The Triton


Years in galley hone chef’s top 10 list


I can honestly say that my 10 must-haves in the galley have changed over the years. What was once important is not so much anymore. This view also applies to the 10 most important appliances or tools. It’s what you use the most, and what — over time — saves you the most time that makes the top 10 list.

As a chef, I thrive on creativity. I used to pour over “Food Arts” magazine and, sure, I brought a few aboard. But not anymore. Their idea of food just got way too crazy in ingredients list and modernist approach, so I had to put it down.

So that must-have went by the wayside.

Then, it used to be my favorite ring mold or favorite Shun knife. Not now. Those items stay home. What changed? In walked the iPad. I can’t be without my iPad onboard (and Internet, of course). It is a must-have for this chef.

Just an iPad, you may wonder? Don’t I travel with a tool box? I used to, but not anymore. With time and experience under my belt, I have been in a lot of situations that I didn’t have what I needed and I turned out some beautiful works of art in food on board. I learned that I don’t need to travel with everything, and I don’t need all the modern conveniences either. (Well, maybe just a few.)

Trust me, I know how to make springform pans out of heavy duty aluminum foil, ring molds out of small cans, and pulled sugar decorations using just a fork and knife steel. I know how to make knife shields using duct tape and cardboard and how to temper chocolate and create decorations using just my hands. And if you have a whip, you don’t need a mixer to add volume to egg whites.

Yes, I have some serious hand and arm muscles. But being good in the galley does not rely on having the latest greatest gadget nor is it having a complete set of top-of-the-line cookware.

Still, I do have 10 things I must have onboard, and I am sure other chefs have theirs. Is it a Vitamix with flour grinder attachment? Or is it the juicer? (For me, it’s both.)

Here are the things I just can’t live without in the galley, and the reasons I need them to be a better chef.

  1. My mini iPad and Internet. Research before your trip and download recipes and ideas. Save even the recipes you aren’t sure about because, chances are, someone on board will love them.
  2. A good pair of chef shoes. If your feet are off, so is your attitude and your food. Good shoes keep your spine aligned and save your back when you are standing 15 hours straight. Make sure your shoes have plenty of cushion and great arch supports.
  3. Heavy duty paper towels. I know it is not a “green thing” to do, but if you run out of coffee filters, cheesecloth or misplaced your sieve, you have them all in this roll, and more. They aren’t just for wiping plates or drying hands.
  4. My cell phone. I rarely call people (just ask my mother) but I do use it to take pictures of my food, and look through old pictures for new inspiration.
  5. A Vitamix. From sorbets to soups to green juice, you name it, my Vitamix will do it and fast. Forget the old standard blender. This does it all better.
  6. A large cutting board. There is nothing more irritating than prepping for a crowd on a rinky-dink cutting board.
  7. A three-in-one peeler. This handy tool makes fast work of julienned vegetables or creating decorative salads.
  8. A coffee pot. Around 3 p.m., I start to fall asleep so I need coffee. Plus, a coffee pot is a great way to get hot water fast.
  9. Help. If makes a world of difference when a stew knows her way around the galley and can pitch in to help, or contribute to crew meals if you are the only chef onboard.
  10. Visual stimulation. It can come in the way of going out to eat while the yacht is docked or from looking at the food served on board other yachts (seen through binoculars if you are close) to television or local magazines. Even walking around town and looking at how other places present their food helps. Whatever the visual stimulation is, it is a creative flow that keeps me going as a chef.


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

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