Culinary Waves: by Chef Mary Beth Lawton Johnson
I flew back to South Florida from the yacht to prep my house for Hurricane Dorian, and while waiting it out with my fur babies and friends, I thought about how those of us in yachting not only have to be prepared for these natural disasters on land, but also on board.
If I lost power for a week or more at my house, what was I going to eat? No time to order a generator (which I should already own, given the amount of storms we have here). My home menu would have consisted of cold, canned items and green shakes, which are not necessarily appealing for a whole week.
We were lucky, though, and a lot of people were not. So I am not complaining about cold food when people in the Bahamas have none. My point is that we, as chefs, have to think outside the box to get us by in times of crisis.
I have had generator and engine failure on power and sailing yachts, have had the computer crash for the ovens and high-tech cooking equipment while on charter, and have been hundreds of miles from a grocery store with nothing green for a salad in sight. I pulled it off, but the solution is: Think ahead.
Prepare in advance enough meals for the average amount of crew and guests who come on board. Basically, if you have a meal or two left after making a dinner, freeze it. Stock up on frozen meals, and think of meals that can be made without the use of an oven. Include desserts for one week. Make enough to feed the crew for one week. Remember to use single-serve dishes with airtight lids.
In case refrigeration is lost, write out a menu based on seven days of food that you can prepare without having a refrigerator or freezer. This has to be an exact science as far as portions are concerned.
If you lose your ovens, you still might have the cooktop if it’s on a separate system. It took over a week to have our ovens’ computer fixed, with a charter on board. There was no baking during that time. Can you think of desserts for a week without baking? Or food for one week with no oven use?
As you cook for the guests and crew, put an additional sponge cake in the freezer for that birthday cake to come. If you have leftovers, put them into prepackaged meal containers for the crew. Get them out of the refrigerator and into the freezer. When making soup, I usually make enough so that I have five to 10 containers of it at any given time for a meal.
Here are some other ideas that will help you get by in times of crisis.
These are but a few ideas of how to think creatively when something like a hurricane leaves you without your usual resources. I’ve been there, and someday you will be there too – if you haven’t already. The idea is to be prepared.
What have you had to do in a crisis to feed guests and crew on board? I would love to hear your stories. Please, send them to me.
Mary Beth Lawton Johnson, a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine, has worked on yachts for more than 25 years. Comments are welcome below.