John is the catering manager on board the Charles Darwin. When on land he lives in the Southampton area. He has a daughter, Hannah, who is currently at Testwood School
How did you get into this job?
After leaving school at 15 John went into hotel catering. This wasn’t quite what he wanted so he moved to become a steward on a cable laying ship.
“After I left the cable ship I missed the life at sea so much I asked for my old job back!” Following jobs on the Sally Line and P&O ferries, he joined SOC as chef on their ships Challenger, Darwin and Discovery."
What's the best part of your job?
Despite having been a chef since he was 15, John still enjoys cooking although he pretends to hate it. This is another part of his role in the mess, the welcome and the banter with his ‘customers’ is all part of the job. He and his team have become experts at quick fire replies and winding people up in a good humoured way. It is amusing to watch them at work, their favourite targets are the less worldly wise students. Above all John loves coming to sea as this provides escape from the rat race ashore.
In our conversation John revealed the range of skills he draws on planning menus, creating meals, socialising with a great range of visitors to the ship, being good at housekeeping and, let’s not forget using the computer!
What's the hardest part of you job?
The instant reply contained a tone that confirmed the truth,“ The computer!” This, because John has had to step into his current role at short notice and is more comfortable peeling an apple than punching the keys on one.
For relaxation on board the crew have Trivia nights, darts competitions, a small gym, a huge video collection and table tennis. [More about these later] However, John reminds me, although you can escape the rat race , you cannot escape the office whilst at sea unless you make deliberate efforts to do so.
How could a youngster get a job in ship’s catering?
“It's harder these days, you certainly need qualifications. First you’d need to pass your NVQ shore-side to become a chef. Then you would have to get your Discharge Book by going to Sea School, for example at Warsash. Finally, you would have to train specifically for ship’s catering and get your Merchant Navy Certificate”.
It sounds difficult but John obviously thinks that the effort is worth it.