Q&A with "Ship to Shore Chef"

Have you ever thought about what life would be like if you got the chance to live your life’s true passions every day?

We got the fantastic opportunity to chat with Chef Catherine Schmuck about her two passions – sailing and cooking. Chef Schmuck is extremely popular online, especially on Facebook where her followers know her as the “Ship to Shore Chef” or simply the amazing Chef who shares her adventures cooking and sailing on the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River and across Atlantic Canada onboard cargo ships.
Q: So, who really is the “Ship to Shore Chef”?
I am a self-taught cook, and I am the Chief Cook on a Canadian ship. Basically, I sailed from 1981 to 1994 and then I went to shore and had my own restaurant for 24 years. As I was coming closer to retirement age, I was 57; I really wanted to do something for myself. I loved sailing and cooking, thus the idea to finish my career on a ship. So, in 2019, I came back onto a ship. I have always loved taking pictures of food, and thus I thought I would now share with my friends and family what it is like on the ship. Subsequently, I started posting on Facebook, and my audience grew. Suddenly, I had numerous people following me because there is a vast community out there that loves ships as much as I do and is curious about sailing. And that is how the “Ship to Shore Chef” was born. I now have over 7000 followers, and I wrote a cookbook. When I came back to marine, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to combine my two “loves” – sailing and cooking – and that’s how the book “Ship to Shore Chef” came about.

“And I had to go back because I loved it so much!”

Q: What do you like most about cooking?
Cooking in general! I am a nurturer by nature, so making something that is able to bring joy to somebody else is what I love about cooking.

“I love making something that somebody is going to receive and enjoy.”

Q: What do you wish other people knew about life on board ships?
Chef Catherine Schmuck on the CSL Niagara
For people who cook, I wish they knew that they could live their passion of cooking every day. For people who don’t cook and just for the crew in general, I wish that they understood that “Yes, you get on a ship and you go away for ‘X’ number of weeks or months, but when you come home, you have a block of time that is yours and I think that your quality of life for being home for a block of time makes up for not being home for ‘X’ number of weeks or months.”

“Yes you are gone, but there are means through which you can stay connected using the internet.”

It does take an adjustment, but I am a very independent person, and I can amuse myself. I love working on my laptop, I am not a big reader, but I have a passion and really enjoy writing – I wrote a lot of my cookbook on the ship. I love to walk on deck and enjoy the scenery.
Q: Tell us about the people you have met while working aboard so many vessels?

Meatball subs and pasta with Catherine's tomato sauce
I have met many different people, but usually, I’ll connect with somebody who is a “foodie” – somebody who loves food – and often, that particular person will inspire me to want to cook things and push myself. When I came back sailing in 2019, there was one particular person who loved to eat, and they inspired me to want to recreate their favourite restaurant meal. Just like that, Sunday brunch was born, and now when I go on a ship, people that follow me come in on Sundays saying, “We’re having Sunday brunch!” I do eggs benedict and cinnamon buns, so it’s always something fun. Because I make my Hollandaise from scratch, it is a really great meal, and it is one of those things that makes you feel as if you are not on a ship – it feels like you have been transported somewhere.

“My goal is for them to feel like they are eating at a different restaurant every day.”

Q: Please tell us about your book.

I took all my favourite recipes – everything I make for the crew – so over 200 recipes, and I put them in the cookbook. It is 280 pages long, with full-colour photos, stories about sailing, and many pictures of ships. The majority of the photos were taken on board the vessel, i.e. plates I had prepared for the crew. For years my customers at my previous restaurant “Crêperie Catherine,” told me how I should write a book, and that’s how it came about. I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign, put it through the printer and that’s how the book got published. The book is sold online at

Q: What do you want to say to young people about choosing marine?
Ever changing view
I think that it is an excellent opportunity to make a living and have balance in your life. When you live ashore, you usually work five days a week, but it’s not just that. You still have to go fill the gas for the car, and you have to do the groceries or other things. When you are on a ship, you do your hours, and then the rest of the evening is yours to either sleep if you are exhausted, or it’s your “you” time.

On a ship, you can have a few hours when there are no interruptions, and it’s all about you and your thoughts or your video games or your movies. There is also the whole aspect of “Look out through your window!” because you are on the lake, and it is beautiful out there. When I look back at when I was younger, it was those same blocks of time and the earnings that we made that allowed my sister and me to travel to Europe, Hawaii, and Spain, amongst others.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to let us know?
Working in marine is a lifestyle that many people are incredibly unfamiliar with but is worth looking into. When someone thinks about being a cook or other similar jobs, they think about the traditional ways of making their career, but I believe that being on a ship just adds this little bit of excitement. To me, there are more opportunities here than people realize. There are chances to see different places, meet different people and be open to possibilities.

“I think it is an amazing career choice, and it is ever-changing, adventurous, and simply ticks so many boxes.”

Interviewing Chef Catherine Schmuck was a pleasure and speaks to why you should “Imagine Marine” too!

Interested in how to become a Chef on board a vessel? Find out more here.

Chef Cook Schmuck happily shared with us one of her famous recipes for you all to try!

Italian Wedding Soup

I love this soup and it is a crew favourite on the ship. This soup is really easy, and you don’t have to use a broth, you can get a lot of flavour from the sausages.

  • 4 of your favourite Italian sausages (I like to use hot Roma)
  • 1 onion diced
  • ½ - ⅔ cup pearl barley (depends if you like it really thick with barley, I like it thick)
  • 6 litres of liquid. Water or chicken broth if you like.
  • A couple of large handfuls of Spinach at the end after the barley has cooked.

Remove the sausage from the casing, I usually squeeze the sausage out at one end and make little freeform meatballs as I go. Cook in your soup pot. Once the sausage is cooked remove and drain the grease, depends on your sausage, I find the Roma don’t need to be drained. Return the cooked, drained sausage to the pot and add the diced onions. I also add the barley and stir for a few minutes, there is enough grease from the sausage to kind of sauté it all together. After a couple of minutes add the water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then back to a simmer. This soup does fine on its own, the barley takes a while to cook. Check around two hours to see if the barley is ready. Add the raw spinach and let it wilt, it won’t take long. Check your seasoning. If you use chicken broth, it should be fine but if you use water you may want to add some adobo or dry chicken soup base.

Author: Brian Affouan, Communications Specialist at CMCF
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