Food Presentation

One area of food service on vessels I think gets overlooked most of the time is presentation. When the crew is working hard outside all day, it’s great to come in to a hot meal. When it looks good it’s even better for crew morale in my opinion. Here’s a great example of a good looking plate

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Another

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We eat with our eyes and our noses first. My crew, we have a line for food, and are served off a steam-table buffet. The food is usually great, and I wouldn’t complain about food on principle, even if it wasn’t. Its a challenge to present food that’s come from a buffet, though. Cause we can’t see the whole of the offerings, and so the guy dishing it out can’t know when he starts how much or which dishes we each want. Its impossible. But day after day the guys complain about what amounts to presentation. They even complained to our shore manager about it!

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Woah! They let you have the big spoon?

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I concur. However, IMO it is something for the officer’s mess where it will be appreciated. In my experience in the crew quarters they are more inclined to go for quantity then quality. These elsewhere prepared dressed plates, like the above shown nice example, probably won’t suit their appetites.

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A wise man once said: no rice, no power.

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I can understand why steam-table buffets make sense on offshore installations where hundreds of people are being fed or cruise ships where thousands of people are being fed, but on a ship where there are only 10-20 people to be fed it should be easy for a cook to do individual meals and not a buffet.

20 breakfasts, lunches and dinners should be straight forward for any professionally trained cook to do, many cooks in busy restaurants ashore would love to have that little work even if they have extra people in the kitchens ashore.

The problem with buffets is that it can lead to a lot of wastage where stuff doesn’t get eaten, at the other end of the scale the other problem is that if you have greedy crew and there is something really nice for dinner there will be nothing left for the people who come in last for dinner, the buffet will have been cleaned out by the greedy people piling their plates high.

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Professionally trained? That is a stretch when we are talking about US union cooks. I suggested brining a turkey once and was told they thought the meat would get salty. Worse than that, I’ve had excellent stewards who have tried to teach some of the cooks we have had over the years a few things and most will not listen to a bit of the knowledge the more experienced professional is trying to pass on. It is very troubling to see.

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I think of the situation with food on board as analogous to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.. With good food in the boxes , a good cook, a good steward and a break in the schedule, yeah, it’s nice to sit down to a pleasant meal. But on some days, or on some trips that’s aiming too high.

Some meals you just hope every one gets something edible to eat.

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Oh, yeah. When I was sailing on tugs, we always had a designated cook, but man, it was hit or miss. Best food I ever had was on an old States Lines break bulk. The kitchen staff had worked on the PFE passenger liners. . . that was my third ship. I expected that again, but never really got it. On the tugs, the good cooks would put out a few different items for food and we would serve ourselves. No steam tables. The bad cooks would just do a one pot meal.

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I noticed food presentation matters when it comes to how fast snacks disappear. If grapes are left out on a large platter they’ll get eaten quickly until there’s 15 left. Those 15 will set until they turn to raisins. But if someone puts the remaining grapes in a disposal cup or bowl & puts the platter away then the once abandoned grapes will be snatched up the next time someone walks by.

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Yes cmakin, it was hit or miss on the tugs, we knew (at least I did ) when we got a keeper. Went out of my way to keep him happy, and the bonus if they helped on deck, helped them move up the ladder if they wanted to. Going from 12 man to 8 man crew, you needed every hand. Last best one I had is still working as an AB tankerman. He manned the slicing “station” for prime rib at Christmas. We are friends to this day, recently gave him a ride to the airport at a rare local crew change. My hat is off to the good ones, was more than happy to show the other crowd the door.

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For that to happen you also needed a bad captain & probably a bad chief mate. When I worked on tugs/ATB’s I seen a crankity CM put a stop to 1 pot dinners. The CM told the dayman he was going to email the office & tell them they could get rid of the dayman position by paying the CM $50 extra a day to wake up 30 minutes early & throw a bunch of junk into a crockpot for 6 hours. The dayman got the message & we got a salad & a can vegetable side every day after that.

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The more astute stewards will serve two popular items at the same time to avoid running out and then serve two unpopular items together to use up the less popular items.

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What a stuck up elitist thing to say.

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Yeah, don’t be bougie, Dutch. Modern vessels have a common mess, and I assure you: as an officer and a lady I can tuck in with the best of them.

(on a culinary side note: KD & Avocado :metal:)

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You’re judging the past with today’s paradigm. If you were familiar with Dutchie you would know he is as old as Moses. He started with people who probably started their careers on sail ships. In his day his Asian unlicensed crewmembers proudly called themselves terms that would be considered derogatory today. I’m talking about real old, old… But even today, my Filipino unlicensed seldom want anything to do with what Americans call delicacies. They happily grab the rice, adobo & fish soup dishes and skip over the westerner style foods. Dutchie isn’t being PC but telling the truth about his experiences from his time & some places in the world. I’m a worker bee too somedays & the calories in the picture in comment 1 wouldn’t be enough for me on some days.

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Speaking of delicacies…

chips

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Sand Pebble, I generally agree with your posts. I never sailed on ships, but have sailed on tugs/atb’s with a not unlimited grub budget but darn close. I ate the same food as the crew did, no special treatment other than an occasional BLT with a thin slice of vidalia onion while in season… Crockpot cooks did not fare well with me, or my crew. The OP sounds like a fellow we would welcome aboard. A CM going behind my back to email the office on a matter that can be taken care of in house and rewarded to get a salad and canned veggie is not my idea of a remedy. Crew morale is crucial with being well fed. I took special attention to that, among the other seagull squawking stuff. In my day, had great latitude in who stayed and who didn’t, union or not. I never complained much, but when I did, ears were open.

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