The Executive Chef is typically responsible for the management of the kitchen on a cruise ship called the galley. Usually he will have previous experience in a four or five star restaurant and culinary school training. Duties include supervision of the entire galley staff, food planning, quality control and directing all of the culinary and associated operations throughout the vessel. Cruise line work is extremely demanding and is all-consuming. You eat, breathe and live the job when aboard. There are no days off – it is a 7 day work week. Most cruise lines serve passengers around the clock.
Usually the Executive Chef doesn’t actually create the recipes or menus that are prepared onboard. They are done at the cruise line’s headquarters. But he does estimate daily needs and help set food orders. The Executive Chef is also responsible to mentor, develop and provide on-the-job training to subordinates.
Working in the galley of a cruise ship is very different from any other kitchen on land. From the moment you board the ship it’s rock ‘n roll – and not just the movement of the ship. The 24/7 operation is fast paced and intense and must be able to handle and resolve every unexpected challenge. For example, what do you do with the bananas for fruit salad that have ripened too quickly? You add Bananas Foster to the dessert offerings. For fire safety, there are no gas stoves onboard. Former land based chefs must make the adjustment to cooking on electric stoves. For safety reasons and to prevent disease, food storage, food preparation and actual cooking are all done in separate areas.
The size of the ship and the number of restaurants and dining rooms on board determine the number of kitchens needed to turn out the massive numbers of meals, desserts and snacks needed to keep the passengers fed and happy.
The environment of a cruise ship galley is one of high pressure. The Executive Chef must have excellent planning and organizational skills in order to ensure quick and elegant presentation of meals to cruising guests from all over the world – many with very discriminating palates. Fine dining has become highly anticipated on luxury cruise lines. He must also be able to resolve issues such as inappropriate service and answer numerous food related questions.
So although there are similarities between land- based kitchens and kitchens on the high seas, there are also big differences.
What has been your experience managing and/or working in the kitchen for a cruise liner?