The cruise ship galley is like an ant hill – hundreds of staff work as a close-knit team to prepare and serve thousands of meals to guests every day. Each position has an important role to play, without which smooth galley operations could be severely undermined.
Due to volumes, each position may have several crew working simultaneously or in shifts. Still, even a single person missing from the chain could cause an increase in load for the team.
When one thinks of cruise ship galleys, the synonymous image is of food – beautifully plated, colourful and delicious. This is all done by the chefs and their assistants: the demi chefs de partie in the hot galley, the pastry chef in the cold galley, and the bakers in the bread department. These positions are responsible for the putting together the various ingredients of the dishes to the specifications laid down by the cruise ship company.
However, none of this would be possible without any of the crew members involved in preparation of the food. To increase efficiency, cruise ship galleys have an army of crew involved in setting the mise en place, washing and cutting produce. Positions engaged in these roles include the first, second and third cook – or commis, and trainee cooks.
Their job is to keep everything in place for the chefs to put together to create the dish in as little time as possible. This could range from julienned carrots to salad dressing, trimmed steaks to decorative chocolate shards. Without them, the demi chefs de partie would be unable to send meals out the galley doors quickly.
When you think of all the preparation that goes into making a meal, there’s a considerable mess left in its aftermath – everything from vegetable waste and egg shells to spills and dirty utensils need to be cleaned to a standard.
This is where the cleaning crew come in. Dishwashers and galley stewards or cleaners have a herculean task ensuring the entire galley is spotless at all times. Spot checks by public health authorities are common on cruise ships and low ratings could lay the vessel off until authorities are satisfied. They can also affect bookings.
Making sure everyone works in tandem with each other is the chef de partie, who assigns specific duties to each crew member in the galley and reviews the day’s menus from different restaurants. He or she also looks after the entry-level chefs, gives them advice on their skills and brings them up to speed.
Another indispensable arm of the cruise ship galley is provisions. Without someone keeping proper tabs on the amount of produce and various ingredients available to the chefs, the galley could run out before the ship has a chance to even hit port.
The provision master and his or her assistant keeps a close watch on every ingredient in the pantry and storage areas, noting the rate at which each item is being used and accordingly ordering food supplies well in advance.
Crew members involved in stores and provisions must be extremely attentive to detail as produce typically has a short shelf life. They need to be aware of the rate of ripening of fruit and vegetables, such as bananas and lettuce which ripen or wilt quickly.
Overseeing all of these various processes is the sous chef. He or she is the mediator between the executive galley positions and the ground reality, looking after quality control and monitoring the assignment of duties to various crew members.
Many cruise ship companies also have a culinary administrative assistant, whose job it is to look after facets of the galley that are not food related. These include scheduling training programmes, answering emails for galley management, working with the crew purser who handles payments, etc.
At the very top is the executive chef and assistant executive chef or executive sous chef, who are responsible for the entire galley operations. They perform a supervisory role and liaise with the director of food and beverage of the cruise line to make sure that all service is up to standard, and any changes in menu are implemented.
Together, the team works as a cohesive unit, ensuring that both guests and managing company are happy with the quality of food and service.