Chef Sara Ventiera is setting off 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.
As soon I saw the "Norwegian Atlantic Salmon" label on the box, I started to flip. It was Friday afternoon, and I was unpacking a $2,500 order for the yacht. I called my provisioner immediately. "Kathy, we have a problem."
My boss' wife specified a mostly organic diet, and I have a strong aversion to farm-raised fish. This farm-raised salmon was definitely not organic. Besides, I am one of those crazy animal-welfare and sustainability people. Yes, I am that person who feeds my dogs organic food, supplemented with wild salmon oil. If I can see the stark difference in their coats between using wild and
farm-raised salmon oils, I can only imagine the effects on our bodies.
Since I am the one planning the menu, I get to impose my views upon
anyone who is going to eat my food.
When it comes to cooking on
yachts, the job begins long before the guests arrive. Provisioning for
nine people, with limited storage, for two weeks can be a delicate
process. You need to be able to accommodate for multiple diets and
multiple dining scenarios. It is not unheard of to find out while at sea
that one guest adheres to a raw vegan diet while another is a strict
For this trip, it seems I don't have much to
worry about. The one request: Meals must be light and healthy. In
compliance, I stuck to ordering mostly seafood and chicken. To make
matters easier for myself, I used a provisioning company. This is common
practice in yachting. For the most part, they can get you almost any
ingredient needed and deliver straight to the dock. Obviously, for this
sort of convenience you do pay a premium, which tends to be the trend
when it comes to yachts.
Although you do pay for this convenience,
this is not to say that it's hiccup-free. Luckily, we have a good
relationship, and my provisioner, Kathy, has always catered to my anal
tendencies. We have been working together for years now, and when you
are spending this kind of money, whether it's yours or not, you have the
right to be picky.
Kathy agreed to take back the salmon. I've
made planning for the trip a bigger pain in the ass, since I now have to
make a separate trip to pick up the new salmon. There have been many
incidents in the past where provisions have been delivered last minute
with no room for mistakes.
Fortunately, I got an extra day. At
9:30 on Sunday morning, I received confirmation that we are not leaving
Monday morning as planned. Big surprise. Last-minute changes are to be
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expected in yachting. Winds are too strong. Seas are too rough. The good
news is that I have the day off. I was planning on picking up my
produce for the trip, but now I can push that to tomorrow -- meaning I
get to spend another day with my dogs.