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Culinary Waves: How to clean your galley

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Culinary Waves: by Chef Mary Beth Lawton Johnson

Cleaning the galley usually begins with either a special cloth (eco-friendly versus paper towels) and a spray bottle of something. 

I can’t express how disappointing it is to look under a galley sink and see 10 different cleaning products sitting there, each with caustic properties waiting to eat pin holes in the plastic container it is in. That’s an accident waiting to happen. If someone onboard hasn’t used the cleaning product in three months, pitch it.

Instead of 10 different cleaning products, most galleys only need one or two to get rid of bacteria, viruses and germs. Yes, only one or two. Germaphobe cleaners like me probably have a lot of cleaning products on board. Or rather, I used to.

Now that we are in COVID mode, every ounce of energy we can put into keeping our galley clean will help us live healthier lives as well as keep the crew and guests healthy. It all starts with wiping down all surfaces with a disinfectant, whether it is a homemade variety, simple alcohol or a store-bought disinfectant. 

Ever consider using hydrogen peroxide as a cleaner? It is safer on surfaces, won’t strip or break down special coatings on wood, and won’t discolor, bleach out or destroy beautiful shines on specialty stone work. I use it as my go-to on surfaces in the galley or in the principle’s estate kitchen when I am there. It kills germs and viruses.

Alcohol kills bacteria and viruses faster than straight bleach, but be careful as it can strip woods and dry out stone. I use alcohol for wiping down door handles, stainless steel surfaces and anyplace that we know can carry a ton of germs such as the walk-in coolers. I use bleach on cutting boards and sink areas that have been handling raw meats. 

Generally, start at the top of the galley to include the hood and vents and give them a good cleaning. There’s so much grease in them it can be a fire hazard so use a degreaser. Look on the ceiling for spots where oils and food may have splattered. Then work around the galley to include the walls and countertops. 

Finally, be sure to keep the floor immaculate. COVID was found on the shoes of hospital workers. I doubt that situation will happen on a yacht but a clean floor is a mark of cleanliness and good galley hygiene. Plus, any liquids on the floor is a safety hazard. I’ve heard about accidents, chefs slipping or the stews slipping on liquid or oil droplets, so pay close attention to that.

Now comes the tedious part: cleaning all the tools on the countertop and in drawers. Never polish silverware and put it back in the drawer. It must be washed to get the toxins off from the cleaner.

If any handles come off spatulas, throw them away. Dirt, food particles and bacteria can get under and in the spatula holes. It’s always a good idea to go through cooking utensils and cutting boards and toss any that are cracked, broken or damaged because bacteria could be growing in those crevices. I replace my cutting boards every six months because disinfecting them, even regularly, doesn’t remove all of the bacteria.

Be sure to clean out the walk-in freezer and the refrigerator and get them serviced when the yacht is back in port. There’s nothing worse than having provisioned for a long trip and the freezer or refrigerator go down, taking all the food with them. I have had that happen offshore. No fun. 

With the advent of COVID, we need to be especially careful wiping down products that others have touched when bringing them onboard. Use alcohol wipes to kill viruses immediately. Have a table or a work surface set aside to set down grocery items. Using gloves, wipe everything down and set them aside on a designated clean surface before taking them inside the yacht.

If nothing else, COVID has reminded us just how important a clean galley is.

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.

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 →

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