A ROOKIE Inverness chef has won plaudits for providing a ship’s crew with regular healthy meals amid fierce storms, equatorial heatwave and individual demands of his choosy colleagues.
He passed the test with flying colours, according to the charity he served on the dramatic mission from Scotland to Peru.
Rory MacPherson was part of the crew of a £3million medical vessel being delivered by the Vine Trust from Fife to one of the poorest regions of the world, in the northern Amazon.
The start of the voyage to Iquitos, Peru, was besieged by storms – in contrast to a largely tranquil transAtlantic crossing by the 115ft (35metre) MV Forth Hope.
"We were soon stormbound in the Channel and the Bay of Biscay," Rory said.
"Even passenger ferries for the Calais-Dover crossing were halted, which is pretty unheard of. We later experienced a Force 9 and had to seek shelter at Southampton.
"It’s a fantastic vessel. The good thing was that once we’d had that harsher weather in the first two weeks the crew were full of energy and enthusiasm."
Rory (22) was initially recruited to handle social media updates to promote the trip online but soon learned the satellite link would be limited and there would be additional duties.
He was on a crest of a wave from the start, having learned on the eve of departure that he had just graduated at Strathclyde University with a first class honours degree in international business.
His task was to create a total of 126 meals to please wide ranging tastes of an international crew.
"I was told a cook was needed. I said I’d learn and did all the cooking on my own," he said. "It was challenging, with between 10 and 15 people on board at different stages. It was tricky to keep everyone happy."
Another challenge was judging a six-week supply of food that needed correct storage.
"In the midst of a storm, when you’re working in a galley you also have to ensure everything in the cupboards is secure," Rory said. "You learn the hard way when, at first, you’re picking up food from all over the floor after it’s broken loose during the night.
"It was a case of mind of matter. Everyone was tired but everyone was working hard and you’re all in it together. It’s a confined space with up to 15 people aboard but everyone was mucking in, so it was really good fun."
The natural rewards made it all worthwhile.
"The Atlantic crossing was incredible," he said. "The first fortnight was slow-going but we then had following seas, a warm breeze and incredible stars.
"The Amazon was quite different, it was so hot. In the galley one day it was something like 45 Celcius, with no air conditioning."
Reaching their destination, Rory’s food calculations for the duration proved to be spot on.
He ended his trip with a skiing break in Chile before flying home to Inverness in time to start a graduate position in the energy sector.
Vine Trust admin and finance manager Robert Alexander said: "With no previous catering experience, Rory acquitted himself very well."
The Forth Hope medical vessel was delivered complete with a dental surgery, operating theatre, consultation rooms and pharmacy.
It has already begun serving isolated communities in the Peruvian Amazon.