James Taylor: keeping his shipmates strong with a taste of home

January 4, 2018

Meet James Taylor


James is a 26-year old professionally trained chef with a passion for making people happy through his food. After years of working as a restaurant chef, James decided the restaurant life wasn’t for him and joined the SIU to cook on board our shipping vessels. Now, James has a stable, well-paying job that offers him the opportunity to expand his skillset.


James never imagined his chef skills would take him on board tugs and large shipping vessels. “Before joining the union, I worked in restaurants but there was really no stability and employees weren’t treated very well.” After speaking to some family members who enjoyed long and successful seafaring careers, James thought he would give seafaring a try.  “Once I decided I would try it out the process was really quick, it only took about a week to get everything done.” He landed his first job just two weeks after, and hasn’t looked back since. “I could have stayed in Ottawa and worked in a fancy restaurant, but I would be working under worse conditions and make way less money.”


Well-fed seafarers make happy and hard-working seafarers. James takes pride in being able to cook the home comforts that make his mates feel comforted and warm. “I cook home food. For the east-coasters I make salt-cod dinners, and corned beef and cabbage. For others I make things like Shepard’s pie and stew. We also have steak night every Saturday which is very popular.”


As the only cook on board his ship, James prepares, cooks and cleans up for three meals a day and maintains the highest standards for his galley. “I once had an American pilot say that this was the cleanest galley he’d ever seen. I like to maintain restaurant quality standards in my kitchen.” James’ natural cooking talent and passion for producing comforting and delicious meals is clear to anyone who tastes his creations. “It isn’t an easy job. You are responsible for a lot of stuff. I’m not just in charge of cooking, I also order all of the food, take inventory and receive all of the food.”


When the ship James enjoys exploring the port towns with some of his crew mates. “When you’re on board, you have to get along with everyone. I’m lucky I’ve made some great friends during my tours.”

According to James, some of the most interesting ports are Toledo and Owen Sound, but his favourite so far has been Cleveland. “When you step off the ship, you’re right downtown near where Lebron plays. We even got to see fireworks there once. It’s a lot of fun.”


James is proud to be part of a union that backs its members with such force. “It’s so rare to find a chef job where you have a strong safety net behind you, not to mention benefits and a pension.” While he was unable to join his brothers and sisters picketing to protect Canadian maritime jobs, he fully supported their efforts and wished he could have participated.


Cooking on board isn’t where James thought his chef skills would take him, he hopes to continue to progress, learn and take on more responsibility.  “It’s good to always be learning. I want to do this as long as I can. I make good money and I like what I do.”