Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Daily Grind...

Seared Duck Breast Salad with Blood Oranges, Fennel and Pomegranite Vinaigrette

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Caper-Lemon Sauce
Roasted Celeriac
Sauteed Spinach

Ginger and Vanilla Bean Poached Pears with Vanilla ice-Cream and Dolce de Leche

The biggest challenge in being a charter chef is coming up with menus that are fresh and new everyday, three meals a day, seven days a week, for two or more weeks, for twelve people. I had created menus and had all my meals planned out on paper, but that went out the window as I had to make adjustments to suit everyone’s eating habits, the availability of ingredients and the daily requests of the clients. But all in all, our guests are very easy and I know that on some charters people can be very demanding…

My day begins at 7am making pastries, frittata’s and fruit salad then I begin prepping for lunch so that if we go anywhere and I can’t cook in transit then everything will be ready (or close to it) when we arrive. The waters can be rollie so I have to keep all my prep on top of towels on the counter or it will slide away. Yesterday I had a near miss with a jelly jar as it went sliding out of my reach and last night I had doubts about my rice cooking properly with the water sloshing about in the pot.

I’m constantly reading cookbooks and picking up cooking magazines to get new ideas. Desserts are the biggest challenge as I have five small refrigerators that cool down too easily when doors are opened and shut so custards and things don’t tend to set very well. The freezer is all drawers and is so crammed full there isn’t room to put desserts in their either and it’s too hot and humid to leave a dessert out on the counter. But I’ve found that fruit desserts work well; mango shortcake, poached pears; and cakey things like flourless chocolate cake, cheesecake. I’ve been cooking professionally now for almost seven years and yet every time I step into a new kitchen I feel like my brain falls out of my head and I can’t think of anything to cook. Another challenge of feeding all these people on the charter is that meal time comes in waves and many times everyone wants something different. For breakfast I feed the crew one thing, the guests another, the children of the guests another and on top of the frittata’s and pastry and fruit there are special requests for eggs to order, omelets, pancakes, etc. For lunch I feed the crew first, and then the guests and I have to come up with something for the non-meat eaters and the children, and sometimes again, the guests each want something different for lunch. At dinner time the crew eats early (so that they can help me clean up when the guests are done) and some guests may eat earlier or later than others and the children eat different food at a different time at a different table. It definitely keeps me on my feet and my day sometimes doesn’t end until 11pm.

Working on this thus far has been a great experience. The crew are fantastic, everyone lifts their weight, works hard, helps each other out and maintains a sense of humor, because if we didn’t all have a sense of humor we’d kill each other or go out of our minds – as the captain said, we’re adults living like children (bunk beds, shared quarters, etc.).

We’re in Anguilla again, this time for two days. We had planned on going to St. Barth but the weather at sea has been rough and our crane isn’t working to hoist the dinghy and we would flip it or lose it if we were to tow it in high seas. We left on very short notice (about an hour) so I didn’t have time to grocery shop and my supply of fresh produce and ingredients is running a little low – but it’s amazing how one can make do. I rationed the vegetables to the crew last night so that I would have plenty for the guests and they are talking about going out to dinner tonight which would be great, otherwise it’s frozen spinach! But I’ve got ample supply of other provisions so everything will be fine.

This charter was supposed to be ending on Monday, January 23rd but it has just been extended for two more weeks. I’ve got another charter lined up beginning on January 28th so I will have to leave this one and go directly on to the next one without any time off, which is kind of a bummer as I am totally and thoroughly exhausted. But the next charter is aboard a 74’ sailboat heading down to St. Vincent. We’ll be hitting the Grenadines and lots of little islands down and around South America. The captain and I are the only crew and I believe there are only two guests so we’ll be doing everything on this next adventure and I will really be learning to sail – I wouldn’t miss it for the world! I hope to find time to sleep sometime in late February or early March…


Franky said...

Sounds like your first gig prepped you to appreciate the hard work you're currently involved with. Sounds like it's fun and exhausting!

sha said...

charter can be difficult..
what about when I was in 100m 20 guests 3 generations food eating varies

oh lala have fun

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