…and I had to cook for the crew, too. If Ihadn’t had help with prep and dishes, I think I would’ve lost it completely.”

The guests pay top dollar forcharters, so they have a right to be picky, but persnickety crew are anotherstory. “I have three guys on a high-protein diet,” said another chef. “They gothrough a dozen eggs each a day and will put away three big steaks a piece. Ihave a budget and no refrigerator space. These three guys eat as much as ninecrewmembers 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 tokeep cooking for the Flintstones.”

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

One stewardess told the chef on hervessel that she couldn't’ eat meat for health reasons. The chef gladly compliedwith 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 lactoseintolerant crewmember who eats chocolate and vegetarians who eat bacon. I hadan owner’s wife who refused vinegar and a whole list of things in her food. Shewould have her own special plate, but eat off others’ plates. People claim thatthey don’t like so many things, but if it’s chopped small, say like onions orgarlic, they don’t know it’s in there. I try to work around the picky ones and tolook after people who really can’t eat certain foods, but there are limits.”

“It’s like your mother said whenyou were a kid, 'eat what’s on your plate or go without,'” said one captain. “If a crewmember has legitimate foodintolerance or allergies, they have to be catered to, but it’s up to the chefto 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 theyacht wasn’t the boat for her."

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