Feeding 3,500 People a Day on the RMS Olympic

Galley on the RMS Olympic

Galley of the First Class on the RMS Olympic of the White Star Line

THREE tons of meat are eaten In a single day, and every day on a voyage, on board a giant steamship in the busy season on the Atlantic ferry. The ship then carries 3,500 persons on each trip across the ocean.

Including her crew of 878, and long experience has shown her chief steward that a proper daily allowance of meat per person is about a pound and three-quarters. At that rate, the average total of meat taken from the refrigerators and cut up for cooking In various ways is 6,000 pounds a day.

This does not reflect the consumption of chickens, which averages 500 a day, nor ducks, geese, and turkeys, or 1,000 game birds consumed on each voyage, nor of fish, the latter averaging 3,000 pounds a day.

In addition to these staples, the people on board manage to dispose of 4,000 eggs daily and 480 quarts of milk every 24 hours. Passengers and crew consume butter at the rate of 200 pounds a day, and 2,700 jars of jam and 1,900 jars of marmalade disappear on the voyage like dew before the morning sun, the figures being for one of the world’s largest liners - the White Star Liner Olympic.

Fresh vegetables are an Important feature of every bill of fare. For each round trip, 25 tons of potatoes are taken aboard. They are consumed at the rate of about two tons a day while the ship is at sea-of these 600 pounds are mashed, and in proportion, while she is in port, for her crew are hearty eaters.

Three tons of carrots, three tons of turnips and 2,500 heads of cabbage, weighing about five tons, are also taken aboard for every voyage. A hundred crates of lettuce, a ton of Bermuda onions, or a similar quantity of Brussels sprouts are ordinary items in the ship’s victualling list.

When apples are ordered, 250 boxes are none too many for a voyage. Grape fruit comes aboard 100 boxes at a time and oranges In 200-box lots.

Included in the meat item of provisions for the voyage are 8,000 pounds of bacon and 2,500 pounds of hams, which are the primary salt meats carried. Lamb and mutton figure largely in the fresh meat supply, about 200 carcasses being taken on board for each voyage.

But the vast staple in meat is fresh beef. It may be said that the public when crossing the ocean travels on beef. It demands meat three times a day. Whether the voyager is in the first cabin, second, or third, he must have his meat.

Whether the beef comes to the table as sirloin steak, rib roast or filet mignon in the first-class dining-room, as plain roast beef in the second-class or beef stew or baked meat in third, it is the best quality of beef that money can buy. The complete opposite of the “salt horse’, served on old-time sea voyages. The roast beef alone for a single day on the Olympic totals 1,800 pounds.

The condition of the food served at sea on the great liner is always prime. Refrigerators that have the capacity for 500 tons of food are freshly filled for each voyage, and they keep everything put Into them in perfect condition.

Milk and cream are kept sweet for a week’s voyage with, out the use of preservatives. Lettuce is as crisp after traveling 3,000 miles as when received on board. Fruit keeps for long periods.

Ice to supply the refrigerators is made daily; the amount required being 3,000 pounds every 24 hours.

As may be supposed, the preparation of such quantities of food as are consumed daily on the big ship calls for the employment of a considerable force in the kitchen. The mere cutting up of the meat requires the services of fourteen butchers.

Under the direction of a boss butcher, they are busy every day of the voyage yielding cleaver and butcher’s knife, reducing whole carcasses of sheep, or heavy quarters of beef to the cuts required by the cooks.

Of cooks, there are, as a matter of course, an imposing staff. In charge of the ship’s great kitchen is a chef, who does not touch any food, but spends his time, and busily too, planning menus and directing the work of his subordinates.

Under his command are 60 cooks and 20 bakers, including three assistant chefs, each a specialist In certain branches of cooking, but competent to take general charge if an occasion arose. Additionally, the Olympic has:

  • Two larder cooks, who prepare roasts, fowls and other foods for cooking
  • Two order cooks, who grill steaks and chops over charcoal fires, and tend the roasts, which are done on revolving spits
  • Two fish cooks
  • Two cooks whose sole business is to make sauces
  • One cook whose specialty is soups
  • Four vegetable cooks
  • One chief baker
  • One Vienna bread baker
  • Six assistant bakers
  • Two confectioners
  • A number of sundry helpers, who rate as scallions

The work carried on in the big ship's kitchens does not differ materially from that in the kitchens of a great hotel, with the exception that there is less order cooking, and the work is done on a more exact schedule.

With several hundred persons sitting down to a meal at once, the capacity of the first-class dining-room alone is about 700—the service must proceed on a well-regulated timetable.

Each department of the ship has its own kind of service, and each type must function at the same time. The meal hours in second and third class are slightly earlier than in first-class, but generally speaking, hundreds of people are sitting at the table in various parts of the ship at the same hour.

For serving these many meals a far greater force of waiters is required than one sees In the largest hotel dining-room.

"Like Mammoth Hotel is Modern Liner" in the Railway and Marine News, Vol. XIX, No. 4, April 1921, P. 33+

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