We recently talked to Milford native and culinary specialist Matthew Deluca, who’s part of a daily crew that cooks for 110-plus naval officers while deployed aboard the USS Charleston.
How did you get into cooking?
I was always interested in cooking when I was younger. I would watch my mom create meals from what seemed like random ingredients. I moved out when I was 18 and decided to try cooking for myself. After that, I fell in love and started really getting into it by learning new recipes and expanding my cooking knowledge.
What’s it like cooking aboard a ship?
Cooking onboard is much different than cooking for a few other people. Time management is a huge skill that is critical to getting meals out on time. At home, I can take my time and experiment a little more than I am able to do on the ship. On the other hand, we [the CSs] help each other during meals and make it fun for each other, which provides a very different cooking experience than cooking alone.
What’s your day like?
A normal day for me is waking up and being on the ship by at least 0500. We start prepping breakfast around that time and start serving breakfast at 0600 for the crew. Once breakfast is over, we usually just follow what’s planned out for us. Whether we have cleaning stations or there might be a fire drill going on, we plan according to that. Once 0930 hits, we all come back to the galley and start prepping lunch, which is served at 1100. Once lunch is over, I either head home or stay for dinner depending on whether I have duty for the ship that day.
How many people are you cooking for? How many times a day?
While deployed, we were cooking for about 110-plus people and that’s four meals a day—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight rations for those on watch.
Do you plan anything special around the holidays? If so, what?
Holidays have a special meal list that we choose from to make the meal feel more like you’re at home with the family. For example, on Thanksgiving, we always have turkey that we carve up and ham is a staple as well. We try to make it feel like you’re at the family dinner table.
How do you make food special for the holiday season, especially Christmas? Use any special recipes?
Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two holidays that we can pick from a menu and choose which food items we want for the meal. We are always encouraged to use recipes from home such as green bean casserole, candied yams, etc. The holiday season is the time where we like to throw in our own personal “homestyle” cooking to make everyone feel at home.
Are there any Cincinnati foods/brands you really miss?
I miss a lot of food, especially Skyline Chili. I’m not sure if it’s nostalgia but something about eating a cheese coney or a three-way just makes me feel at home. Another one I miss is Graeter’s, one of my favorite ice cream spots because it is the only place that sells my favorite flavor, black raspberry chip.
Any special tricks to dealing with motion sickness or being seasick?
Being new, I wasn’t sure on how to deal with the seasickness. I thought I would be fine because I’ve been on ships before and had no problem at all. Yet I still got sick. One of the most common ways to combat the seasickness is to take Dramamine. Another trick I learned from my senior chief while onboard was to go to an area that you can see the horizon. He taught me to look at the horizon and just take deep breathes. That should help with the motion sickness. For the most part, it would help for a little while, but I ended up having to keep going back out and do it again. I recommend the Dramamine.
What’s the first thing you’re going to eat when you get back home?
The obvious answer for me is Skyline Chili. I’m going to get a cheese coney.