Who Does Your Dirty Work?

8 September 2009 By Joanne MacKenzie

Recently, I filled in as a relief chef on a yacht for about three and a half weeks. According to the agent and captain, I would be on call for the owner and his guests at short notice and was to cook for the crew.

When I arrived on the boat, however, I was given a “galley handover list” which included, among other things, defrosting and cleaning the freezer, cleaning and organizing the general dry storage area and “a detailed cleaning of all cabinets and drawers: empty, wipe out with disinfectant cleaner, clean hinges, remove scuff marks; if the non-skid is dirty put it through the laundry, wipe down all jars and bottles and put back in a tidy fashion.

In other words, do the dirty work the regular crew didn’t want to do, or hadn’t gotten around to doing. That’s what I was thinking when I was cleaning weevils out of a spice cupboard. So whose job is it do the dirty work?

One freelance chef says “If I arrive and the place is a [mess], I would clean up what I need to make my job workable. Above and beyond that, [*#%@] the fulltime chef’s laziness, I didn’t take the job to be his cleaner.”

Another chef says, “Get to [cleaning] when you get to it, food cannot suffer....” She’d rather be criticized for not doing someone’s cleaning projects than for compromising her own standards for food preparation and risking her reputation as a chef. “Do those people with the lists really have that little to do that they peek in the freezers/dry store every day?” she says.

“The first thing I would do is take care of the job I was hired to do – cooking for the owner and crew. Yes, you will get around to doing the cleaning list. That is when you are not busy cooking, provisioning and doing general day-to-day chef duties (cooking). Did I forget to mention doing watches also?” says Chef Randal. He adds, “Keeping the pantry/dry goods area is the chef’s job. That is why a new chef sometimes comes on and throws out everything. It’s easier to [clear it out] and fill it with what you plan to cook.”

Chef Randal suggests keeping a tally of what you’re doing and from the beginning and e-mailing those details to the captain to keep him informed of your daily work. That way, if there are any issues raised about the cleaning projects, it’s clear what you have accomplished.

Should temporary crew be asked do the dirty jobs that fulltime crew don’t want to do? Some crew are grateful for the opportunity. A day worker in Fort Lauderdale says, “That’s where day workers come in. I stay employed doing the jobs that other crew don’t want to do. Scraping, sanding, picking, scratching, cleaning...if it’s dirty work, I do it and I count on it.”

Who does the dirty work on your boat?