An Allergic Reaction--being a yacht chef
Posted in charter yacht chef on July 30, 2011 by Victoria Allman
Before Amy and Scotty Angelo started roasting my favorite coffee, Oceana Coffee, a gourmet fresh-roasted coffee company in Jupiter, Florida, we all worked together on a charter yacht in the South Pacific. Each morning, before I sit down to write, I brew a pot of their latest blend and think back to our days adventuring together.
This is one of the funnier incidents...
An Allergic Reaction
I was lucky the yacht was equipped to handle the situation—not every boat could have.
It was during our morning meeting that I first recognized the problem.
“Here’s the charterer’s preference sheets.” The captain handed me four papers with scribbled notes on every line and into the margins. “It’s a doozy.”
I glanced over the regular requests for healthy, light cuisine and noticed three vegetarians and one vegan circled. The rest of the guests requested fish and shellfish only.
“Ah. “ I shrugged my shoulders. “Nothing I haven’t seen before.”
The captain nodded his head once. “Keep reading.”
I flipped the page to peruse the notes on the back. Circled, on the bottom of the page, in bold lettering was: SEAFOOD ALLERGY
I knew what that meant—a lot of running.
The yacht was an expedition-style boat that had two galleys; one in the bow for crew and one in the main house for guests. When people with severe allergies came onboard, I often employed the use of the crew galley to prepare the allergic guests meals so there would be no question of cross-contamination. It was a bit extreme, but sending someone to the hospital from something they ate onboard would not look good on my resume.
That week was an exercise in organization and stamina.
“Here are six turbot with parsley and caper salad.” I wiped the rim of the last plate and pushed it across the galley island to Amy, our stewardess.
She checked her map of where everyone was sitting as I spun on my heel to the opposite counter. “These are the vegetarian nut loaves with tomato and basil salad.” I drizzled white balsamic over the greens. “Meet me in the crew galley when you’re done.”
Amy picked up the first plates as I bolted out the door and across the deck to the crew galley. Steve, our bosun, lounged on the sofa watching Napoleon Dynamite for the fiftieth time.
“Sorry, I just need to plate the allergy.” I flung the fridge door open and grabbed the Tupperware marked “Guest Food, Do NOT Eat!” I had been in this kitchen earlier in the day prepping the edamame salad and rolling the tofu sushi, using only the spoons I had pre-marked with blue tape and the stainless steel bowls with labels on the side marked “allergy only”.
I scooped the edamame onto the plate and Amy whisked it out the door and up the stairs to the waiting table.
“I’ll be back in fifteen minutes,” I said to Steve. I don’t think he even noticed I was in the room.
I raced back to the main galley to start cleaning up. I scrubbed and disinfected the cutting boards and all utensils I used for the turbot. I bleached counters and switched dishtowels to be safe.
Amy glided into the galley with clear plates. “I’m ready for dessert whenever you are.”
Although there were no scallops in the chocolate hazelnut torte I had baked earlier, I still didn’t want to take a chance. I sprinted back to the crew galley. Steve hadn’t moved an inch.
I slid the torte from its hiding spot (in case a crew member mistook it for their afternoon tea break treat) and sliced it into twelve pieces. I lifted each one onto a clean plate and spooned Frangelico sauce around the edge. Amy met me at the door to pick up the dessert.
“Right place, right time.” I placed the last two slices in front of Steve and headed back to the main galley. It was only sixty-feet away, but I was drained already.
The rest of the trip was the same carrousel—around and around we went from galley to galley. I could barely keep it all straight. Which fridge was the seitan marinating in? Had I double-washed the tuna tartar plates?
I was exhausted by the last meal. I sent out the main course of poached shrimp with a coconut curry sauce and entered the crew galley for the last time to plate the Israeli couscous dish for the seafood allergy woman.
“This is it,” I said to Amy as we filed out the door to deliver the last of the plates.
As I approached the table, I stopped mid-stride. I couldn’t help it. My jaw dropped, my game face faltered. I stood staring as the woman with the seafood allergy reached her fork over the table and stabbed a shrimp on her husband’s plate. She popped it in her mouth and chewed three or four times before swallowing.
My eyes went wide. She must have seen the look of shock on my face.
She smiled. “Shrimp are the one seafood I like to eat.”
with a Coconut Butternut Squash Sauce
Coconut Squash Sauce:
In a heavy-bottomed saucepot sauté vegetable oil, onion and garlic for 5 minutes until golden. Add butternut squash, scotch bonnet, chicken stock, thyme and sea salt. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Add coconut milk and simmer 5 more minutes. Add apple cider vinegar. Puree in a blender. Pass through a sieve to strain. Taste for seasoning.
***This story originally ran in Dockwalk, an international magazine for yacht crew. My column, Dishing It Up is a humorous look at life in the galley cooking for the rich and famous.