From 15 per meal to 40... In a bit over my head

Joined May 18, 2010
Ok so quick details: I work as a cook in the maritime sector. I usually cook for about 15-20 people per meal, per day. Meals are at 0530, 1130, and 1730 (530 pm). It's a long day, but tolerable.Now we are about to have 40 people onboard for me to cook for and I'm a bit worried. There are supposed to be two of us for this number of people, but budget cutbacks have hit us hard, so I will be the only one. I'm also limited by the size of my galley: I have a 6 burner electric stove, an oven that will fit 3 sheet pans, a two basket deep fryer, a microwave, a couple electric griddles, a rice cooker, and a 4 hotel pan sized steam table. no broiler, no hotbox. Breakfast I think I'm ok with, although any tips and tricks with that for a crowd the size I am dealing with are appreciated, as I don't have much of a breakfast background. Obviously things like eggs to order are out of the question. Lunch and dinner (lunch being the main meal, as it is the shift change) are generally supposed to be two meats, two starches, and two veg, although that's a loose guide. I guess what I'm asking for is tips on doing things ahead of time, doing things in large quantities, foods I can cook in the oven while I nap (it's a 16 hour day, 7 days a week) ways to streamline prep, etc. I don't really need recipes, more like advice on how to deal with this many people with the equipment I have. Thanks for any advice.
Joined Oct 31, 2012
First, Congratulations on doing the job. That's a long day seven days a week. Hope it's not too many weeks. You'll need some time off or end up going overboard. 

Second, I wouldn't worry about the numbers too much. It really is just more of the same thing you're already doing. I don't see you mention what kind of cold storage you have.  A walk-in would be helpful as would a rolling rack.  

     At any rate, as with any larger food service advance prep is most helpful. So put out one meal, prep for as many meals ahead as is practical in your circumstances. 

If you can't tray things up on sheet pans  for a meal or two ahead, at least get the basic materials out of the freezer so they will be thawed when you need them or out of the box or can or chopped ahead.

     Breakfast can be scrambled eggs but you could also make frittatas for a crowd. Of course, cereal and granola with yogurt and fresh fruit.

While fresh is always preferable, if you have access and storage there are numerous products like pre made french toast you can buy from  your supplier. Some are horrible but some are pretty good so if you can sample ahead of time that's helpful. 

Dressing up the scrambled eggs also provides some variety. Mix in some fresh vegetables or seasoning. Peppers, onions and some chili for a mexican eggs special. A curry sauce, cheese sauce or hollandaise on top makes them less boring. Personally I love oatmeal for breakfast and that's really easy and fairly quick. 

     Foods to cook ahead while napping. Anything braised, like short ribs, brisket or stew. BBQ is low and slow. Pulled pork for sandwiches. Corned beef is a long cooker and if you cook extra for dinner you can use it for hash for breakfast. Just mix with potatoes and some onion and a little seasoning. 

Okay, i need more coffee so that's all I have for now. Hopefully others here will have ideas but again, don't let the increase in customers throw you. If you can do 15, you can do 40. 

PS. I was sorry to read the part about budget cuts forcing you to cook alone when the customer count has almost tripled. That would upset me a bit. But it will be a good challenge for you and you can still have a positive experience. If any of passengers offer to help with the foodservice, by all means say yes. even if it's only putting out the silverware. But you can also include foods in some  meals that get everyone involved, like make your own sandwiches for lunch, or a burger bar. So you slice the meat or make the burgers but just tray up the ingredients and everyone builds their own meal. 
Joined Aug 21, 2004
breakfasts: strata, loco moco, amish casserole, fritatta, savory bread pudding with ground meat or sausage or bacon at service top with scrambled eggs salsa cheese and fire in oven to melt

change of shift: lasagna, stews, jambalaya, enchiladas
Joined Apr 7, 2015
the key is prep as much in advance as you can.....and off the top of my head....


As said above eggs are your friend. scrambled eggs,fritatta or a simple bowl of hard boiled eggs will do. Prep the scramble egg mixture the night before so your are not wasting time cracking 4 flats of eggs and whipping them.

Country potatoes can be baked in the oven then night before and reheated.

Biscuits and sausage gravy. You can make the sausage gravy the night before and warm i back up in the morning...  use frozen biscuits.

French toast can be made the night before and heated up in the morning.... or you can make a baked french toast in hotel pans. Line up the pieces of sliced bread, pour your custard over the top and bake. 

Purchased muffins and bagels

Oatmeal or cold cereal.

Whole fresh fruit...apples, bananas, oranges

Assorted yogurt

double duty is the way to go....

easy meats

pulled pork can be roasted low and slow over night.  Make enough for two days worth... one day use it for sandwiches...the next tacos.

Salisbury steak, baked hamburgers and or meat loaf ....make enough so you can be use to make a pasta dish for the next day.

Meatballs...fresh or frozen is up to you. Swedish one time... tomato sauce another time. 

baked chicken parts....again...bake enough to put into a pasta for the next day. 

pork! Brown them off and bake for 15 minutes... slice and serve.

pot roast... always better the next day.
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Joined Aug 22, 2013
How do you store your food/ how much room do you have? How do you serve the crew? Buffet style? If so then I would totally go the cheflayne route, you can easily feed 40 people lasagna/enchiladas with like thirty minutes to an hour of prep. These things can also be pre assembled and wrapped and stored for a few days, just throw it in the oven an hour or so before hand.

cheflayne cheflayne what is loco moco?? Because that literally translates to crazy booger
Joined May 18, 2010
I have ample refrigeration space, including a walkin and tons of freezer space, including two walkins, 5 coffins, and a stand up. We serve buffet style, and the food sits on a steam table for the meal:
Joined Aug 22, 2013
Yes, you say you don't need recipes. If you tell us what you an n making we can tell you how to plas it out
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