The Trait Captain Pike Shares With Another Beloved Star Trek Captain

This post contains minor spoilers for episode 2 of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds."

Each "Star Trek" Captain has a different style of leadership, but something that Anson Mount's Captain Christopher Pike does in the second episode of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" gives us a good idea of what his might be. The captains tend to either be a bit more standoffish and reserved, or they like getting into the thick of it with the entire crew of their ship, from the most junior ensign to visiting senior officers. In the episode 2, "Children of the Comet," Ensign Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) discovers some of the traditions on Pike's Enterprise, including a bit of harmless hazing as a part of "Enterprise Bingo" and a dinner with members of the crew in Pike's quarters. Pike cooks for those invited, and helmsman Lt. Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) explains that the captain likes to invite crew from all over the ship to join him along with senior staff in order to better understand everyone's experience on his ship. It brings to mind another Starfleet officer who loved to cook: Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) of the space station Deep Space Nine. 

Pike and Sisko both understand that dining can be an important communal experience, and the act of cooking for the crew allows them to give back to the very people who put their lives at risk on captain's orders. They strive to be a part of the crew as much as they lead it, and it sets them apart from captains like Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and even James T. Kirk (William Shatner), who had to find other ways to connect with their crews. 

Let's take a little look at the captains who cook, because everyone knows the way to the heart is through the stomach. 

The power of a shared meal

Sharing a meal as a means of bonding is a human ritual that dates back to our earliest recorded history, because a person's gotta eat. What we eat tends to be influenced by a number of things, from available resources to cultural traditions. On "Star Trek," food scarcity is no longer an issue because of replicator technology, but some cooks still enjoy the joys of combining real ingredients to share with their loved ones. Sisko was taught to cook by his father, who owns a Creole restaurant in New Orleans, and he learned to show love through cooking for others. He cooks for his future wife, Kasidy (Penny Johnson Jerald), he cooks for his son Jake (Cirroc Lofton), and he even cooks traditional Ferengi tube grubs for Ensign Nog (Aron Eisenberg). Some of the crew are initially disarmed by Sisko's desire to not only cook for them but have them as guests in his quarters, as it breaks down the barriers between senior leadership and the rest of the crew. But they soon learn of the joys of jambalaya and a good souffle. 

We similarly see Pike cooking for an overnight guest in the first episode of "Strange New Worlds," making pancakes from scratch, and in episode 2 he cooks a big dinner for the gathered crew. Some of the crew even help in the kitchen, including Hemmer (Bruce Horak), who helps cut vegetables for the salad. People from engineering, medical, command, and operations might not do much mingling outside of their teams, and these group dinners help them get to know one another as much as the captains get to know their crew. It's also a lot of fun for the audience at home, who get to see the Federation folks letting their metaphorical hair down and relaxing with one another in a brief moment of respite between adventures. 

The importance of food in Star Trek

Food is heavily affected by culture, and members of Starfleet can use their culinary knowledge to help win over some of their alien acquaintances. Just like Sisko cooking tube grubs for Nog helped the young cadet trust his captain more, a shared understanding of food and food customs can break down barriers. In the fifth season of "Deep Space Nine," Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) serves on a Klingon Bird of Prey alongside her Par'Mach'kai/Klingon boyfriend, Worf (Michael Dorn). When she enters the canteen and immediately comments on the poor quality of the stewed bog rat liver and mentions that bloodwine might make it passable, she ingratiates herself to the generally xenophobic Klingons. To make them like her even more, she reveals that she brought casks of bloodwine onboard before they left DS9, and she intends on sharing with her new comrades. 

Beverages in particular seems to be a point of bonding in Starfleet, and there are as many unusual "Star Trek" drinks as there are kinds of food. Captain Kirk doesn't mind if there's contraband Romulan Ale aboard the Enterprise, for example, and bloodwine is a massive part of Klingon culture. There's also raktajino, a kind of Klingon spiced coffee that becomes the daily beverage of choice for quite a few of the various crew. One of the only times we get to see the crew truly at rest is when they're eating, and these moments provide vital insight into the characters. The crew on "Deep Space Nine" are also afforded the luxury of having several restaurants in the promenade and not just a basic ship's cafeteria. They can have a drink at Quark's, get some gagh at the Klingon restaurant, and then maybe slip into the holodeck for an after-dinner song courtesy of Vic Fontaine.

A captain who cooks

Here's the thing: in a time when you could just replicate everything, taking the time and energy to cook from scratch is even more of an act of love. Sisko and Pike take the time to cook for people because it allows them to connect more deeply than they would otherwise, because they're both deeply damaged individuals who refuse to talk about their feelings. Pike knows his grim future, while Sisko feels distanced from everyone because the Bajoran prophets chose him as their emissary, and neither man knows how to share that alienating knowledge with their loved ones. On top of being the captains of their respective crews, they also both seem to take on a paternal role, offering advice and guidance to everyone who serves under them. 

Picard may have a stellar mind, Kirk may have all of the swagger, and the rest of the captains are fine, I guess, but if I was given a choice of assignment, I would want to serve under Pike or Sisko. Not only do you know that you'll be treated with equal respect and generosity, but you'll also get some great starship-cooked food out of the deal. I, for one, need to try Sisko's chicken paprikash