Culinary Waves: by Chef Mary Beth Lawton Johnson
Space is so limited on board that finding room to stash one more thing in the galley can be quite daunting. From ring molds to silicon molds, cake rings, cake pans, sheet pans, hotel pans, big pots, knives, oven safe dishes, plastic ware, etc. – it can certainly stack up. Oh, and wait, what about the food? That has to be stored too.
Most yacht galleys have more storage than prep space. I tend to put food items in the storage area as well, because over the years I have learned to live with less fancy gadgets as a yacht chef. I remember all to well walking onto charter yachts and finding loads of gimmickee gadgets that really don’t have a place on board. Usually they are remnants of former yacht chefs who have passed through that galley. I toss such gadgets, or give them away.
So, if space is very tight, what can be lived with and what can be lived without? I personally don’t make it a habit to go onto a new yacht as a charter chef and spend a lot on equipment. I would rather the money be spent on good food. The food has to be great to start with because no amount of culinary equipment is going to make a pate taste any better.
If you are not a dessert person then I don’t believe in going out to find that perfect spring form pan or cake ring or triangle mousse mold. I do believe in having the basics on board though. One time I was asked to make a cake for a birthday, and there was not a pan to be had on board – and we were miles from land when the request came in. I literally made a springform pan and made six individual cakes. So, having the very basic equipment on board is a big plus. If you have the basics, you are prepared to offer the basics, or use them for something else.
Look for basic items that can be used for a multitude of purposes, such as crème brulee pots that can also be used to do mini crab augratins, or pots de crème. The beauty in using the basics such as this is being able to put a new twist on old classics. A brioche mold for muffins, for example. A silicone mold that can be used for breads, pastries or chocolate desserts is a must have.
Sharp set of knives
Basic to any galley is a good set of knives. I prefer shuns, and I sometimes bring my own. If the yacht is where I will be for an extended period of time, I expect them to have a great set of knives and not some mismatched curio of dull blades. A good knife will save your meat, your cakes, your breads from the dreaded shredding done by less sharp knives. There’s nothing worse than cutting through a piece of meat only to have ragged edges from a dull knife. Also invest in a good steel knife sharpener.
I can live without an egg poacher and all the unnecessary equipment featured on the shelves of restaurant equipment showrooms, but I can’t live without a great coffee maker or blender, such as a Vitamix that can do sorbets and hot soups. And I absolutely depend on my Emerson blender. All of the galley equipment is suitable for multiple uses, and when I go to buy something for the galley, I make sure it has more than one purpose. If it doesn’t, then I won’t buy it. If it is already there, I get rid of it.
The first question I ask is, what kind of food do the owner/guests on board like? If they like a lot of veggies, then I have to have the equipment to do a lot with veggies, such as a grill pan, a spiraler, a zester, and a julienne peeler. If they prefer more meat and potatoes, then I have items geared for meat lovers, such as a barbeque grill, smoker, grill pan and meat tenderizer. If they are cheese lovers, then cheese boards, cheese graters and cheese paper is needed. Armed with this information, it’s easy to pare down an overly cramped galley.
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 are welcome below.