With more than forty people onboard, we take some feeding, especially since many of us have big appetites after a long day’s work. Three meals a day, meat available at all meals, as well as vegetarian options – it is quite a responsibility. Mark and John are in charge of this critical domain on the ship. They do everything: ordering and maintaining the ship’s stores, food preparation, clearing up after meals, keeping the galley and the mess hall organized and welcoming, and providing an endless supply of snacks, muffins, bread and cake for late or early workers, or those who suddenly crave something to eat. They do an outstanding job, which is much appreciated by all of us. We are especially grateful for the variety and flavor of their meals. And they radiate a true sense of welcome: calling each of us by name and aware of each of our food likes and dislikes (not that we have any, of course). We thank you from the bottom of our heats, Mark and John, for all you do to keep us happy, healthy and well fed!
To get a sense of how difficult and demanding the cooks’ jobs are, we spent some time with Mark (senior cook) and John (second cook) in their shiny, stainless steel-walled workspace and visited the “dry stores” and the large walk-in fridge and freezer where they store the ingredients for the wonderful meals they make for us every day.
Mark and John alternate days between the “back of the house,” where the washing, salad bar prepping and dessert making happens, and the “front of the house” where the cooking and serving happens. Normally they start their day at 6AM and the first task is to retrieve two 2 flats of eggs and anything else needed for breakfast that day. “Eggs go fast. Almost everyone eats eggs. On the last leg, 240 dozen eggs were used,” John says. He has to put a cap on the daily use of some items and eggs are among them (two flats).
After breakfast, Mark or John usually make a trip below decks to where the food is stored and bring back what they need for that day’s menu (which is decided the day before). “Fridays are usually fish and Sundays are steak.” The menu is also selected in coordination with activities onboard. Safety drill days (usually Saturdays) has a menu that permits the ” lunch line” to be closed fast and the mess hall and galley cleaned beforehand . The menu might also be adjusted if the ship is going to be pn station, deploying or recovering equipment, to allow efficiency in time eating. “I keep track of all the entrees to make sure there are a few days between each time turkey, for example, is served”, Mark says. He keeps track of everything; indeed–since the ship’s first voyage!
The dry stores is like a huge pantry–all the dry goods (grains, spices, etc.) are stored here. The cereals and granola shelf looks almost empty since they have not been replenished since March and, like eggs, every one loves cereals. Oatmeal, served daily at breakfast, is popular too.
The freezer is the next stop. Mark says it was full when they left San Diego in mid-March, before the first leg, and that they could barely walk in there. Cheese, berries, meat and many other items live here until their thawing turn arrives, like the two turkeys Mark grabbed to cook the next day.
We are one month into the cruise and we have had fresh, crispy lettuce every day (the vegetarians have been really pleased)! “The trick is to wrap the lettuce in paper. Romaine lasts longer than iceberg”, Mark says. We have had fruits every day too. In the fridge, we saw some papayas wrapped in paper as well.
Back at the mess hall, Mark and John describe what they like about their jobs, their favorite recipes and how they enjoy being at sea, “where the most beautiful sunsets are viewed” and “away from the hustle and bustle of the city.” Mark has been sailing for about 23 years and says having an extra set of hands would be nice (on some other vessels two cooks and one aid work in the galley) and that he always appreciates the crew and science party cleaning up after themselves and showing up for meals on time, work permitting. John has been sailing for about 5 months now (he enjoys it but misses his 7-year old daughter, Essence) and he says “good mornings and big smiles” is all he expects from us. We do our best to keep the cooks happy and show our appreciation, and Mark says “this is a very good group”, giving us some assurance that we are doing it right.