The holidays are in full swing. Besides presents to wrap, a tree to trim, and lighting the candles on the menorah, there is holiday baking and cooking on the horizon. When we think of who’s donning the apron in the kitchen we picture grandma or mom stationed at the Kitchen-Aide. In the Florida Keys we are blessed with a strong presence of active military men and women.
And someone has to feed them.
“This is the galley and we’re water level right now.”
Onboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Knight Island as we cruise around Key West’s harbor is Chris Thorton: husband, father of two, and food service specialist.
“I joined with a guaranteed ticket to culinary school after boot camp,” Thorton informs The Weekly of his military/professional strategy.
We tour the kitchen… “These cats’ll eat anything,” Thorton tells us about the taste buds of the 18 people on board he is responsible for pleasing.
With one exception: “They don’t like to eat a lot of vegetables,” Thorton shares the secrets, which would otherwise be lost at sea.
They prefer Cuban fare and chipotle chicken wraps to brussel sprouts and creamed corn.
Oh, and seafood prepared anytime, anyway.
“I always start out with fish, every patrol.”
Some men even live on snapper and grouper for weeks at a time.
“Last night I blackened it,” Chef Thorton says. “Blackened and seared with Chef Paul’s Blackening Season.”
“If you cook well,” Captain Pat DeQuattro lends credibility to the integral role of the cook, “morale is well. Imagine cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner in 15 – 20 foot seas.”
This, sometimes after Thorton has stood watch from 2 am – 5:30 am during the night.
“Some days we do have to have sandwiches. We physically have to make one,” says Lt. Matthew Moyer, commanding officer of the Knight Island who touches on the difficulties when Thorton’s focus shifts from stovetop to the open sea.
But when he is at his primary station the boys onboard are spoiled like they’re at home.
“If all hands are on deck we do eggs to order, French toast from scratch, bacon, hash browns,” Thorton is thrilled to talk about fuel found at their table. “Of course lobster for dinner. I butterfly it; put lemon all over it, butter, and lemon pepper.”
A taste the crew never tires of, even when they’re 400 miles south of Key West, surrounded for weeks by the salty ocean.
“There’s pecan and pralines n’ cream in the freezer,” Thorton exclaims. “I go to Albertson’s, GFS, and Publix when we port… fill up. The shopping’s fun except when the credit card gets denied and I have four carts full of food!”
Thorton uses Chef Paul Prudhomme’s MAGIC Seasoning Blends to shake up the taste of seafood!
Eggos and French Toast
Chef Chris Thorton relies on Eggo Waffles and Farm Rich French Toast Sticks to stave off the crews hunger when he’s standing watch, or sleepingafter having been engaged in operations all night.