Stay Out of My Galley

25 November 2008 By Victoria Allman

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a chef and the galley can be a lonely place. It’s tucked away from the rest of the boat – out of sight and out of mind. Crew may wander in when they’re hungry or to say hello, but for the most part it’s a solitary environment. I welcome the company when a member of the crew comes to lend a hand. But the truth of the matter is, I have a one-person galley and “help” often becomes a hindrance.

Just the other day, our deckhand came to be of assistance. I appreciated the support. He picked up my sponge, ran cold water and added a half-cup of dish soap to the sink. Bubbles rose beyond the barrier and spilled out over the counter top. Water splashed onto the hardwood floor. Okay, I thought, not exactly how I would do it. But, he was kind enough to be in there trying. I stepped back and bit my tongue.

And that’s where the problem lies. I had to get out of his way. If he’s helping me, I no longer have space to work. The design of this particular galley means there’s room for only one person at a time. And let’s face it. I can be a lot quicker and more efficient.

One chef described the challenge of a small galley: “I have to assign tasks to be done when I’m at the market.” His eyes danced with laughter. “I never know what I’m going to return to.”

As on our boat, the size of his galley limits how much help he can receive. That isn’t always the case, however. I’ve worked on an expedition boat with a full-beam galley. I had counters and counters of space, more than I knew what to do with. On that boat, I relished help from the crew. Each day I had a rotating crewmember come in at noon and stay through dinner service.

“What would you like to make for crew lunch today?” I asked Scott the first time he volunteered. I knew he would loathe coming to the galley if all he did was wash dishes for nine hours straight. Who could blame him?

“Mahi sandwiches on a toasted bun with wasabi mayonnaise.” He obviously had put some thought into it.

I tried to make it fun to be in the galley. The more time the crew gave me, the more they got what they wanted. It became a cooking lesson as well as help. Scott learned how to make his favorite meals to impress future dates.

But not every galley allows that scenario. Nor does every chef. “I don’t go messing around in the bosun’s locker,” one chef growled. “And I expect the same of them. This is my domain.”

Whether you’re able to accept help or need everyone to stay out of your way depends on the galley design and the type of chef you are. What's your galley like? Is another body in your space a help or hindrance? Do you welcome the company or warn crew to "stay out of my galley?"