Culinary Waves: by Chef Mary Beth Lawton Johnson
COVID-19 certainly has made being a yacht chef challenging. Everything we buy from a third party such as a grocery store or provisioner has to be thoroughly wiped down and disinfected before it’s brought onboard.
We’ve learned that the virus can stay dormant in the freezer for up to seven years so freezing items will not kill it. The virus will, however, die if heated. So now’s the time to focus on hot snacks and meals onboard. Cold foods really need to be put on the back burner.
When we think of food-borne pathogens, we are constantly reminded that we must measure the temperature of hot items to make sure they stay hot. Bacteria can grow rapidly at lower temperatures if held out at longer times. Remember the old saying: When in doubt, throw it out. If it’s been at room temperature for four hours or more, toss it. I toss it after two hours.
So these are the steps I take to ensure that I keep the crew, myself and the owner and guests safe. There are some great videos online that detail each step in the “chain of food brought onboard”.
The virus can live on cardboard for a few hours and on plastic for a few days, so get rid of all that stuff. When coming back aboard from shopping, change clothes immediately. I actually take a shower before I enter back into the galley.
All of this is going to take more time but with the statistics of survival rate shown with the coronavirus being what they are, every minute counts in preparing the food to be as safe as possible.
It is almost impossible to practice social distancing on a yacht. If any of the crew feel any of the symptoms such as a sore throat, cough, fever or runny nose, please tell the captain, isolate and get on the phone with a doctor. Most doctors and hospitals now use telemedicine so that going into an office or hospital is not usually necessary, unless of course it is.
Be safe. Take precautions. Stay where you are. The more everyone practices this, the safer we’ll all be.
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.