A Hearty Q&A With The Ship Chef
Donna Vestuti joined the Oliver Hazard Perry crew a few months ago (and is also an amazing photographer - check out her Instagram which include great photos of the ship!). The crew loves having her on board and below are some questions that super-trainee Hannah Leonard wanted to learn more about after enjoying Donna's cooking during Summer 2017 programs.
Why did you choose to work for OHP?
I've been working on yachts and I was interested in something different. I was really excited to be surrounded by an environment where there is learning. I just love the idea of incorporating healthy food with traveling. It's like working on a floating classroom.
WHAT IS IT LIKE COOKING FOR 30+ PEOPLE, THREE TIMES A DAY?
I found it to be a lot of fun - it allows me to be creative with portions, ingredients, and meeting everyone's dietary needs.
WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO MEAL THAT YOU MAKE FOR EACH PROGRAM?
I try not to make the same meal, but if there was any it would be pizza. However, I will do different toppings each time to keep things interesting!
Your cookies are amazing! How many do you bake in one sitting?
I bake at least 120 cookies at a time, but it seems like there's never enough!
Has working on ohp been one of your biggest cooking challenges?
Yes, its challenging in a way that timing cooking times and organization is important because offshore sailing often means that 50 people are constantly working and everyone can't be eating at once. The crew and trainees need the strength and energy to get through their watch. They need a lot of carbs but just the right amount of food to sustain them throughout the day.
IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK WITH FIVE INGREDIENTS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
This one is tough, I'd have to chose olive oil, pink Himalayan salt, fresh herbs, lemon, and veggies.
HAVING WORKED ON A VARIETY OF VESSELS, What ARE the similarities and differences working on OHP VERSUS a yacht?
The differences is that working on OHP isn't as demanding, I can serve them a lop-sided pancake and they're grateful. On a yacht you have to serve a perfectly rounded pancake. On OHP, the way of life is more like a family, there is a schedule for all the meals because of the watches. The volume of food is also a lot larger than on a yacht. The similarities is I still put the same amount of love and preparation into all my meals. Provisioning is also the same, along with all the behind the scenes work.
Do rocky waters make iT difficult to cook?
Yes it does, you have to constantly rotate what's in the oven so it cooks evenly. You have to perform a downwards dog position just to cook when it's really rocky!
What is the crew's favorite meal? How often do they request this meal?
This crew like spaghetti and meatballs with cookies. They also request cheesy grits. But they're always grateful for what I put out onto the table.”