Just as the Captain and mates are spending the time planning the voyage on the chart table in the wheelhouse, a new cook needs to be planning the menu for the duration of that route and needs to spend the time to get it right.
Planning in the galley is a 3 tiered process;
Plan for the entire voyage
How long is the trip? If it’s a 2 month trip, do you need to shop for 2 months or will we be able to resupply, at least produce, at some point? How many meals are you making a day? What is your budget? Are you going shopping yourself or submitting a list to an agent or a ship’s chandler? What do you already have? How many people will you be feeding? Will that number ever change? Are there any dietary concerns or restrictions you need to be aware of? (i.e. allergies, religious beliefs). Do you have the right equipment and has it been checked for serviceability before departure? Are you in charge of the department? Are you working for a head steward? Are you the entire department? Who is your direct line supervisor if you have an issue?
Plan your menu
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having a meal plan. How do you know what stores you need if you don’t know what you are going to make? When I was cooking my rotations were 6-8 weeks long. I had to shop for 2 week voyages. It took me 2-3 hours from store entry to store departure because I had planned in advance what to buy. The last cook I took to the store took nearly 8 hours. He had always just gotten on a boat and started cooking whatever the food was on a standing order. If you know what you are going to cook, you will know what you need to buy. The other reason for having a menu plan is repetition. A mistake I made early on in my cooking experience was cooking chicken too often. I realized I was making chicken too often when a few of the crew members started making chicken noises whenever I served it. Writing out a menu will help you avoid this pitfall.
Plan the upcoming meals
If you set up your meal plan properly, what you are cooking today will often help you prepare for tomorrow. For instance, if I make enough pot roast for tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s pot pies at lunch, I don’t have to cook another roast tomorrow. Lunch has ended and dinner is in 5 1/2 hours. The meat had better be thawed by now in the fridge or walk in. How much oven space do you need versus what you have? Do you need to bake an apple pie and cook a rib roast in the same oven? If so, that pie should be in the oven already. There are a lot of little things a cook can do in the beginning of his trip to save time each week. A few examples are grating an entire block of cheese all at once or chop a bunch of onions at the same time. When you get your grub back from the store, break down the bulk packages of meat into smaller portions.
Spending the time getting ready will ensure your galley success. Working a little harder during the preparation phase will make work easier during the actual cooking phase. Robert H Schuller expressed this sentiment very well when he said, “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by spectacular preparation.”