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Yacht Cooking Means Shipshape Service, Right Down to the Plate's Careful Position

The captain's flan, with the flags appropriately turned to 12 o'clock.
Photo by Sara Ventiera

Chef Sara Ventiera is on a three-week trip to the Bahamas, manning the kitchen on a 91-foot yacht. She will file regular updates from the waters about what it's like to work on a yacht, from pretrip provisioning to seaplane produce delivery. Click here for previous reports.

The captain's flan, with the flags appropriately turned to 12 o'clock.
The captain's flan, with the flags appropriately turned to 12 o'clock.
Photo by Sara Ventiera

"Can you seat them for me?" I asked Julie, the stew. "I have about ten minutes on the chicken and their starter is almost good to go."

This is crunch time in the galley. They asked to eat at 6:45. It was 6:47, I wanted to get this service over as quickly as possible. I wanted to go to bed. Julie hurried out to the aft deck to announce dinner was ready to be served. The guests meandered into the dining room to gather around the table. Meanwhile, Julie grabbed bottles of Pellegrino and wine. Tonight, their options were a Chassagne Montrachet, Domaine Ott Rose, and Acacia Pinot Noir. Each is

phenomenal, with the price tag to match.

While Julie tended to

the guests, I was whirling around the galley. Tonight's menu was simple

to execute, but there is always a bit of pressure before sending out the

meals. To start, I made a balsamic-dressed, mixed-greens salad with

fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and kalamata olives.

With two days to go until I receive my new provisions via seaplane, I

need to use up the perishables. When Julie walked in, I had just started

garnishing the plates. She grabbed the first few salads and rushed them

out to the guests. By the time she returned, the rest were ready.

With

the starters out of the way, I focused on the entrees. My chicken

breasts were just about ready to come out of the oven. The stock was

boiled and ready for the couscous. I threw haricot vert into the top of

the steamer. Off went my oven thermometer. I pulled out the chicken and

tented it with foil. Dinner was minutes away. Now I just had to wait for

the guests to finish their salads. This usually takes just a few

minutes. Tonight they were tired. It felt as though it took hours.

When

cooking for this many guests, it feels as though timing is always off

in one way or another. Usually, I feel like I'm running behind. Tonight

it felt like the opposite. As they worked on their salads, I removed the

china from the oven and set it out ready to plate. Finally, the

clanging of the forks on the salad plates ceased. Julie walked into the

dining room. As I heard her picking up the plates and silverware, I

began plating the entrees. I started by delicately spooning the lemon

couscous with toasted pine nuts and roasted garbanzo beans. I set the

chicken breast diagonally leaning over top. The haricot vert went across

the intersection of both for some height. Julie and I quickly ran the

plates out to the dining room and gently set them in front of the

guests, making sure that the cross flags at the top sat directly at 12

o'clock in front of each patron.

"Tonight, we are eating chicken

stuffed with gruyere, sun-dried tomato, and artichoke, over lemon,

garbanzo, and pine nut couscous, with haricot vert. Enjoy." I said.

"It looks beautiful. Thank you" said the boss.

I

returned to the galley to plate the dessert. I was serving the

captain's flan. It's one of the boss' favorites. It's also one mine,

because I didn't have to make it. The captain slid a knife around the

edge of the ramekins and flipped them over the dessert plates. While he

worked on the desserts, I plated our dinner. We eat the same meals as

the guests. As we ate in the galley, we heard nothing but the clinking

of forks on plates from the dining room. Apparently, the guests were

also satisfied.


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