Food for the crew

When ordering food what would that order be? Length of voyage? Ethnic specialities? Anything irradiated or Ultra High Temperature (UHT) treated? Agent problems?

1 Like

That is a broad topic for sure with a whole lot of variables. The key factor is budget in my experience. Amount budgeted per man per day will determine how much you can spend. UHT items are a big yes. Enough things to keep the cooks happy. But yeah. Budget, budget, budget


Study your crew. It will work out. A good cook will know how to order.

It’s a good question. Crewing up with new people would be a crap shoot leaving the new cook at the mercy of what the last cook had in the stores.

I would say communication would be paramount first with the Captain, and then trying to
learn what the rest of the crew can all agree on and what they can’t.

This Tow Boat Cook offers her insigh

I’ve known Chef’s who absolutely refuse to eat fish in any form.

If your company allows crew members to use the galley to fix anything they want between meals (with the understanding that they have to clean up after themselves) I would imagine some canned prepared quick eats such as Beef Stew, Chili, Chicken & Dumplings, could be part of an order. Sometimes people just don’t like something or have reactions to what’s being served for lunch or dinner. This wouldn’t be a go to for them…but more of a work around so that they can at least have something to eat that would better agree with them.

Otherwise root vegetables that would keep well, frozen meat, flour, corn meal yeast, eggs, milk, cheeses, dry rice & beans, canned vegetables & fruits, and all manner of frozen foods. Cooking ingredients such as seasoning salt, bouillons, baking powder, herbs & spices,and various condiments. Veggies such as Cabbage, seeds such as chia & quinoa seed, mixed nuts, powdered milk which can be made into yogurt, and consider tofu(which can be used in numerous ways)

Cooking at Sea mentions in his book…having a 15 day meal plan. This may drive your choices for items to order for the pantry.

One of my biggest beefs was crew members eating late(Not a problem by any means) and not cleaning up after themselves. Yeah, I was a prick and woke them up shortly after watch was over to clean up their shit. Don’t leave that for our other guys just coming on watch to clean up. Inconsiderate assholes. I waited until they were comfy in their rack before I knocked on the door for the most effect. As I said before, I took good care of my engineers and good cooks. Cured that behavior rather quickly. And yes, I made my own chuckle today remembering those assholes and the look on their faces when I told them get the fuck up.


I know someone who works on ERRVs in the UK, in his company the Captain and Cook don’t do any ordering, the ships call into port once every 4 weeks for resupply and crew change then the company gives all the boats in the fleet the same 4-5 week supply of food, then it’s up to the cook to make do with the items he has been given.

The guy who worked on these boats said that they had a cook join and seemed to server them a lot less meat than they were used to getting, he did a few contracts with the cook and they started to get suspicious, on crew change day in port the Captain stopped the cook on the gangway and made him open his bags, he had one big bag that was full of frozen meat that he was going to take home with him and sell. He got sacked after that.

Reminds me of the story of “Fatman” I posted a few months earlier. What a prize. Card cheat and grub thief. Most of my cooks were darn good. I could spot them after many years, the good and the bad. The good ones, I had their back 300%, the bad ones, didn’t last long. Company trusted my judgement in that phase of things. Very important the guys got fed well.

Order food that needs to be prepped and cooked. I hate when stewards order pre made heat and serve crap. Cost twice as much and taste like crap.


You can spot the good ones a mile away, In my expereince ,the bad ones the Ist 1500 ft. It ain’t that hard to figure it out early. Next to the engineers, most important guy on the vessel. JMHO

1 Like

It’s important to have cooks with very good hygiene obviously, I worked with a really dirty cook when I was working on an OSV in West Africa, loads of the crew would get diarrhea regularly, his food actually tasted relatively good, he was just manky. He also wouldn’t made enough food, so whoever came in for their dinner towards the end of the meal time would miss out on some things, it was always a mad rush to get in at the start of meal time so you could get everything.


Had one or two of those guys. Not for long though. My mate was last off of watch after 12-6. No breakfast some times and scraps for dinner. We fixed it rather quickly. Had an old Captain who had a telltale sign to look for in new hire cooks. Look for how much jewelry they wear and what kind of shoes they have on. Also their fingernails. Worked for me. Don’t get me wrong, most of my cooks were awesome.


One of the more interesting things about being a Class Surveyor is being exposed to the different cultures at sea and what they eat. Regardless of flag state, the cuisine would differ between the officers’ mess and the crew, largely because of the differences in nationalities. Some Filipino cooks were very adept at making Indian/Italian/Norther European meals for the officers, while other vessels would carry a steward or cook of the same nationality of the officers. Not sure if it is the same now, but Chevron had ships with Italian Officers and others with Northern European Officers, and the cuisines in the Dining Salon were quite different. Amoco, back in the day, was similar, however they had ships with Italian and others with Korean officers. Companies like Stena did not distinguish nationalities, and often times had as many as 10 different nationalities in both officer and unlicensed positions. My favorite? Conoco and their ships with Spanish Officers. . . often it was tapas in the Captain’s office in the afternoon while going over paperwork. . . .

1 Like

When I was a cadet I sailed for 6 months on a Reefer that was fully crewed by Filipinos, I was the only non-Filipino onboard, the food budget was tiny and the cook was really bad, it was pretty much rice and fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Most meals were fried red snapper and rice, you would get the fish with the head and skin still on, it would only be gutted and put straight in the frying pan then onto your plate. But being a reefer we had a plentiful supply of fruit like bananas and pineapples to keep healthy.

Outside of meal times the freezers, fridges and food cupboards were locked so that nobody could go in and make food for themselves. I lost so much weight that hitch.

The one highlight would be when it was a special occasion and they would make a suckling pig aka lechon.


As far as the Galley dept. goes on US Flag vessels, the USCG should get on the Galley dept. same as the USCG has got on the Deck and Engine. Deck and Engine have a mirage of STCW, so why can’t the Head of a department be required to anti-up to some additional training. There should also be some regulatory over sight. I mean cannot provision for a crew of 20 with a budget that resembles that of 1987. Or a crew of 20 gets the same budget as a crew of 15. Rice and fish all day every day is unacceptable. Provisioning the same grocery items every time, for every crew does not work either. As it might have worked fine with an all-american crew, but do a crew change and 40% of the oncoming crew is Muslim. How is 50% of the meat sent to the vessel being pork gonna work ? Budget - why send food to a vessel the crew don’t wanna eat ? The head of a galley department, should be able to provision for the crew, cook food so it comes out tasty and healthy, and do this without using a deep fryer. Rotate items so new food is not placed on top of rotten food. Be clean, mindful of food safety - refrigerate - food that needs to be refrigerated. Everything should not be coming out of a bag, box, or can. Or be pre-processed hamburger patties…


I am on a NYC tug. There are certain unwritten rules for grub shopping.

No decaf anything, especially coffee
No fat free anything
No skim milk
Buy plenty of coffee, dont ever run out, ever
No margarine or spread always buy real butter
No unsalted butter, see above
No canned veggies, buy fresh or frozen
Hellman’s mayonaise, nothing else
Heinz ketchup no substitutes
Plenty of hot sauce

Some tips from working at cheap companies, always buy extra and pack it away. You never know when your hitch will be extended. Or operations will prevent shopping.

Always have at least one meal you can pull outta your ass, even if its spaghetti with ragu.

Dont allow your engineer to prime portable pumps with bottled water. True story:)

Anything exotic or hard to find shop while off and bring it in.

Find out what your captain likes and always have some. Keep your cappy happy.

And remember where there is grub money, there is always someone there to steal it.


I was lucky during my time on tugs. Always had a cook who had a budget. Now some cooks were terrible, but we always had one. . . .

Usually there are more people on a vessel , each with some level of responsibility. So the part about keep cappy happy. Should be replaced with find out what the CREW likes and keep the ENTIRE crew happy. If someone desires a fat-free product deviate and get that. The grub money is for the ENTIRE CREW not just the captain ! If the captain like nothing but twinkies and ho-ho’s should the entire grub money be spent on that junk ? If you say yes, then Maritime Lawyers need to take note !! As that will and should lead to lawsuits due to mariners pre-maturely losing their career due to an inability to pass the USCG medical standards

Back in the 1970s there was a suggestion of replacing the cook(s) with a freezer full of ready made meals and a bank of Microwave Ovens.
This was scrapped after a lot of protest from the Unions.

Not because the meals did not taste good, but because the crew needed something to complain about and someone to complain to.
“How do you complain to a Microwave Oven”(???)


Many years ago a CEO of a major OSV company was asked during an investors conference call about the amount spent on food for the crew. His answer was short and telling. “No shipping company has ever gone broke due to feeding their crew well.”


There was a reason for Forecastle (fo’c’sle) Cards back in the day listing provisions for the crew.

1 Like