A galley is much more than just where food is prepared on a ship, it’s the heart of the vessel. Each galley has its own style and feel to it, some feel homier with more familiar equipment like a home kitchen while others have industrial ovens and stainless steel countertops, but I always hope for lots of counter space and clever storage. No one work space is perfect, but you have to work with what you’re given, it comes down to where the galley is located, how it is arranged and the equipment you have to work with.
I’ve worked in two different styles of galleys, ones open to the ship and the dining area and others where the galley is its own contained room and the food has to be delivered to the dinning area. Over time I have come to enjoy a more open galley, I like to watch as people take their food, be there to answer their questions and in between meals I don’t miss out on the action of the vessel. With the galley open to the ship I get watched a lot, I don’t mind, it’s probably very appealing to others, but it’s always when I’m doing something complex that a passenger will strike up an in-depth conversation with me. On the other hand, being in an enclosed galley is quiet and relaxing, if I mess something up no one will ever notice and I can keep a few things a surprise but being closed off can be lonely. Sometimes the galley is buried deep in the ship and no one comes to visit me, plus having to take food up and down stairs or half way across the ship is a hassle I’m not fond of dealing with.
Kitchens in a normal home have all of your food storage right there, cupboards filled with dry goods and a refrigerator for the cold stuff. The more food oriented people might have a spare fridge or freezer in the garage and if they’re lucky, a big pantry. When you cook for huge groups you need a lot of storage space and for whatever reason when ships are designed no one considers putting food storage close to the galley. The two European vessels I worked on, Sorlandet and Gulden Leeuw were the worst for storage. On Sorlandet the galley was in a deck house and to get food you had to go down a flight of stairs, creep past classroom spaces and down a narrow ladder. At least the dry goods and walk in cold storage were all in one location. On Gulden Leeuw you walked through a narrow passage way in the student’s dorm to a closet where you descend a ladder to the dry storage, the storage area isn’t even big enough to stand up in! I would bring reusable shopping bag with me to fill up with cans and other ingredients for the day, it made it easier on the way back up the ladder to just have a bag slung over your arm. Produce and cold storage were in another section of the ship, so you pass by the dry storage closet, through a hallway of private crew quarters then down a curved stairwell to the fridge and freezer area. The refrigerator was a walk in, but small so other longer lasting perishable produce were stacked in crates waiting to go in when there was room.
The thing that I miss the most about cooking for 50+ people is the large equipment. Eight burner stove, large flat top griddle, two industrial ovens that can hold 12 sheet trays each, hood vents to suck the steam away and a really big stand mixer. Those bigger boats also come with students that do your dishes, it was time consuming to train them and keep them in line, but they did the chore I hate the most.
My current galley on Zodiac works really well for me. It’s located in the center of the ship, pretty much everyone comes down the companion way to the galley to get to the rest of the boat. Across from my work area is the main dinning table with a heavily used coffee and tea station in between. As far as storage goes it’s way better and more convenient compared to other ships, she’s also a lot smaller so that’s a big factor. All of her cold storage is in the galley, two refrigerators under the counter and one more regular sized one in the pantry along with an upright freezer. Since most of our trips are three days and we take less than 40 people on over nights it’s just enough cold storage space if everything is packed right. When I return to the boat from grocery shopping I put things away in the reverse order of when I’m going to use them so I’m not having to dig for what I need. Her dry storage is also closer at hand, there is a small pantry in the galley and just opposite under the benches around the table is more storage for dry goods. There is one more location for storage, the lazarette, it’s the aftermost space on the ship, it is more used for boaty gear storage than it is for food, but I’ll put additional bags of potatoes or onions there along with canned beverages.
This is my fourth year returning to Zodiac and her galley, out of all the spaces I’ve worked in this has grown to be my favorite. Sure I’ve been here the longest and it feels like home, but also it has so many things that I like; a hatch in the middle to let in light and air, it’s centralized in the boat and best of all it’s just the right size that I can reach everything without having to traverse across the whole boat. The only down side is that I wish there was a second oven and having to pack the refrigerators just right for longer trips, but hey, both of those things comes down to planning, one of my favorite parts of the job.