How to plan for meals and galley provisions for boat trips, cruises or charters from an experienced charter chef
In previous articles, I have discussed trip preparation through the use of checklists – like how to create good checklists and three checklists you should create for your boat. I have also discussed how cruising couples can have better communication and learn to more appropriately divide up the tasks necessary for handling a boat underway. There is another aspect of boating and sailing that should not be overlooked. As important as it is to stay hydrated when boating, it is just as important to eat good meals and snacks while underway.
A lot of folks will prepare for a weekend on the water by racing through the grocery store near the marina. The shopping cart winds up full of chips, dip, beer and sodas, and a host of other “convenient” food items. I am here to tell you that you can eat healthy foods and not have to expend a great deal of money or effort during your cruise.
Chef Theresa Vollman has been preparing and serving meals for sailing trips that I have organized for at least 8 years now. We have entertained clients in the French West Indies, the Chesapeake Bay, and Europe. In that time, she has grown as a sailor and has refined her methods and ingredients given the limits of a boat galley.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention Betty Grieve who has sailed as Mate on many of the trips we offer through Chesapeake Flotillas. She often has excellent suggestions for logistics and provisioning, especially for our overseas adventures. And Betty makes sure we have coffee pots! These two women together have contributed much to make my cruises as successful.
This article will capture the highlights of a conversation that I had recently with Chef Theresa for her thoughts on meal planning and provision, both for local cruises and overseas charters.
Theresa has always been interested in sailing. She came to Chesapeake Flotillas online nearly 10 years ago for a 2-day weekend cruise and has been sailing ever since. Theresa is an important part of Chesapeake Flotillas now. I believe a lot of people come because of Theresa…her food, her hospitality, and her ever present good cheer. She loves sailing and particularly anchoring out in quiet places. Sailing has been a learning process but it has not been difficult for Theresa. She has become one of my best crew on deck and at the helm.
Chef Theresa started cooking about age 12. She learned her recipes and techniques by watching her mother and grandmother in the kitchen. Theresa remembers meatballs and chicken escarole soup as the first dishes she made on her own. Her heritage is Italian so there has always been a tradition of abundance and good food. Her husband, Jake, was a Polish immigrant as a child and is now a US citizen. She learned how to make traditional Polish dishes from her late mother-in-law. Given her heritage and that of her in-laws, Theresa’s cooking style is a product of the Italian and Polish influences in her family. Theresa cooks both from recipes and from her own creativity. Then there are times where she modifies a recipe to better suit her taste or the available ingredients. She has been remarkably successful at all of it.
Theresa is comfortable in nearly any galley but she misses her home kitchen nonetheless. Among the things she misses are her own tools, especially spatulas, serving spoons, and non-stick pans. The galley on Bay Poet is relatively well-equipped but what we find on boats on foreign charters often leaves a lot to be desired.
When asked, Theresa said, “My worst experience in a galley was probably during the 2011 sailing trip in Croatia. The boat had a French press for making coffee but at the time, I did not know what it was. We all assumed it was like a regular percolator coffee pot. When you (Capt. Rob) came down from cockpit and saw it on the burner, you shouted for us to get it off the flame!”
Given the size of yacht galleys and limited utensils and pans, Theresa has to rely on planning and cunning to get the meals done. For instance for charters on Bay Poet, she will prepare things at home so there is less preparation and cooking on the boat. With the limited space, she has devised ways to keep things warm while the rest of the meal is prepared.
When preparing for overseas charters, planning is vitally important. It is essential, necessary really, to get the clients to share their preferences, allergies, or medical limitations. That will be a coarse guide to what a week’s menu may be.
Secondly, one should not oversupply. You just don’t have a lot of storage space and you run the risk of spoilage or waste from not using it. However, you do have to consider the size and nature of the store where you provision. Is it a modern supermarket or a local grocery store? Depending on the needs and the situation, both have their appeals. While you are more likely to find everything you need a supermarket, the ambiance of shopping in a family owned store in a foreign country is unequalled.
Some of the things which the crew of Bay Poet favors are pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwiches for breakfast, grilled chicken Caesar pita pockets for lunch, and grilled chicken and pastas dishes for dinner.
Whether sailing domestically or foreign, there is always plenty of fresh fruit, nuts, and healthy snacks. However, some of the sins in which we engage are jerky and chocolate desserts. Theresa says the latter is to satisfy the captain’s sweet tooth!
Here’s a look at some of the dishes Chef Teresa has made for charters:
Chef Theresa just likes cooking in general. She never seems to tire of it. The feedback she gets from our clients is important to her and I have never heard anyone complain!
She gets a thrill from all the different shopping experiences she has had in the several countries we have visited and then, she just simply likes cooking and tasting things from different cultures.
More Tips for Galley Planning
Theresa offers the following advice to anyone considering taking on galley duties, particularly on charters outside the US:
- Choose meals consistent with the local culture. Experience food and life in context!
- Do your online research for traditional meals and ingredients before you go.
- Survey your clients and crew and also share your thoughts in order to manage expectations.
- Spices can be VERY expensive items overseas. They are small items and can be readily packed to take with you.
- Sometimes you just have to wing it! Despite your best planning, you may not find everything you want.
Chef Theresa is excellent in the galley and all things related to hospitality. I am happy to count her as an asset for Chesapeake Flotillas!
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