Interviews: Chief Steward
cook of many talents: When not planning or preparing the next
meal, Carl Wood is certified to assist with launch and recovery
of the submersible Alvin.
As we talk, the seas are kicking up six and seven foot waves. What
is it like to cook in rough seas?
You just move slower and do less complex things.
For example, when the seas are really rolling I won’t use a skillet, which
requires me to walk around, to and from different prep areas. On
rough days, I just try to stand in one place when I’m cooking
so I’m not getting tossed around.
|STEADY AS SHE GOES: Rough
seas require a steady hand in the galley.
How did you become interested in cooking?
My older brother and I spent many summers together at our grandparents’ farm,
so I have always been in touch with gardening and livestock. Ever
since I was 14, I have worked in kitchens. So I guess I developed
an early interest in food and cooking, but I never really planned
on being a cook until I was in college.
Did you go to college to learn about cooking?
I went to college to study other things, but
after three years, I realized that being a cook was what I really
wanted to do. So
I took courses and attended the Culinary Institute of America in
Hyde Park, N.Y. That’s where I polished my skills. Then I
started working in restaurants. Back in the mid-1980s, when I got
a job cooking on a scuba diving charter boat, I realized that I
loved the ocean and water sports and wanted to combine my cooking
talents with what I like to do to relax. I like looking out the
window and seeing the ocean while I work.
What inspires your cooking?
I eat out about 15 times a year. I get inspiration
from newspaper stories about cooking and cookbooks. I remember
things my mom made
and try to recreate them. I ask my friends on the ship and they
suggest old favorites that they haven’t had in years. The
key for me is to use the best ingredients possible: heavy cream,
real butter, extra virgin olive oil. And I know how to tweak things
to give them a little something extra, with sauces, different vinegars,
things like that. I have fun with all my ingredients.
Back to food. Does the crew have any favorite meals?
Everyone loves pizza night. It’s satisfying to make several
different kinds of pizza from scratch and see it disappear.
What is your favorite meal to prepare?
One favorite is fresh tuna, cooked to perfection and topped with
my spicy pineapple salsa. I also love to bake and provide goodies
for people to eat either at mid-morning coffee hour or for an afternoon
snack. I try to make people feel at home out here, and good food
is one way that people feel comfortable.
How much food does it take to feed all 50 people on RV Atlantis during a cruise?
Most cruises last about a month, so we take on six to 12 tons of
supplies, sometimes more if it is a long cruise. RV Atlantis has
a lot of storage space: big walk-in freezers for meat and frozen
goods, large walk-in refrigerators for perishable goods, and big
storerooms for dry goods and supplies. Every time we get to port
we take on meats, dairy, fresh produce, dry goods, linens, cleaning
gear, and other supplies. As for how much it costs to feed everyone,
a rough number is about $10 per day per person.
Everyone helps out when it comes time to load the ship with supplies.
We form a long chain of people, including crew and scientists,
if they are around and not busy. Teamwork gets it done well and
efficiently. I love being a part of this team. The people on board
are my family. Even some of the scientists who have been out here
many times are like old friends.
When did you start to work for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution?
I started working for WHOI in 1987 as assistant cook on Atlantis
II, the previous support ship for Alvin. Over the
past 16 years, I’ve worked on all the WHOI ships, but being
steward on Atlantis is my permanent position. I really enjoy being involved with Alvin because I am certified to be a swimmer to help with recovering
For the swimmers who help launch the sub and recover it when it
surfaces, what’s it like to swim in the ocean, so far from
It’s a real source of energy, to feel the swells pushing
you around. It makes me feel refreshed and recharged. To me, it’s
a comforting feeling, a feeling like I’m coming home.
What are your hobbies both on shore and at sea?
I like to exercise and read. Being the steward means long
hours, so I try to get my rest. After working all day, there is
not too much time left for other things. On shore, I love to be
out in nature. I’m always working on my new house at Lake
Martinez in Arizona. I also have two kayaks and spend lots of time
paddling the Colorado River.
Do you ever think that you’d like to do something
I really enjoy my work on Atlantis, and the people here are
like a second family. I try to keep in shape, and I see no reason
why I can’t keep doing this for a long time. I do think about
teaching cooking. Maybe some day I’ll do that.
By Amy E. Nevala, with contributions
by Lonny Lippsett and Joe Appel