Nothing says "morale boost!" quite like the food on the NOAA Ship Bell M Shimada. Meal time is greatly anticipated and is a time for crew and scientists alike to take a break from work to congregate, socialize, and replenish. The steward department team is made up of Chief Steward Arnold and Second Cook Jeremy. They plan out all the meals for a given leg at sea, ensure all the groceries are purchased prior to sailing, and even utilize special techniques of storing food (like produce) to ensure maximum freshness throughout the project. That's a lot of planning!
Meals are, in a word, AMAZING! They are prepared in the galley, which is the kitchen on the ship, and served in the mess (dining area). Meals are served three times a day at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast includes an assortment of hot and cold savory and sweet items and are frequently highlighted by special dishes like eggs benedict. Lunches and dinners include two main dishes, four sides, a soup and a dessert. A well-stocked salad bar is maintained around the clock as well. As you can imagine, it is a Herculean effort to pull this off every single day but Arnold and Jeremy somehow make it look easy.
Creativity and flair are evident in all dishes prepared and the cooks also take into consideration special accommodations for anyone with food sensitivities or allergies. There's even a pizza night every other Sunday that has upwards of 5-6 types of pizza prepared. Delicious!
When I asked how he plans out so many meals to ensure all the groceries are purchased and minimal food is wasted, Arnold pointed me to his massive spreadsheet displayed on the galley door. The color-coded spreadsheet is divided into 7 cycles, and each cycle represents 14 main entrée lunch and dinner combos for a two week stretch at sea. He also has all the grocery items needed for each cycle in an electronic database.
Meals happen out here without fail, regardless of the sea state. The steward department is critical to keeping everyone's spirits elevated through the amazing fare they provide us with each day at sea and at the pier. Oh yes, and let's not forget the 80's music they sing to while working. It's a great touch!
Chief Steward Arnold and Lead Cook Jeremy in the galley, in the middle of preparing another delicious meal! Photo: NOAA Fisheries