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Designing the ideal yacht galley
Many yacht chefs will argue that most galleys are not designed with an inherent understanding of the chef’s working needs.
First and foremost, the galley is a technical space, designed to facilitate one of the most important on-board activities: eating. While its specific design and layout needs are dictated by a vessel’s type and size, the main distinction that separates galley designs is private versus charter use.
Private yachts can get away with standard galleys designed to service small groups and families. High-end consumer-grade appliances will suffice, and good-looking stone surfaces and backsplashes can provide lovely accents, even allowing the galley to become a focal point of the main living areas, with islands and settees providing a gathering spot for family and guests.
When your boat is intended for charter, however, the design needs are kicked up a notch… or more.
If ever there was a design that separated American yacht owners from the rest of the world it is the ‘country kitchen’ concept. This main-deck, open-style galley – preferred by Americans for its windows, guest settees and islands for snacks and chats with the chef – originated on smaller, private US-built or -designed yachts.
As late as the early 2000s, the style was scoffed at by many European designers and yards, whose clients preferred to keep the galley – and its noises and aromas – hidden away below decks. But with time comes the cross blending of cultures; the country kitchen began to appear on larger custom builds and European builds, so much so that today it is considered an en vogue design trend by some.
Chefs certainly have their opinions on the subject. ‘I’m a huge fan of the country kitchen,’ says American yacht chef Adrienne Gang. ‘It allows guests to see and interact with the chef.’ Gang offers week-long cooking lessons on some of her charters, which guests love. ‘To have a closed kitchen limits the options of what you can do on a charter.’
Canadian chef Joanne MacKenzie disagrees: ‘It’s nice to be above deck with a window, but most importantly, it’s good to have a fairly self-contained galley so the chef can limit traffic. That rules out the country kitchen. It’s nice if you’re on a casual or smaller boat, but too much traffic from crew and guests makes the galley too hectic to work efficiently.’
Designing for workflow
No matter what type of galley a yacht has, the layout and space planning must facilitate an efficient workflow. Dutch designers Vripack suggest a triangle design that allows the chef to move about unimpeded (below). It is important to separate the crew stairs from the cooking and service areas. Yacht chef and design consultant Peter Ziegelmeier agrees.
‘Like most chefs, I’m very passionate about my workspace,’ he says. ‘We are constantly multitasking and need uniform areas with easy access so we can twist, turn, spin, smile and get it done!’
He stresses the need for the stews to have their own prep areas and that with the right design, this can be incorporated in smaller galleys.
‘Bigger isn’t always better; I’ve worked in many large but dysfunctional galleys,’ he says.
Plenty of natural light is another request of chefs and designers, as well as adequate ventilation. Most HVAC systems account for the extra air make up needed in the galley to offset the extraction hoods.
‘We custom build our hoods,’ says Mark Obernberger, design manager at Delta Marine. ‘They’re equipped with the appropriate fire nozzles and protections to meet code and class.’
While some chefs feel that the hoods make too much noise or are too difficult to clean, most builders will factor in the amount of ducting required and the fact that more ducting means more to clean.
‘An ideal layout would situate the galley as close to the top of the boat as possible, to minimize the amount of tubing,’ says Ziegelmeier.
Then there are the details, like proper counter height, foot switches on doors, custom sizeable plate holds and dual sinks. But the one layout element most requested by crew and chefs that still seems to be an unsolved challenge has to do with loading provisions and garbage disposal.
‘On some boats there are doors on either side of the galley to allow us to bring in groceries, but on others you have to either take your groceries or trash all around the boat or down narrow flights of stairs or through the salon – which doesn’t work well when guests are on board,’ says Gang.
A busy charter chef can accumulate several bags of trash a day.
‘On some boats I’ve had to stack trash on the galley floor because the only way to get it off the boat was to walk it past the salon window,’ says Ziegelmeier. ‘The last thing I want on my galley floor is stuff I can trip over.’
Trash compactors with foot pedals and direct access to a refrigerated trash storage area are common requests.
‘We’ve designed three individual food/waste bins that store recyclables, solid and treatable waste,’ says Odenberger. ‘But other boats prefer to compact and refrigerate the garbage and offload it at port. We’ve also received requests for incinerators, but we haven’t installed one to date.’
‘When you get into the 30m size range, the need for practicality becomes much more important,’ says Enrico Lumini of Italy’s Hot Lab Yacht & Design. ‘At this point, the galley is almost like a restaurant kitchen, and the use of the materials, space arrangement and appliance needs change completely.’
While most yachts are fitted with high-end equipment as standard, take care when outfitting your charter yacht galley. ‘Even if you select top-quality consumer-brand appliances, such as Gaggenau or Sub-Zero, they can not compare with the professional equipment, especially in stoves and refrigeration,’ says Lumini.
Versatile and multi-purpose appliances are preferred, (a freezer that can become a snap freezer; a combination steam oven/chiller) as are salamander broilers, professional steamers, sanitisers, plate warmers, a high-RPM mixer with all the attachments – especially the one for pasta – and a 90cm oven with a six-burner stove.
‘My biggest pet peeve is the oven,’ says Ziegelmeier. ‘In my opinion, the best equipment is Vulcan or Wolf. Gaggenau ovens require special pans that are difficult to restock, especially when you’re in a remote location.’
‘Again, the equipment needed boils down to how the crew and chef want to use the space and how they treat the waste management and food preparation,’ says Odenberger.
Of all the galley factors to consider, chefs agree that storage is important, but refrigeration is crucial.
‘My biggest concern is refrigerated space,’ says Chef Gang. ‘I would rather store plates and platters on bunks and have refrigerator space than the other way around.’
‘Refrigeration is one area where it seems the large American-type refrigerators have a place on all types of yachts over 30m,’ notes the design team at Vripack.
‘You should be able to easily store two half-sheet pans [13in x 18in x 1in] lengthwise,’ says Ziegelmeier. A custom refrigeration cell that can be set to a low temperature as well as room temperature storage for fruits and vegetables are desired. ‘The refrigeration should also have an external LED-lit temperature gauge that can be easily calibrated and isn’t hidden inside the unit,’ Ziegelmeier continues. ‘I also recommend that refrigeration backup pieces be kept on board; even an extra compressor stored in a custom designed locker area in the bilge… I make sure the engineer gets well fed.’
The increasing trend for owners and guests to interact with the chef and crew in the galley is reflected in the galley being finished to a higher standard, notes Andrew Trujillo of Azure Yacht Design & Naval Architecture. Glossy lacquered doors, granite or marble worktops and attractive flooring are common here.
However, on much larger boats, the galley is less likely to be a social hub and the finishes will be more industrial. When it comes to materials of choice, there is a great divide of opinion.
Vripack suggests that the galley sole be a soft material, such as Amtico. Ziegelmeier refers to a faux wood floor found aboard a new Westport 112 that was a pleasure to clean. Teak is touted as a no-no as it absorbs grease, chemicals and smells. Whatever the material, the flooring should be non-skid and easy to clean.
Granite and marble are commonly used for the countertops, but Corian and brushed stainless steel are also utilized.
‘If you have time to maintain it,’ says Gang, ‘it is nice to have nicer surfaces, for showmanship purposes.’
Marble tops are very difficult to maintain in a busy galley, but the industrial alternative – stainless steel – is losing its shine as well. ‘I hate stainless,’ says MacKenzie. ‘It’s hard to clean and generates a lot of heat.’
‘Our investigations into stainless steel and its poor antibacterial performance compared with other metals may mean that in the long term we will see less reliance on stainless,’ says Trujillo.
‘Efficiency is the trend for the industry,’ says Hot Lab’s Lumini. ‘We see more requests for sustainable appliances, trash compactors, recycled water for steaming, a high-efficiency generator connected to the stove and high-efficiency refrigeration.
‘Architects and designers need to be innovative and incorporate sustainable appliances while efficiently utilizing every centimetre of free space. If we use less energy in the galley, it is a gain for the yacht overall.’
There are obvious limitations imposed by yachts when it comes to cooking. ‘Chefs have issues with storage, equipment, communication, everything. The challenges will always be there, from prep and plating areas to crew communication issues,’ says Ziegelmeier. ‘But chefs are resourceful – they can turn stuff into gold.’
Images by Superyacht Media/Jeff Brown; courtesy Delta Marine, Vripak, Dubois Yachts and Fitzroy Yachts