Texas City chef finds niche preparing fine meals on yachts
Texas City resident Arthur Thomas isn’t quite sure what made him leave large commercial restaurant kitchens for small galley enclosures. But he likes to reminisce about how it all came to fruition.
“I was 16 years old and needed to make some money,” said Thomas, who got a job washing dishes at Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant in Galveston.
He worked at the popular eatery all during high school, graduated from Galveston’s Ball High School in 1980 and went off to college at Prairie View A&M University.
Thomas always thought he wanted to be a radio and television repairman, but considered trying college first.
After one semester, he returned to Galveston, got a dish-washing job at the former Wentletrap Restaurant, and worked his way up to the position of acting executive chef for 16 years.
Next came a five-year stint at what is now Houston Hilton NASA Clear Lake, where he earned the title of executive chef.
“I guess I always had a natural talent for the food business,” Thomas said. “It just didn’t come out until somebody took a chance on me.”
He eventually got an offer to work as a galley chef and began working on various party boats such as Kemah Charter Yachts, Star Fleet Yachts and FantaSea Yachts, all moored in Kemah.
He had found his niche.
Today, Thomas still does work for Star Fleet Yachts, but spends most of his time aboard the Panacea, operated by Capt. Robert Donley at Kemah’s Waterford Marina. Thomas caters weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and just about any event imaginable on the water.
Thomas has worked on the galleys of yachts ranging in size from 20 feet to 150 feet, and knows how to keep things moving smoothly, despite power failures, choppy seas and inclement weather. He can prepare a five-course gourmet meal for two or 200, while whipping up impressive flaming desserts with ease.
His menu includes such items as crostini shrimp cocktail; avocado crabcakes; medallion of stuffed flounder topped with light Cajun sauce and Gulf shrimp; marinated tenderloin with porcini mushrooms; lollipop lamb chops with mint sauce; and the show-stopping bananas Foster, mangoes with tequila or cherries jubilee, all ablaze.
“I enjoy entertaining people with food,” Thomas said. “I can do any menu on any size yacht.”
Thomas also owns and operates his own catering company — Dinner For Two Catering.
“I basically go to people’s homes and cook them an intimate dinner,” he said. “I can even handle a special event for several hundred at a larger venue.”
Thomas brings tables, chairs, linens, china, silver, crystal, chafing dishes, a complimentary bottle of wine, flowers for the table, candles and even dinner music.
Aside from being a galley chef and private caterer, Thomas works full time at Victory Preparatory Academy in Houston, where he’s in charge of student services. He also is a caregiver to his special-needs brother, who lives with Thomas and his wife, Stephanie.
Most of the couple’s six grown children and 17 grandchildren live nearby, so family occasions can get rather crowded.
But the more the merrier, Thomas said.
“Food brings people together,” he said.
So, what delicacy does Thomas like to indulge in?
“Just give me a Whataburger and I’m happy,” he said.