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Cooking for a Party of Eight in a Small Kitchen

Mon, 10/20/2014

Living on a yacht for a week is a wonderful experience so long as the cook can make time to enjoy the trip too!  No matter how much you like to cook, no one wants to spend all afternoon inside a boat galley when you could be lounging on deck enjoying the favorite local drink or snorkeling in the ocean.

Everyone agrees that the crew gets along better when well fed!  My job (as the galley cook) is to plan two or three healthy meals every day. We always have a healthy breakfast on board and I have a fabulous dinner party including hors d’oeuvres and dessert for the crew every night!

I grew up in a big family and started cooking for them when I was ten or eleven years old.  I am used to cooking meals for at least eight!  In fact, when I try to cook for fewer people there will be left-overs for sure! So planning and cooking for our boat crew is stress-free for me.  We usually serve eight or nine people including the captain. The most challenging aspect of cooking for the crew is making sure each menu has a dish for each of the different diet requirements. We usually have someone that eats no red meat, someone that is vegetarian and someone who is diabetic.  To make sure I have everyone covered, dinner menus always include a vegetarian dish and a salad.

Although I love cooking; cooking on a yacht is a bit of a challenge because the galley space is so small.  I had to learn how to adapt and compensate.  A small kitchen is a reality for many people, but it needn’t keep you from providing healthy, delicious meals for you and family. It may be tempting to eat out to simply avoid the hassle, but cooking in small kitchens can truly be fun. Here are some tips I have discovered, to help make cooking real food possible in a small space.


This seems like a “no brainer” but it makes cooking in a small space much easier. I wash dishes as I go along.  When I finish cooking I only have a few items to wash and put away.  One of the bareboating rules is if you cook, you don't have to do the dishes after the meal!  So, a crew member volunteers to do the dishes after the meal.


Cooking a good meal takes some planning; cooking a meal in a tiny space takes even more. Think about how to maximize on your dishes, where can you do two jobs at once, and what order will minimize dishes, vegetable peelings, and stress. This means that you are going to have to plan your menus ahead of time and know what you are going to be cooking. If, for example, you have a small oven, then cooking a huge turkey is just not an option for you. Also, knowing what ingredients you are going to need and when you are going to need them, as well as what appliances and supplies you are going to need and when you are going to need them will allow you to make the most of your space.


Organization starts in the grocery store. I have my fruits, vegetables, grains and meats bagged separately.   Then when it’s time to store the food, I follow the FIFO (first in/first out) method. Items that I will use first are in the front. Items that will not be used right away can be stored in the back or under the seating area.


 Buy fresh or frozen pre-sliced or diced ingredients. This doesn't increase your counter space, per se, but it does eliminate the need to use the counter for chopping. Buying pre-prepped ingredients saves you prep time, and eliminates the hassle of clean-up. Even better, many items come in re-sealable containers, so you can use the leftovers later.


Most charter boats have BBQ grills, and using the grill is a great way to break up the tasks, keep the heat out of the inside of the boat, and to produce very tasty meals that fit the ambience. I can usually get one of the guys on board to help with the grilling... especially if I offer him a beer or glass of his favorite drink.

Nowadays they have smokeless indoor grills for apartment use, so you can grill in your home.  Check out this link on for more information. Make sure to check your city municipal guidelines for grilling indoors too!

My Seven Day Dinner Menu in the British Virgin Islands includes:

  • Grilled mahi-mahi with mango ginger coleslaw
  • Grilled lamb chops with a yogurt mint sauce
  • Grilled jerk chicken with black beans rice and pineapple
  • Grilled lobster with jerk rum butter sauce
  • Rasta pasta with shrimp
  • Grilled yellowfin tuna with beets & candied walnut salad
  • Grilled spicy pork tenderloin with mango chutney and potato stuffing

Several of these dishes will have left-overs that can be used for lunch the next day. I like to make pork fried rice, lobster quesadillas or fish tacos the next day for a quick lunch when the crew is still on board for lunch.

Desserts are always no-bake!  I make a delicious no-bake key lime pie; chocolate truffle; grilled pineapple with ice cream and rum; orange pudding; and mango swirl.

Don't miss the next issue for my holiday menu planning that will make cooking for the holidays (in a small space) fun!

For more detailed information about cooking in small spaces and to get the recipes I mention, click here to go to my blog.  Or visit my website at to sign up for the next cooking class in St Martin. 

Marvelle Manga's picture