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Overcome the challenge of unexpected guests

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Do you work for the constant entertainer? This could be your employer, the wife or the girlfriend, but there’s someone onboard who constantly invites friends over, throws impromptu get-togethers, hosts cocktail or dinner party without prior notice, or even adds a couple extra people to a planned dinner, throwing a kink into your portion plan.

It’s easy to get grumpy, but we have to remember, these events keep us employed! Instead, look at it as a fresh challenge.

I have worked for constantly entertaining yacht owners and have figured out a way to keep up, not get burned out, still make time for myself and even stay creative in the process.

The challenge is how to plan for the parties you know are coming all while making dinner for the guests onboard, taking care of crew meals and not collapsing in the middle of it all. It’s hard to keep up with the energizer bunny, isn’t it?

Believe it or not, my key is to write everything down. Literally, everything. It may seem tedious at first, but if you can swing this for a couple weeks, you’ll be ahead of the game, and feeling as energized as the boss.

1. Get a piece of paper and a pencil.

2. Create a timesheet for the day. Label it with the time from the moment you start working in the morning until you expect to stop. If you know a party is coming and plan ahead, you know what you have to accomplish on this day, so be specific.

For example: 7:00 cut onions

7:02 cut up peppers

7:05 cut up ham

7:07 blanch asparagus

Get the gist? Do this for every day, even the dinner parties, cocktail parties, every day.

3. Schedule 30 minutes on that time sheet to create menus for the parties. Keep it simple. You can create these timesheets while you are resting in your cabin or when you are waiting on something to come out of the oven.

4. Get a head count for each party and put that next to the menus so you know how much to order or buy.

5. Schedule 30 minutes each day to work on one or two of the items for the party. Maybe the owner and guests aren’t onboard but are coming. Lucky you. You have time to prep. It could be an hour or less, but give yourself that time to put something up in the freezer. If you don’t have the time, see if one of the stews can go to the store and you stay onboard and work on this. If you put an item up in the freezer every day, within a week, you will have seven items available to use at any party thrown at you.

6. Be sure to write in the timesheet your prep times for everyday menu items for lunch and dinner, not just the parties scheduled.

7. If you want to save a bit more time, consider speed scratch items. These are items that are not homemade by you but already premade, ready to go and only need to be finished by you.

8. Schedule time for yourself each day. Don’t devote your entire day to others. Keep some for yourself.

Writing it out keeps you focused, keeps you on track and goal-oriented. It helps you finish what you start and prevents that discouraging feeling at the end of a busy day when you didn’t get everything done that you wanted to.

When you follow your timesheet, you get it all done. And so, in theory, at the end of the week, you will have made up the menus, have seven days of cocktail food and dinner party food available in the freezer, and you still have made some time for yourself.

The key, I have found, is to do a little every day, and not try to set aside three hours to prep for the party. Who has three free hours in the galley? But after a couple weeks, you might have some time to get away, to step off the yacht, go into town and re-energize your creativity.

When you do go into town to provision, take the long route, walk around the restaurants, read the menus. Find the restaurant the boss likes and take a menu if you can. Go out to dinner and order something you never order but would want to serve onboard.

Back onboard, if you have Internet, look up the menus from Food Arts or other cutting-edge publications.

And if you make something one day that your employer really likes, next time, make a double batch and put them up in the freezer for future use.

How do you eat the overwhelming elephant of a job facing you day in and day out? One bite at a time.

 

Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years. Comments on this column are welcome at editorial@the-triton.com.

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