Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happiness is...

Sauteed Halibut Cheeks with Brown Butter, Thyme and Lemon
Roasted Carrots and Fennel with Anise Seed
Broccoli Rabe

I remember when I first began working on yachts. I was on a really poorly run 120-foot sailing yacht anchored out in St. Barth. The crew were rarely aloud to go to shore and we worked for months on end without a day off. I was fresh and didn’t know how the industry worked. I thought it was enough just to be in the Caribbean. But at night, sitting out on the swim platform alone, chain smoking cigarettes and drowning my woes in the bottom of a bottle of 151 proof rum, I looked longingly at the big, shiny, fancy motor yachts in the marina at the Port of Gustavia, trying to spy the chefs through the windows and I thought to myself, “I need to be on one of those, damn it. And I want to go around the world…”.

Some wizened, sage soul one said, “happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.”, and I would agree. Even in that miserable situation on the first boat, I was happy – oh, but maybe that was the rum… Ok, well, never mind. Although I agree that happiness comes from the inside – I do have to contend that sometimes getting what you want isn’t such a bad thing and I am very, very, very happy in my new galley…

Bit by bit, box by box, everything has been loaded aboard. I’ve, amazingly found places for every toy and utensil. However, if someone were to give me a box of toothpicks, I really would have no place to store it. I think I’m personally responsible for increasing the ballast on the boat and ever since we loaded on the meat-slicer, I’ve detected a slight lean towards starboard.

1. A few people, whom I wont name, but job titles rhyme with ‘mapton’ and ‘renginsmeer’, have given me a lot of grief about the number of appliances I have aboard. But I took this job because I knew I’d be able to pimp out the galley – and so pimp I did. Here’s the short list of the few little appliances I have aboard:

1. Industrial meat slicer
2. Paco Jet
3. Industrial grade vacuum sealer
4. Kitchen Aid mixer
5. food grinding attachment
6. pasta making attachment
7. 20 cup food processor
8. Vita Mix blender
9. Panini Press
10. Belgian Waffle Maker
11. Vegetable Juicer
12. Citrus Juicer
13. Hand Mixer
14. Hand Blender
15. 2 Baking Stones
16. Full Set of Stainless Steel Cookware
17. Full Set of Cast Iron Cookware

And every manner, shape and size tart pan, pie pan, loaf pan, muffin pan, cake pan, pastry gadget, etc. that one can imagine

I’ve got what I want and want what I’ve got and I’m very, very happy. And, apart from, perhaps a few more feet of storage space, I’ve also got my dream job… So, what's all this nonsense about happiness not being about getting what you want and wanting what you've got?

So, I’ve been eyeing halibut cheeks in the marketplace for a while now and I’ve never cooked them before and have only eaten them once. I picked some up and cooked them for the non-meat-eating crew; sautéed them in clarified butter and oil and finished them by adding some butter to the pan and letting it sizzle away until it was a nutty brown, adding some lemon zest, lemon juice and thyme at the very end. The halibut cheeks have an amazing texture – they don’t seem to dry out the way a halibut filet would. They are also slightly sweet and the flavor and texture almost remind me of crab. They were a hit with the crew and I would definitely do them again. I cooked them on my new induction cooktop. It takes a little getting used to – the pans heat up really quickly and get piping hot, but I love it! The handles stay cool and I’m not sweating my butt off while I cook. I’ve also been using the steam oven which is turning out to be a dream! No more boiling giant pots of water to blanch veggies – just chuck them in the steam oven and have an ice-bath ready…

I’m happy. Very, very happy… Now, if we could just get the hell out of here and go somewhere warm and sunny…

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Daily Word

Chefs Prayer

Our Chef, which art in Galley
Hollowed be her Name
Thy meals come
Thy food be done, on stove as it is in oven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses into the walk-in, as we forgive them who trespass against us
And lead us not into obesity
But deliver us from gluttony
For thine is the fork, and the knife, and the spoon, for ever and ever. Amen.


1. Thou shall not make wrongful use of the name Galley by referring to it as ‘kitchen’.

2. Thou shalt not covet thy guest ingredients. During charter, thou shalt not enter the walk-in, less thy title be ‘chef’, ‘crew cook’ or ‘chief stew’. Off charter, thou shalt not take anything from any area in walk-in not labeled in blue tape for use by crew, nothing else shall be touched.

3. Thou shalt clean up after thyself forthrightly and leave thy Galley as ye have found it and not wait a fortnight to do thyn dishes.

4. Thou shalt Honor thy appliances by keeping them clean and handling them gently, as the Chef commandeth ye, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the Galley that your Chef is giving you.

5. Remember the non-stick pan and keep it holy - by raising not the temperature too high or for too long, or by burning food. Ye shall use non-stick pans labeled for “CREW-USE ONLY” for I, the Chef, am a jealous Chef punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who ruin my non-stick pans.

6. If ye burn stainless steel pans, ye shall clean them using all manner of scouring powder and scrubbers and scrubbing until all the spots are gone. Better yet, use the cast iron.

7. Thou shalt not use detergent when cleaning cast-iron. A gentle scrub with a plastic scrubber and dried upon the stovetop is sufficient.

8. Thou shalt wipe bottles clean and not put jars, bottles or food containers away sticky or with drips. Thou shalt put leftovers away in the smallest possible container.

9. Thy counter tops, cook top and backsplash shall be wipethed clean and be free of streaks, particles and spots hastily, after each use and not wait until nightfall. Thou would be wise to adopt the motto “clean as you go”.

10. Thou shalt clean and wipe out the sink after dinner and not leave bits of food in the drain; thou shalt leave the faucets clean, shiny and dry; and thou shalt empty the rubbish bin.

The path of the righteous crew-member is beset on all sides by the iniquities of those who do not put things away in the proper place. Blessed is she, who in the name of organization, sanity and good will, learns her way around the galley and puts things away where she found them and shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for she is truly her fellow crew members keeper and the finder of lost utensils. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would not attempt to put away things, in the right place, from which they have been taken. And you will know my name is the Chef when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

And please, shut the lights on the way out. Amen.

I'm going straight to Hell, aren't I? Well, I always did prefer a warm climate...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A walk on the beach...

I’m sure I could be a case study for people drawn to professions with a high burn-out factor. I mean, the trading floors of Wall Street - to this? What was I thinking? I went to school to think rationally, spent years writing programs that turned quantitative data into trading strategies, up at all hours of the night tinkering with communication protocols, writing code, gathering data, splicing and dicing it and sending it off to the four corners of the universe. Up at the crack of dawn to be on the floor when the market opened, to fix things in case my programs failed. Now, my life is ruled by different markets - farmers markets and grocery stores. But sometimes, the exhaustion is the same…

I used to think that the quantitative analysts that I worked for had an obsessive-compulsive disorder – but they’ve got nothing on a stewardess armed with a box of toothpicks, Q-tips and an arsenal of cleaning products to tackle any matter of filth, dirt, stain or mess. The Super Yacht Stewardess has put the meaning into OCD – fervently attacking toothpaste caps with toothpicks to pick out every particle of gunk from between its grooves. Every crease and corner of every cupboard, drawer and counter swiped with q-tips to get out any and every molecule of dust. Polishing and shining and not leaving a speck of lint nor fingerprint behind.

It’s been 10+ hour days, 6+ days a week as we get ready to be released from this hell we call the Ship Yard. And, it's been a dance on the boat between the crew and the yard workers as we try to clean and setup while they are still drilling holes and pulling down ceiling panels. And cleaning on a super-yacht, especially one that is just coming out of the shipyard, takes on its own special meaning – as every surface on the interior of the yacht is coated in a thin layer of fine, pink dust. Doors are taken off hinges, drawers removed so that every crack and groove can be wiped. Every surface touched, every room meticulously cleaned before even a sheet touches a bed. A process that would usually take about a month, but with all the delays we’ve encountered, we'll have to complete in about a week.

I’ve been fortunate that my galley is one of the first rooms (99%) finished, but as I clean every groove and surface (yes, with q-tips and toothpicks) and line my shelves and drawers with non-slip and begin loading in my pots and pans, I know that I’ll have to go through everything once again to re-clean. As, right now, I wipe my cooktop and within hours I can write my name in dust on its glassy surface. Except for a meal here and there, I haven’t cooked for the crew in weeks (and my stomach is suffering!), there is just too much other work to be done. I haven't cooked anything in the new galley yet and we don’t actually move aboard for another week.

So, it’s 7 days a week from here on out and the working hours are on the increase. I have a 2-week yoga retreat scheduled for 10 days beginning the 2nd of October, but most likely, not a day off until then. And if I have to swim to shore to make that retreat - any sharks had better get the hell out of my way...

Wait, so why was it that I left Wall Street again? Because I was burnt-out? Well, the yachting industry isn’t exactly a walk on the beach - at least not today...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Due to my freshly signed confidentiality agreement, I can't post photos of the outside of the yacht, nor can I post photos of the launch which is a bit of a bummer - but, since many companies have a "no-blogging" policy and the yacht owners have kindly allowed my to continue blogging, and actually enjoy reading about my silly antics and escapades, and my blogging hasn't gotten me in too much hot water (yet) then I'll gladly comply. However, I can post as many photos of my galley as I want...

So, without further ado - behold my galley, in all it's highly-polished-stainless-steel-and-laquered-wood
which-I'll-be-polishing-until-midnight-every-night glory!

There corner from which I'm taking the photo is a long counter and cupboards which will be setup as a baking area. There's also a double sink and 2 dishwashers in that corner...

And this is the piece d'resistance - the shelving system in my walk-in! Am I looking forward to filing that baby up!

Tomorrow is a big day. I've just been informed that I can get into my galley to do a thorough cleaning and then begin moving my everything aboard! There is a God!

Monday, August 04, 2008

It floats, yeah!

The feel of teak underneath my bare feat – mmm, I’ve longed for this… I look out over the portside well-deck… water… finally…

Ok, granted, it’s brackish and there’s a rainbow of oily scum floating on top and I wouldn’t stick my toe in it if you paid me… but it’s water… and the yacht is in it… floating! Hooray!

I open the side door. Silence. Everything sparkles. I stop and take it all in before stepping through. Smooth, cool tile underneath my feet… The carpenters and installers that have been working in my galley, the ones I’ve been sneaking special batches of cookies to and flirting with for the past 4 months, have done me good. The galley is impeccable and I think that it has been left the cleanest of any of the rooms on the yacht – yes, flirting and chocolate chip cookies go a long way.

There’s something about walking into a silent kitchen. Alone. Before the day has started, before the hustle and bustle. Before the rush begins. It’s a deep resounding silence, almost sacred... I imagine my new galley in the morning - a cool glow filtering through the massive windows, some faraway ocean sparkling outside in a pale-golden light. I setup my prep area – cutting board, hotel pans, prep bowls, sharp knife, clean towels… Crisp chefs jacket, clean apron. This is my lab where I can be a scientist, my studio where I can be an artist. I’m a kid and this is my playground…

The launch went off without a hitch, champagne bottle across the bow. The yacht was eased into the water on a giant lift, and most importantly, it didn’t sink. We’re only a few hundred yards from where we were in the hangar, but it feels completely different to finally be in the water. It all feels a little more real.

So, I should be able to really put my galley together over the course of the next few weeks. I’ve already mapped out where (almost) everything is going to go. I’ve been thinking about what the first smells to come out of my galley will be – but with the schedule that we have been on lately, it will probably be take-out! But I can’t wait to try out the induction stove and see how it works. I can’t wait to fill my walk-in with food. I can’t wait to organize my cupboards.

I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait!

Galley pics coming soon – I swear!

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