ALPENA – The Great Lakes are filled with a variety of marine traffic, ranging from Great Lakes and ocean freighters, tugboats, barges, US and Canadian Coast Guard boats and cruise liners.
Many of these boats and ships are in service for weeks and months at a time, some even year-round. This means that crew and passengers must have access to nutritious, creative and healthy meals and snacks.
With months and weeks on the lakes, food is a major and important aspect that should not be overlooked.
Imagine you’re a chef, cook, or senior steward on a Great Lakes freighter preparing for the upcoming sailing season. A major harbor fire engulfs the boat’s aft and upper decks, which include the galley and dining area. This is what Dick LaLonde experienced in 2015 with the SS Alpena, then 73 years old.
Now entering its 80th year, the Alpena is the oldest freighter sailing the Great Lakes.
With over 25 years of Great Lakes boating experience, LaLonde had to quickly replace cabinets, refrigeration and cooking systems, cooking and serving utensils, equipment, as well as tables and seating. .
LaLonde was once again ready to prepare and serve meals and snacks to nearly two dozen crew members. He said he prides himself on making portions from scratch, rather than “ripping the foil” off commercially prepared meals. Sundays offered a selection of ham, turkey and lamb, with homemade mashed potatoes and stuffing.
There was always a salad bar and homemade soup. The other days there was steak and pizza. Leftover steaks have made their way into French sandwiches served on freshly baked rolls.
Laura Potier served on international ships, some of which traveled to the Arctic. His Great Lakes experience was aboard the vessels of the Canadian Steamship Line CSL.
“With a younger crew and viewing of many food TV shows, presents diverse dietary, medical, religious and palette needs,” she said.
Having grown up on the sea routes, Catherine Schmuck showed a passion for the Great Lakes, sailing and gastronomy. At 19, she entered the restaurant business. Several years later, she served in the galley of a freighter for nearly 13 years.
Schmuck returned to the restaurant profession, opening a very successful, media-recognized restaurant in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada.
In 2019, the Great Lakes again invited Schmuck to serve aboard freighters.
Typically, she serves a team of 17-25 who look forward to her legendary baked goods and home-cooked meals. Due to her decades of food experience, she is sensitive to the special dietary needs of any crew member. When a new crew member arrives, she inquires directly with them and writes on a whiteboard looking for special needs. In addition, she observes what the guests prefer and do not do.
Schmuck said she preferred the kitchen to have a rear exit door so she could easily experience an outside deck. In addition, having the refrigeration and freezing system, as well as the storage area adjacent to the kitchen.
Even during the winter non-sailing season, she prepares meals on board for the limited crew members performing preventative maintenance and improvements in port.
Last year, his passion led to the publication of a 280-page hardcover book “Ship to Shore Chef”. The book is filled with current and historical recipes, photos and stories, as well as her personal memories, passions and experiences. Detailed ordering information can be found on his Ship to Shore Chef Facebook page.
Commissioned in June 2006, the 240ft USCGC Mackinaw based at Cheboygan.
According to the nearly 3,600-ton boat’s operations officer, Patrick J. Buell, the typical crew is 55 people. He added that the icebreaker offers the unique Azipod propulsion system, which allows a full 360 degree turn.
Culinary Specialist First Class Daniel Brown and CS Second Class Aaron Morris said meals are prepared from scratch and served by a four-person galley crew, plus two rotating mess deck staff . They have added meals and rations are constantly offered throughout the day. During daily cooking, the aroma spreads through the bridges.
Food and related provisions are acquired at various ports through negotiated vendors. Traditionally, storage reflects an ongoing cycle of two weeks.
Buell went on to reveal that since the crew comes from all over the United States, personal tastes and needs vary. This means that dietary, religious and other related aspects are fully taken into account.
Currently on the Great Lakes there are a number of commercial passenger cruise ships. Among the two most important are the Viking and Pearl Seas lines.
A Viking company spokesperson said the 2022 665-foot Viking Octantis entered its first year of Great Lakes cruises. The ship’s Great Lakes sailing season begins in late April and ends in October. The remaining months, the ship will cruise to Antarctica.
With five main decks, the Viking Octantis can accommodate up to 378 passengers with a crew of 256. In addition to passenger cabins, crew quarters, lounges, and deck viewing areas, the ship offers a swimming pool, exercise equipment room, hair salon, and medical center. service area.
The cruise ship offers a wide range of restaurants, from fine dining indoors and on deck, to casual dining, a deli and an Italian specialty restaurant. 24-hour room service is also available.
With all of its cruise ships, the Swiss-based company is known for creating regional cruise-relevant menus. Additionally, prior to embarking on a cruise, passengers are approached by Viking to ensure that any special menu, dietary or religious needs are fully considered.
It seems that with any Great Lakes ship, quality and creative food is plentiful. Hop on board at the right time and smell the cinnamon rolls baking.
Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired healthcare CEO and frequent writer of opinion pieces and feature articles. He is a former resident of Alpena and resides in suburban Detroit and is a veteran of the US Navy and US Navy Reserve.