LET’S GET COOKING! THE CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS OF COOKING IN A 66 SQ.FT. YACHT GALLEY

Having finally jumped through all the hoops to satisfy the Coast Guard inspectors, we began dinner cruises onboard the Papagallo.
Our official crew: an experienced captain (minimum 100-ton ticket), chief steward (my wife), bartender, one wait staff person, and a chef (me). The five of us would be working together in close quarters while under way. It is essential that the crew is tight – more than in any land-based restaurant. Everyone needed to know what their duties were. In addition to performing them well, each person would need to know boat etiquette and safety procedures while serving guests onboard.

My work space is the galley, a six by eleven foot area just aft of the helm. It is called “galley up,” which means that it is located on the same deck as the salon. For a vessel of this era, our galley is considered large. REALLY??


Although the Papagallo’s galley is little bigger than a walk-in closet, I was proud to be standing there, looking out across Morro Bay. Things had finally come together. This was really happening. I took a moment to take it all in, the purchase, the voyage, the inspections. Now we were here, about to begin. I could hardly believe it. Soon I would be preparing my first gourmet meal onboard. I don’t think I’ve ever felt better about a challenge. Maybe a little in awe of it too. I wanted to get started right away, but first I had to figure out where I was going to put things and exactly how I was going to proceed!

For safety reasons Coast Guard regulations require that all the cooking equipment is electric, no propane or open fire. Surprisingly, our galley looks a lot like your kitchen at home. None of our equipment is commercial. We have a four-burner range top with a three-rack oven below. Above the range is a ceiling mounted microwave. There is a side by side refrigerator/freezer, a dishwasher, ice machine, and a two-compartment sink complete with garbage disposal. Everything is powered by a 20 KW generator located in the lazarette aft.

The space for food prep and plating consists of two, three by two-foot, granite counters, one on each end of the galley. Oddly enough, there is ample cabinet and drawer space. Boat manufacturers make use of every available square inch because they have to.

Having worked my whole career in commercial kitchens where the cooking equipment was gas fired, this galley was going to take a little time to get used to. Most chefs prefer to cook with gas rather than electric. It’s immediate. On when it’s on. Off when it’s off. Some chefs are so adamant in this preference that that they stand with arms folded across their chests and tell you flat out that they won’t cook on anything else! And up until now, I was firmly entrenched in that camp. That rigid attitude, of course, will scuttle any opportunity of chefing on a commercial yacht. And did I mention the ability to be flexible in adjusting along the way toward reaching your goal?

When it comes to flexibility, there is a lot of wisdom in the Chinese Proverb: “The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.” Onboard the Papagallo adaptability was becoming my middle name, and we did have a pitcher onboard – as well as a lot of water all around us.

But one of unexpected benefits of working in such a small galley space is that everything is at your fingertips. With a single turn, you can grab a sauté pan or any number of cooking utensils without taking a single step. Then, when you’re done with it, you can just as easily pop it into the sink or dishwasher. In this tight space, there is just enough room for one person at the range. This makes it unnecessary to share the space with other cooks as in commercial kitchens.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, it’s essential to remain flexible and creative when following your business plan. My restaurant experience has been a huge help in this area. It has allowed me to make all kinds of adjustments in order to achieve my goal of creating memorable meals for our guests. And I know that I’ve succeeded every time a guest peeks into the galley, looks around, and then shakes their head in amazement and exclaims, “I can’t believe you cooked such a great meal in this tiny space!” These triumphant moments are what keep my dream alive. They are like a good dessert that makes you want to come back for seconds!

Next week’s blog: I will take you through cranking out a five course Food and Wine Pairing Menu for 35 guests onboard in our 66-sq. ft. galley.

Just joining us? Start from the beginning here!

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