Culinary Waves: by Chef Mary Beth Lawton Johnson
Just as captains and all deck crew need to take courses to maintain their licenses on board, chefs need to maintain their culinary knowledge, hone skills and keep up to date with the latest techniques and trends.
When signing up for continuing education, chefs need to focus on time management, sanitation and nutrition. Sure, it would be nice to travel to France and enroll in a pastry course taught by a master French pastry chef, but who has the time to do that? Save what you want to learn for the vacation time, and what you have to learn for the education time allotted to you. Not every chef has that time, but some do.
One particular employer wanted his chefs to go to high-end, 10-course restaurants such as Helene Connaught in London and see how they did it. Then there are those yacht owners who just want their familiar comfort food when away from home. So save what you desire for later and bone up on what you must have for your job.
There’s a reason behind my three suggested courses above. Each job is different. Some of the yacht chef jobs require event planning, such as a picnic at a certain time, a formal cocktail party or an event on land that needs executed time management plans.
Each minute of your day as a chef is allocated to a certain task. You only have a limited amount of time to invest in each dish, from preparation to final cooking. The great thing about a time management refresher course is that you list out all the steps and the amount of time it will take to accomplish the task. Some chefs have a problem with attention and follow-through. This actually will help them to get a grasp on what needs to get done and how to not fall behind.
Nutrition is changing daily. Now it’s the plant-based diet taking the world by storm. I’ve been plant-based for years, so this was nothing new to me. However, nutrition is more than knowing different diets. It’s knowing the nutrients – carbs, fats, proteins, etc. – that are in foods, what they do, and how to maximize their benefits. It’s not just about knowing the food pyramid, but about recognizing eating disorders, lack of vitamins and minerals in a dish, and learning how to create nutritious dishes. It’s an in-depth look into the phytonutrients and chemical makeup of a nutritious meal. I suggest taking several courses in nutrition, because this really will enhance your resume and your culinary knowledge in the long run. What if your employer suddenly developed diabetes or a heart condition? Would you know what foods to cook for him or how to address his new nutrition needs?
Finally, sanitation – the most important course you can take to better yourself as a chef. It is a must-have course for others in the food industry, and it should be for all yacht chefs as well. You could poison someone simply by not following a few simple rules. This course covers food-borne illnesses, pathogens, HACCP in food, basic hygiene and sanitation must-do’s.
You often hear about cruise ship passengers getting sick, and most of it is a result of food handling by employees who do not have good hygiene practices. This course basically will scare you with the illnesses that you, as a chef, can create when mishandling food, and instill in you the fact that taking care of food, from the moment you receive it to the final preparation, is of the utmost importance.
Where can you take such courses? Chef Certification, a company based out of Oregon, has been handling the educational needs of chefs for years. I use them and so should you. www.chefcertification.com
There are plenty of serve-safe courses available, and some places offer them for free. Just do a Google search, and be sure to tell me what was the best culinary course you have ever taken. I would love to hear your thoughts.
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.