As the chef, scheduled upkeep and necessary evils

May 5, 2015 by Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson

Usually, a yacht chef is in a department of one. On larger yachts, there can be a crew chef or a sous chef, or both. And with larger numbers of souls in the galley, general upkeep, cleaning and maintenance is scheduled and completed.

But what if you are the only one in the galley? Do you schedule time for maintenance and cleaning or does it happen only when you have time?

Granted, with everything chefs have going on, from cooking, prepping, stocking, shopping, inventory and budgets, it’s hard to schedule time for routine cleaning and maintenance. Even simple things like knife sharpening can get forgotten if it’s not part of a routine. And I can say that busy charter chefs can’t always keep their galleys as clean as they want. I have walked onto charter yachts and seen crumbs in a drawer near the silverware or stains near the under-counter lights.

If you find that scheduling maintenance for cleaning the galley or taking care of the necessary upkeep bites into your cooking time, here are several tips that might offer solutions.

  1. Align the galley with the interior crew to help facilitate the necessary cleanings. On one charter yacht I worked on, a stew would clean out the walk-in each week. After all, crew go in and out of the walk-in all the time, grabbing snacks and storing their own food. With that comes dirt, old food, etc. So the interior crew pitched in and took turns cleaning the pantry and walk-in just like every other crew area of the yacht.
  2. By the same token, pitch in to help stews when they are making plans for meals. Let them know what you are cooking so they can make the best decisions on place settings, napkins and theme. Chefs are just as much as part of the team, even in a department of one.
  3. On many yachts when not on charter or owner’s trip, the crew give the chef a night off and cook for themselves, giving the chef a chance to do paperwork, maintenance or simply take a break. I love sitting at the crew mess, waiting for dinner to be served. (All you cooking crew out there, don’t forget to clean the galley when you are done. Having to cleaning up after a “night off” misses the point.)
  4. After you finish preparing a meal, hone your knives. I make the effort to do this every time. That way, they are always ready for the next use.
  5. As you wipe down countertops, open up a drawer and wipe that too. By the end of the week, all your drawers will get wiped out. Give appliances sitting on the countertop a wipe as well.

Too many times, I have walked into a new galley and was greeted by the captain or chief stew and the first thing out of their mouth was how dirty the last chef left the galley. I have never seen a galley really dirty, but they almost always need a good cleaning.

If you want to be called back to work another charter, or even remembered for how good a chef you were, take the time to clean your galley to the point of spotless. The stews will definitely remember that they didn’t have to go behind you to clean it. More importantly, the captain will remember it, too. Don’t be that “dirty” chef. Work as a team to keep the galley maintained.

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



About Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson

Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years.

View all posts by Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson →