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Joe Kraft


Grand River Navigation Company
Avon Lake, Ohio
5 Years in the Industry


Planning, preparing and cleaning up after three square meals a day for 17 people would be a daunting task for most, but Joe Kraft takes it all in stride.  As a steward for Grand River Navigation Company, Kraft plays an important, but often over-looked role in ensuring that his crew mates are able to perform well at their respective jobs. He’s the one providing fuel for the human machine.

“Meal time is an important time. The men work hard physically, and they need good, healthy food. It’s my job to provide meals that sustain them while they work.”

Kraft grew up with cooking in his genes – his father and other family members worked for local restaurants, hotels, and country clubs, which led Kraft to think that a degree in hotel management would be the perfect fit for him. But over the course of 14 years in the U.S. Navy and then the U.S. Coast Guard, Kraft continued to cook for crew mates, and subsequently enrolled in a military culinary school.

It wasn’t until he was stationed in Michigan with the U.S. Coast Guard that Kraft learned about the Great Lakes maritime industry.  He wishes he’d known about it sooner. “The compensation and benefits are great, as are the advancement opportunities. It’s a shame most people aren’t aware of this industry.”

A typical rotation for Kraft is four weeks on board with two weeks off. During those four weeks, Kraft plans and prepares meals based on his knowledge of what his crew mates like and dislike. “Breakfasts are usually done to order – eggs, oatmeal, sausage/bacon, etc. Lunch often contains a starch for energy. Dinner is served home-style: meat loaf or roast beef, with a healthy alternative such as a fish entrée and salad bar.”

“Since we spend so much time together, it’s important that we work together and get along.” Kraft ensures that camaraderie by demonstrating an appreciation for the crew’s hard work. Pride in his job is reflected in the effort he takes to serve healthy meals, and understanding the importance of celebrating birthdays and holidays while far from families.

“I like my job. I’m treated well by the company. And I hope the appreciation I feel is demonstrated in turn by my performance.”