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The Ultimate Guide to Working as a Chef on Ships - upcoming event by Sapko C.E. Ltd.

The Ultimate Guide to Working as a Chef on Ships

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work as a professional chef on a cruise ship? If the answers is yes then this is your article. Below you will learn about all of the food-related positions on the ship. What are their duties and what it takes to become one?

All cooks on the ship belong to what is called the Galley department. Work in the galley is, usually, separated in two shifts. The night shift is tasked with making the pre-preparation of the food. This ensures that the day shift can focus solely on cooking the food. The day shift starts with the preparation of the breakfast and usually ends with dinner service. Work in the ships’ kitchen can be quite hectic but that is something you should expect. Every ship has a hierarchy or a chain of command and everyone on the ship has its place there. This is also true for everyone working in the kitchen. 



Before we dive into the positions let’s look at a few examples of what kind of dishes are being served on the ship. 

The Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes served on Disney Cruise Line

The Lollipop sushi on Celebrity Cruises

An overview of a restaurant on the Norwegian Escape

Now that you know about some of the most exciting dishes cooks prepare here are all of the positions on the ship.


Executive Chef

Executive Chef on board cruise ship

So what does the executive chef do? 

The executive chef is the captain of the kitchen. He is responsible for the work of the entire kitchen staff. He leads his team motivates and trains them. The executive chef is also the person who must evaluate the work of everyone in the kitchen and ensure high standards.

As the executive chef, you will also need to make sure that your kitchen is properly organized and maintained. Space on a ship is tight so storage should be utilized in the best way possible. You will also need to properly stock your kitchen. Unlike a usual restaurant located in a city if something runs out you can’t just place an order and have it delivered. Ships only resupply when they stop at a harbor. So you have to predict stocks in advance. 

The executive chef also ensures hygiene in the ship kitchen which must be in accordance with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) regulations.  These are a set of practices designed to prevent the contamination of food in every step from storage to preparation and serving.

As an executive chef, you will also be the face of the kitchen. Sometimes you will be participating in events and interact with guests. This creates a connection between the staff and the passengers and elevates the dining experience. 


What it takes to become an executive chef

You will need a culinary school diploma and some experience in the desired positions. It’s not a requirement to have previous experience on a ship but it’s definitely a plus. However, it is required that you’ve had at least two years of experience in 4 or 5-star hotels or restaurants on the position. 

Good command of English is also mandatory. Ship crews are often multinational but the language of communication on a ship is almost always English so you will need to ensure trouble-free communication.

Do keep in mind that becoming an executive chef is no easy task. You will need many years of experience. On top of that all of the organizational responsibilities and budgeting will fall on you. It’s not enough to be the best cook. You need to a great leader and a manager on top of being an excellent chef.

The executive chef answers to the Hotel Manager, Executive Travelling chef or Corporate Chef. 

Next down the line is the - 


Executive Sous Chef / Sous Chef / Jr. Sous Chef

The executive sous chef is the second in command in the ship kitchen.  When it comes to duties the executive sous chef has pretty much the same duties as the executive chef. You will be his right hand and must assist him at all times. Executive sous chefs also have the responsibility of relieving the executive chef when he is absent. This is important since work on the ship can be quite challenging, work hours can be long and rest is important. That is when the executive sous chef should be ready to step in and take charge. 


What it takes to become an Executive Sous Chef

The requirements for becoming an executive sous chef are pretty much the same as becoming an executive chef. 

Usually. you start as a Junior Sous Chef if you have less experience. From there you can work your way up the hierarchy and eventually get promoted. 

If you become an executive sous chef you will be answering to the executive chef.

Next up is the Cook. 


Cook / Jr. Cook 

The cook is the core of the kitchen. He is the one who is in charge of preparing all the tasty meals for the customers. Most ships will have their own menu cycle. As a cook, you will be preparing daily meals in accordance to that cycle. Aside from that, you will also have the responsibility of keeping your workplace nice and tidy. This is crucial since all personnel working in the kitchen must adhere to the HACCP regulations for hygiene on board.

Cooks on ships usually work in teams so be prepared to assist other members of the culinary and restaurant team. Be prepared to learn new skills on the job and from your colleagues. The fact that you have made it into the cruise company's kitchen does not mean there is no room to grow your skillset.


What it takes to become a cook

You will need a diploma from a culinary school to prove your experience as a cook. Other than that you will need to be fluent in English since you will need to be working in a fast-paced environment where proper communication is key. Most companies will require you to have at least two years of previous experience in 4 or 5-star restaurants.

The cook answers to the executive chef. 

Finally, you have two positions that bring a sweet side to the rough seas. 


Pastry chef

They say the tougher the job the sweeter the reward. And here is one position that brings all kinds of sweets to the ship. As the pastry chef, you are in charge of crafting beautiful desserts that your guests will dream of long after they have left the cruise ship. Just like the cook, you will be following a menu cycle. You also have the usual jobs of keeping your workspace organized and up to hygiene standards. 



The baker is the job that brings the sweet smell of freshly baked bread to the ship. When you are a baker you will be in charge of baked goods. This job is closely related to the pastry chef since a lot of desserts require baking. The difference is that you are also in charge of any baked breads that may serve as a side dish to the guests. When you gather enough experience and perform your duties well you can get promoted to Chief Baker. 

Both Pastry Chefs and Bakers can become Executive chefs, but they will need to start from the Junior Cook position and work their way up. During that time you will learn to prepare main dishes.


What it takes to become a pastry chef or a baker

For a pastry chef or a baker, you need to meet the usual requirements which are having a culinary school diploma, а minimum of two years of previous experience and a good level of English so that you can communicate with the members of the team to truly create masterpieces in the kitchen. 


What if you don’t have previous experience in restaurants or hotels?

If you want to get on the ship and start working in the Galley immediately after graduating culinary school you can become a Kitchen Steward. This position is perfect for anyone who wants to get a feel of the ship’s kitchen. 

Also if you perform well in any junior position some companies may offer you further education and training so that you can rise up the hierarchy in the kitchen.


Valid documents you will need

Just like any job galley personnel need to have certain documents permitting them to work. Unlike a regular cook, chefs who work on ships travel constantly. If you want to work on river cruise ships that go round rivers within the EU you will need an EU passport. If you are not an EU citizen you will need to have a German work Visa. For people from Russia and the former Soviet republics, a Schengen visa is a requirement.

So if you think the Galley is your place in on the ship feel free to check out all the free positions for galley personnel on our website

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