Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Funky Chicken

“Cookie! So nice to see you again!”

“You too, Chicken!”

I haven’t seen Chicken since this past summer in Michigan when Madame and Monsieur X were still courting Chicken and Hobbit to join the yacht as purser and captain. I met Chicken and Hobbit in the Caribbean two years ago and had plans to join their previous yacht for a season in the Mediterranean, but just before I was supposed to join, I fell and busted my knee. So of course, I was touched when they thought of me and referred me to the X’s when the X’s began their search for a yacht chef – and of course, I’m tickled pink that we all get to work together now, as Chicken and Hobbit are quite possibly the two coolest people on planet Earth. Chicken was a yacht chef for many, many years herself, and still wants to keep a finger in the galley helping out with desserts and prep, and Hobbit has a reputation as an excellent bread baker and he makes his own fish jerky underway with the fish he catches! I’ve wanted to work with them for ages, just so I can learn how Hobbit does his fish!

Chicken is a tall, leggy and brainy South African (no boat is complete without a South African) and Hobbit, her husband who’s Belgian, is, well, quite a bit shorter – and with large feet and quite a lot of body hair, as most hobbits have (who knew Belgium bordered Middle-Earth?). But Hobbit, the X’s, and their entourage are all on a mission in the South Pacific, doing some reconnaissance work on cruising ground for our ‘round-the-world adventure. I suspect though that it’s not all work…

Unfortunately, Chicken being South African, had some delays in getting her visa for French Polynesia and was unable to go – so I’ve come to Seattle a few days earlier than originally planned to make sure she isn’t having a pity party all by herself.

I throw my bags into the pimped out Chevy Astro Van that will be our crew car for the next six months. It’s big, and very grey. And, as is a requirement of all vans – the interior has floor to ceiling carpeting. This van definitely has potential…

It’s an unusually warm and sunny day in Seattle. Downright hot, in fact. I pray the weather will stay like this – but I know that in Seattle, prayers for sunshine and warm weather usually go unheeded. Heading down the highway towards the boat yard, I’m filled with excitement as Chicken fills me in on all that has been done in the galley. The appliances are all in, the cabinets are finished – but covered over for protection. The entire yacht is Pepto Bismol pink as it’s being primed and sanded and readied for the big paint job. I really can’t wait to see the yacht again – the galley is calling to me. We park in front of a small, non-distinct, white, mobile office building. Like movie star dressing rooms on location, there are three doors just oozing mystery. Each door has a piece of paper taped to it displaying the name and logo of the three yachts in the yard right now (one has just been launched, one is a new build and ours is finishing up). It’s a quick walk across the parking lot to the massive airplane hangar that houses the yacht.

Chicken and I hit up the main office and I’m issued a photo ID with my nickname, “Cookie”, and the yachts logo printed across it and a red strap to hang it around my neck. I inspect the tag closely, this will definitely be going in the scrapbook one day…

As we walk into the hangar I’m hit with the familiar and comforting smells of epoxy and paint fumes. It’s good to be back. Up two flights of stairs to the 2nd floor workshop which spans the length of the hangar, I lean over the railing to take it all in - there she stands – all 156’ feet of her, wrapped in plastic from stem to stern. Men in white paper suits and respirators are up on cherry pickers sanding and smoothing her big, pink bodice. We walk the steel gangplank from the workshop onto the transom. It’s like a hive of energy as people bustle in and out, and off and on, and all around us. Men in cargo pants and paint splattered blue jeans, tan, leather work boots and t-shirts, all covered in a fine, powdery dust, climbing on ladders, fiddling with wires hanging from the ceiling, hunched over on the floor, tinkering with pipes, popping out of holes and doorways and walking through walls. Drills and saws and sanders buzz in the background. The windows have been installed in the salon, walls have been put up, even some trim in the ceiling is in place. We walk into the galley, the cabinets are in, but not the shelving –they’re waiting for me to tell them how I want it laid out. The appliances are in, and I have to design the “fiddles” that I want for the stove (to keep pots and pans from sliding when I’m cooking underway), two Miel ovens and a small steam oven, warming drawers, sinks, dishwashers, refrigerators. I have to design how I want the shelving in the walk-in. I notice there is no locking system for the walk-in, or upright freezers and fridges so they’ll be secure underway incase we hit rough weather – I make a note to talk to the designer about that. Chicken tells me that a huge pallet has arrived to the warehouse for me from JB Prince and Korin – the kitchen supplies that Mrs. X and I bought on our December shopping spree in New York City. I have to sort through the boxes, enter everything into our inventory system and figure out what I still need (and where I will store it all once I’m in the galley). We continue through the rest of the boat. Thankfully, the crew cabins don’t appear as small as I had originally thought, although the difference is really between a matchbox and a tin of sardines. Which would you prefer? Chicken and I talk about how we’ll be organizing the storage areas as we peak underneath stairwells and stick our heads in bilges.

As we head back to the office we talk about doing some professional wine service training and wine tasting courses for the crew. I take the task on to arrange it. We also want to arrange a wine tasting trip once all the crew is in town, so everyone can have some fun and get to know each other. I have to create a preference sheet for the crew (and the guests). There are nine of us crew, so there is bound to be a vegetarian or two, or someone who won’t eat fish or someone who doesn’t like things too spicy, etc. I have to order some samples of chefs’ coats and aprons and have them approved by Mr. Precious, since he’s designed all of the crew uniforms. Hobbit gets in Sunday afternoon, “will you make Pad-Thai for us on Sunday, please Cookie?”. Sure, I haven’t cooked Thai since Thailand! Our chief stew arrives on Monday, the engineer on the following weekend and the rest of the crew a week later… My brain is swimming in information.

We head up to the house in West Seattle, not far from the boatyard, but first, a tour of the local gourmet grocer, “Metropolitan Market”. It’s a real eye-pleaser, everything is so fresh. Giant artichokes, a dozen different lettuces and mushrooms, rows and rows of elegant displayed fruits and vegetables, fresh seafood laying seductively in beds of ice, beckoning. Isles of organic, whole-grain, low-fat goodness. Next to the office at the boat yard, this is the place I’ll be frequenting the most while we’re here in Seattle.

Chicken has the neighborhood scoped out; the local fish store, the health food store, etc. Tomorrow we’re going to hunt down a place called The Great Mall, a big Asian grocery store and shopping mall south of here. I hear there is a really good Japanese market around too. Chicken is a definite food enthusiast. It’s going to be great to have someone to explore with and to cook together.

We drag my suitcases up to two flights of stairs to the top floor of the house. Since I’m the first crew member, I get to pick my room. I take the bigger of the three, the one that gets the most sunlight. We’re both starving. I drop my bags and we run out and jump into the pimp van – Chicken wants to take me to a Tapas restaurant she discovered nearby…

Finally, back to work…

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