How Cruise Ship Chefs Prep to Feed Thousands

How Cruise Ship Chefs Prep to Feed ThousandsImagine having to feed 5000 guests and 2000 crew three meals a day every day. Consider the logistics, planning and hard labour that goes into an operation this size. But this is just a typical day on some of the biggest cruise ships sailing the seas.

For cruise ship chefs, jobs fuelled by passion are the only way to see through contracts that stretch months long. Thousands of guests go through tons of food every day, and the mantra for any top-of-the-line hospitality venture is to make sure that no one goes hungry and that the products are of excellent quality.

So how do they do it? Everything depends on prep work. For a galley operation this size, a specific hierarchy is involved that ensures each chef knows his or her job and that tasks are divided. Volumes are such that many chefs will be handling the same or similar jobs at their hierarchical level.

Cruise ships load a week’s worth of supplies and produce that caters to all the dining areas. This means much of the food is made on board, which helps keep dishes fresh and tasting great.

In some cases, cruise ship chefs work in what can be looked at as a commissary kitchen where the main preparation happens. Here, fish and other meats are thawed and marinated, vegetables, fruits and produce are cleaned and cut, marinades and sauces are made according to international food regulations.

Depending on what level of the hierarchy you are at, you could spend the entire day shucking corn, pin boning fish fillets, chopping onions or cleaning pineapples. Cruise ship chefs jobs at this level also involve making marinades, sauces and soups, including pesto and marinara for pastas, French onion soup, chimichurri or aioli or béarnaise for steak.

You get juggled around in the schedule so it’s not likely that you will spend all of the 6-8 months of your contract doing the same thing. As a chef, this allows you to form proper technique and hone your skills so that at the end of your contract, you could potentially do all of these tasks blindfolded.

These are great skills to have for career growth and can prove vital for your climb up the hierarchy, whether on board a cruise ship or a shore job in a restaurant, hotel or club.

Having food prepared at this stage, enables the cruise ship galley for each restaurant or for chefs higher up in the hierarchy to make dishes quicker. Produce needs to be prepped many different ways for different dishes.

For example, a soup might need puréed carrots while an Asian stir-fry may need it julienned. This means at some point along the chain, the tasks involved include washing and peeling the carrots, and then either boiling and puréeing them or slicing them thinly.

With this prep already done, all that is required is preparing the mise en place – putting together all the ingredients required for a particular dish so that chefs in the restaurants need only grab what is required and have the dish out the doors and served to customers within a shorter span of time.

Prepping thus increases efficiency of delivery and overall quality of the final product.

Cruise Ship Chef: Where You are Headed

Cruise Ship Chef: Where You are HeadedTaking a course in cruise culinary arts is just the start of your career as a chef. It marks the beginning of a long but lucrative professional life in one of the most strenuous industries out there. Cruise ship chefs jobs are among the hardest, considering the hours put in and the physical demands.

It helps to know the goal you aim to achieve, for without an aim, it makes getting through the ranks much harder. Many of the people you will work with as a cruise ship chef may not have a background in culinary education. They would start at the very bottom of the hierarchy where qualifications and experience are not required.

These positions include dish washers or pot washers and galley stewards and cleaners. Other entry level positions within the galley include assistant storekeeper / assistant provisions master who reports to the chief storekeeper or provisions master. For these roles, a knowledge of food and beverage is required as well as accounting.

However, if you enjoy cooking and are looking at getting creative, focus instead on roles that can take you far ahead in this line. Fresh out of culinary school, it is advisable to get some experience on shore in a restaurant or hotel.

With this, you have a far better chance of getting into entry level galley positions such as baker trainee, pastry trainee, or cook trainee. It is here that most chefs either look at gaining experience in a particular sector or get a foothold in the line they are sure they want to pursue.

From a cook trainee, you can get promoted to a commis 3 or third cook where you will be in charge of the mise en place, take directions from those in higher positions with regard to food preparation and also explain ingredients and dishes when working in the buffet.

Similarly, you can work your way up to commis 2 or second cook and commis 1 or first cook, where your responsibilities get larger and you supervise those below you in the preparation of mise en place.

Following this, you will be promoted to demi chef de partie and later chef de partie, the former being an assistant role to the latter. In these roles, you will be responsible for actually cooking the meal according to the menus decided by the executive chef and other management. You will need to understand cooking in volumes and ensuring that portions as well as presentations are all consistent and standardised.

Additionally, chefs de partie need to assign responsibilities to and monitor the performances of entry-level positions to ensure that quality is maintained at all times. At this point, you will be in charge of training new recruits and also assigning their schedules and overtime if any.

From here, you will move to a more managerial position in the cruise ship chefs jobs hierarchy. As a sous chef, you will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the galley. Large cruise ships will have more than one sous chef looking after a particular cuisine or a particular restaurant. It is at this level that quality is cross-checked not just in food but also in service, storage and even finances. A certain amount of training is also imparted by the sous chef, often to chefs de partie for it to filter down the hierarchy.

The executive sous chef works with the executive chef to ensure the smooth functioning of the galley. At this level, the menus are discussed and planned, guest inputs are taken into consideration and implemented if desired, and serving arrangements are amended. The executive sous chef also works in tandem with the provisions master to ensure that the galley receives and utilises the best and freshest produce and ingredients in the most efficient way possible.

At the very top is the executive chef who is in charge of the entire galley, ensuring that the thousands of guests under his/her charge are well-fed and happy. Ultimately, the executive chef is responsible for the final order of food requirements, ensuring everything is in line with the budget, training in public health and safety, and that the food looks and tastes exactly as promised.

Comfort Food on Cruise Ships

Comfort Food on Cruise ShipsAs the name suggests, comfort food includes dishes that are usually very familiar to the eater and are typically characterised with high calorific values and quick preparation time.

This kind of food is most often consumed by picky eaters who would prefer not to be adventurous even on board a cruise ship boasting celebrity chef restaurants and other interesting dishes.

While it exists in every country, options for comfort food on cruise ships revolve around the main nationalities or demographic sailing on board. It makes poor sense to offer Korean passengers comfort food from Turkey, or even American guests comfort food from India.

The highest numbers of cruisers by far come from north America. According to Statista, 11.5 million US guests sailed on cruise ships in 2016, compared to 2.1 million from China, 1.9 million from the United Kingdom and half a million from Spain.

That said, most comfort food on cruise ships is very American. Cruise ship chefs must have good knowledge of how to put together top north American comfort food at the drop of a hat.

Comfort food is most likely to be demanded by small children who often see little value in trying new food. The main dining room and even specialty restaurants will have a children’s menu that features dishes like pasta or fried chicken.

At buffets, you will most certainly find a whole variety that includes burgers, pizza, pasta, sandwiches and tons of ice cream and cookies. Many cruise ship chefs need to learn how to make all of these items from scratch, including ice cream and pizza dough.

Favoured American comfort food includes grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken soup, hamburgers, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, tuna casserole, peanut butter, pizza and fried chicken. Some dishes have their origins in other popular cultures such as pizza, lasagne, tacos and nachos, but there will be variations from the original recipe adapted to American tastes.

With Chinese travelling a lot too, cruise ship companies are opening up to offer them familiar food as well. Options may be mostly available at specialty restaurants on board, but globally popular dishes could be available at main dining rooms too. These include egg tarts, meat floss buns, custard buns, a large variety of dim sums and chicken noodle soup. Egg rolls, pork chops, chicken with sticky rice and fortune cookies are well loved across the board.

British travellers also make up the numbers on cruise ships. To satisfy their cravings for comfort food, cruise ship chefs ladle out bangers and mash – or English pork sausages with mashed potato, fish and chips, bacon sandwiches, various types of toast – with cheese, baked beans or Welsh rarebit, bread and butter pudding and roast chicken. You may also find beef stew on the menu as well as chicken tikka masala and curry, which although Indian in origin have come to be adapted for British palates.

For Spanish guests, cruise ship chefs learn how to whip up flavourful recipes featuring seafood, tomatoes and potatoes. These most often include Valencian rice dish paella, garlic soup, patatas bravas which is the Spanish version of French fries, and almond cake. Another staple is tortilla española or Spanish omelette with egg and potato.

How To Ace Fine Dining as a Cruise Ship Chef

How To Ace Fine Dining as a Cruise Ship ChefFine dining is a big part of cruise ship vacations. Guests pack for the occasion and arrive with high expectations. Cruise ship chef jobs that cater to them demand perfection and passion every day.

Learn & practice

The key to doing well at a fine dining restaurant on a cruise ship is to absorb as much information as you can. It may not be possible to land a cruise ship chef job at a fine dining restaurant on your first contract, but keeping your eyes and ears open will get you there faster.

When you have time, speak to the cruise ship chefs who work there and understand more about the demands. Note the importance of presentation and flavour, and how they go together to create a dish that excites all the senses. After all, fine dining is an experience.

In between contracts, you can attempt to practice some of the new skills you learnt, or perhaps even pick up new ones.

Work for celebrity chefs

If you get the chance, opt to work at celebrity chef fine dining restaurants – whether on board or on land. The standards are of a completely different level altogether as celebrity chefs have their entire brand hinging on their names.

They are not always working at the restaurant but has a head chef in his/her place who has control over the quality of the food. The celebrity chef will come in now and then and make time for staff, so it is good to interact with them and note all the advice they offer.

Working at a celebrity chef’s fine dining restaurant can mean very long days but the experience pays off in the long run.

Follow the rules

On cruise ships, hygiene is paramount. Every cruise ship restaurant must follow international standards for ensuring a clean and sanitised work atmosphere. Failing this could lead to the cruise ship being suspended from service.

Some of the basic rules include personal hygiene and correct methods of storing and preparing food. Many fine dining restaurants on cruise ships offer demos and open kitchen meals for a more interactive environment for guests. This makes personal hygiene, kitchen cleanliness and appearance doubly important.

Top dishes

Every restaurant has its go-to dish that guests most look forward to enjoying. As a cruise ship chef at a fine dining restaurant, your job is to learn how to make it perfectly. But that doesn’t mean you should stop there. Go ahead and try to reinvent dishes during your time off. Take a basic and play with it.

Some of the most popular dishes at fine dining restaurants on cruise ships around the world include the tuna tataki and miso black cod at Nobu’s Silk Road and Sushi Bar at Crystal Serenity, Silversea’s nine course tasting menu at its Asian restaurant Seishin, Seabourn’s chestnut and porcini mushroom soup with honey-spiced squab-and-fig empanada, 36-ounce porterhouse steaks on the Seven Seas Mariner, and lobster ravioli and osso buco at Disney Fantasy’s Palo.

Top Continental Cruise Desserts

Top Continental Cruise Desserts

Food is on everyone’s mind when they go cruising. A 2012 study suggested that cruise passengers typically put on more than a pound a day as companies offer increasing varieties of food – not just dessert – and even have midnight buffets for peckish folk.

In short, guests love to try out as much food as they can and often, a little push will have them reaching for another taste. With dessert, it’s much harder for them to resist temptation and cruise ship chef jobs have them doing all they can to amp up presentation while keeping taste in focus.

Despite all the choices available, here are some of the most popular Continental desserts served on cruise ships:

Baked Alaska

Top Continental Cruise Desserts

The tradition of taking this dessert out in a parade before alcohol is poured over and set aflame goes back decades. It is said to have originated when refrigerators only just began to enter cruise ships and companies wanted to use it as a selling point. The Baked Alaska parade is considered a tradition on Carnival cruise ships.

A Baked Alaska is a combination of ice cream and sponge cake slices covered in meringue. It can be placed in a very hot oven to brown the meringue, or it can be doused in alcohol such as rum and then flambéed on service.

Molten chocolate cake

Top Continental Cruise Desserts

This gooey chocolate dessert is popular across cruise lines due to its decadence. It is another Carnival favourite and can be found in almost the main dining halls of all its vessels.

Most often made in a single serve ramekin, molten chocolate cake can be served hot with a side of ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and garnished with mint. Its main ingredients are melted butter and chocolate, eggs whipped with sugar and sometimes a little flour. Its main characteristic is a gooey molten chocolate centre hidden by a springy sponge covering.

Bread and butter pudding

Top Continental Cruise Desserts

A bread and butter pudding – also called a whitepot – is a staple in British cuisine. It brings the flavours of home to English guests on board and cruise ship chefs must learn to make it perfectly. Holland America is well known for its delicious bread and butter puddings.

This dessert emerged as a way to use up stale bread, and even on cruises they will use day-old bread to get the right amount of sogginess. Thick slices are slathered in butter and layered on a tray or oven dish with raisins before a thick vanilla custard is poured over and the dish is baked. Sometimes flavoured jams are also spread on the bread – strawberry, raspberry, marmalade, blackberry and mixed fruit are common options.

Some cruise ship chefs like to add liqueur to give it a bit of a twist.

Cheesecake

Top Continental Cruise Desserts

It is hard to travel anywhere in Europe without finding some version of the cheesecake or other. This dessert probably originated with cheese-making itself, starting off with a basic honey-sweetened smooth cheese. Cheesecake is a popular dessert on most cruise ships.

They can be either baked or set in a refrigerator. Typically, a cheesecake has a base of crushed biscuits or sponge cake. The main portion is a mix of smooth soft cheese mixed with sugar, eggs and vanilla for flavouring. It can be topped with whipped cream, flavoured sauces, fruit or even just dusted with powdered sugar.

Cheese board

Top Continental Cruise Desserts

As it turns out, there are people in the world who do not like sweet dishes. There are others who are unable to eat sweet dishes – either by way of a health issue or simply to keep calorie counts low. Here, a cheese board comes in as the perfect dessert, not just for these guests, but also for those who simply love cheese.

A cheese platter is an excellent idea on board a cruise ship as most cheeses keep for while. Cruise ship chefs ensure they offer a variety of cheeses to suit tastes. There will be samples from blue, firm, soft and aged as well as from different types of milk – cow, goat, sheep, buffalo.

Alongside, you will have a selection of bread or crackers and a variety of preserves, chutneys, mustards and caramalised onions. Common accompaniments include cured meats, and sometimes nuts and dried or seasonal fruit.

Being a Successful Chef in the 21st Century

Being a Successful Chef in the 21st CenturyThe tried and tested recipe for being a successful chef has been to cook exceedingly well and manage staff and venture efficiently. However, as hospitality becomes an increasingly competitive market and high-profile career choice, this path could be insufficient.

Being a successful chef does not only mean that your customers love your food and your staff love you. It means building a brand around yourself by managing, analysing, learning, planning, of course cooking your best food, and finally marketing it effectively.

Well-known restaurants are successes only on the back of the chef and his/her team. A great name can fall if the team does not deliver. So even as you begin your career, it is important to dream about success, because without targets, the finish line is almost unachievable.

The first step to becoming a successful chef is to get a good education. Choose an institute like the American College of Culinary & Language Arts that offers skill-based training and hands-on experience to give you a solid foundation in the basics.

Equally vital is throwing yourself out into the field with internships, stages or pro bono work if needed to understand the real pressures and challenges of a working business. Travel helps immensely, and cruise ship chef jobs are one of the ways in which you can combine travel and experience.

At this point, it is important to envision your brand, particularly if you aim to go solo or manage a restaurant on your own someday. The 21st century is all about the internet and social media, so building a name for yourself or creating a following online helps incredibly, even before you start out.

One example is Fabio Viviani who learned how to use social media before he joined the TV series Top Chef, and created an image of himself online – LinkedIn and Twitter which were big then. While on the show, he used his good looks and exotic accent to his advantage along with his excellent skills as a chef to become a fan favourite.

Even though he didn’t win the show, he catapulted himself into the industry by using this leverage and 10 years later is still one of the names most well remembered by fans of the series. Additionally, he has guest appeared on other shows, released his own online cooking show and has authored several cookbooks. Today, he’s a culinary personality.

You may not need to be Fabio Viviani, but a successful chef can use social media to create a buzz about his/her restaurant or venture and keep the interest alive. It makes business sense to learn how to cultivate a good online presence even before you start a restaurant of your own.

Once you head a restaurant or open your own, focus inward as well. The key to becoming a successful chef is to lead and manage well. You must know how to direct people to accomplishing tasks but also make them feel like they’re part of a team that aims to exceed expectations.

Understand what pushes sales – which dishes are popular and why, the labour and financial costs behind each item on your menu, yields from various products used in the kitchen (such as various cuts of meat or variety of rice), etc. Take interest in seasonal traffic if any, costing strategies and changing food trends and styles. What are customers interested in?

At the same time, focus on staff. Listen to their issues and suggestions. Many might have valuable insight into various parts of the process – from service, to new dishes, to effective management. They will also feel valued.

Listen also to your guests and other companies that are successful at what they do. They may not be in the same business as you are, but a successful chef can learn strategies from anyone.

Finally, keep learning and keep your staff learning too. Widen your skills and those of the staff as well. The more you know, the easier it is to plan for the future and stay one step ahead of competitors and perhaps even trends. Try to learn something new every day, no matter how small.

The most successful chefs know the traditions of food and truly appreciate them, but they are not afraid to bend the rules to keep succeeding. The best chefs are those who can foresee what customers will want in the future. Aspire to this.

Continental Cuisine vs European Cuisine

Continental Cuisine vs European CuisineYou will find similarities and differences in cuisine from across the world. A traditionally cooked meal will mostly have all the key nutritional elements in them – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. But the tastes vary significantly.

Between Continental food and European food, not many differences are stark. Much of the food overlaps each other and it is often a case of context, but one that cruise ship chefs must still know about.

The one key difference between Continental and European food is geographical location. Continental food, over time, has come to mean food from Europe, as well as cuisines from Australia, New Zealand and surrounding islands, North and South America, Southern Africa and other places where European settlers made their home a few hundred years ago. European cuisine, on the other hand, purely refers to food from Europe.

The term Continental cuisine can be traced to England, where they used it to refer to food that came from the continent of Europe, distinguished from island food. The term is often used by eastern Asians when referring to the style of cooking vastly different from their own.

Both Continental and European cuisines base their techniques in what might now be termed ‘healthy cooking’. Dishes are mostly baked, grilled, stewed or roasted. Flavours, however, can range from subtle to quite fragrant depending on where the dish has originated from.

European food, for example, spans the smorgasbord from the light flavours of creamy Finnish salmon soup or an Irish stew across the continent to the flavourful Spanish tapas to colourful the Turkish đuveč.

Within the Continental food bracket, you will find the wildly popular fried chicken and Cobb salad from the US, the delightful lamington cake and flaky meat pie from Australia to the well-known pastas and pizzas of Italy and Swiss fondue and cakes. You will also find British food, such as the traditional fish and chips and a Sunday roast with all the trimmings including Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and gravy.

A point to note, however, is the stark difference between a Continental breakfast and the English breakfast. The Continental breakfast is rather basic compared to a full English. It consists of hot coffee, muffins or croissants or toast with jam and butter, and some fruit. The English breakfast is a whole spread of hot beverages, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, and eggs made in several different ways.

A Continental breakfast typically does not have hot dishes, save for the beverage, which is traditionally just coffee. The English breakfast includes many cooked dishes and a choice of coffee or tea. These days, tea is more easily available even in Continental breakfasts as the trend spreads across the world.

5 Common Continental Dishes and Their Accompaniments

5 Common Continental Dishes and Their AccompanimentsContinental food typically spans the gamut of European fare, but has come to include many similar cuisines as well, including American, Kiwi, Australian. They are marked by relatively milder spice and flavour content compared to Asian cuisine.

As numbers of travellers increase, cruise ship chefs must have a strong basis in this cuisine, given that it is a food of choice for many passengers. Cooking styles revolve around baking, stewing, grilling, and roasting, rather than frying or steaming common in Oriental cuisines.

Here are a few of the most popular Continental dishes with their accompaniments.

Osso buco

Osso Buco

Osso buco

This Milanese speciality literally translates to ‘bone with a hole’, a reference to the piece of marrow in the cross-cut veal shanks. The meat is prized for its tenderness and is braised with vegetables, white wine and broth. It is often garnished with gremolata, a mix of chopped garlic, parsley, anchovy and lemon zest.

Osso buco is generally accompanied by Milan’s special risotto that gets a unique flavour and colour from saffron. Another option for accompaniments is a creamy, boiled cornmeal polenta.

Lobster thermidor

Lobster Thermidor

Lobster thermidor

With its French origins and extensive prep requirements, lobster thermidor comes with a hefty price tag. The dish heroes the sweet meat of the crustacean combined with egg yolks and brandy or cognac which is then stuffed into a lobster shell.

Its most popular accompaniment is an oven-browned cheese crust – with Gruyère being the preferred choice – which contains powdered mustard for flavouring.

Roast chicken

Roast chicken

Roast chicken

A good roast can be a wonderfully versatile dish on a spread. Cruise ship chefs can mix and match varied accompaniments or marinades to offer guests a number of options. Most often, the chicken is roasted in its own fat or juices by using a rotisserie or grill that aids their circulation.

There are a myriad accompaniments for roast chicken – from healthy roasted herbed carrots, roasted asparagus with nuts and cheese, or spicy brussels sprouts with mint to heartier fare such as buttered cauliflower purée, roast potatoes with lemon and oregano or wheat berry and butternut squash salad. Even a simple creamy mashed potato will do.

Filet mignon

Filet mignon

Filet mignon

One of the most popular European dishes out there is the filet mignon, a beautiful medallion of the most tender part of beef tenderloin. Traditionally, the meat is seared on a hot pan for a short time on each side and then moved to a lower heat for cooking through. Most guests prefer their steak cooked rare to medium rare.

Filet mignon is usually served with buttery mashed potatoes, and assorted vegetables such as beans, asparagus, carrots, and mushrooms.

Continental breakfast

Continental breakfast

Continental breakfast

One of the most common meals you will notice in the hospitality industry, even on cruise ships, is the Continental breakfast. It is often free and is starkly different from a full English breakfast or even an American breakfast.

Continental breakfasts do not have cooked food such as eggs or pancakes. Instead they mainly consist of smaller, light bites, such as croissants, toast, muffins, various fruit and berries. You will also find accompaniments of jam, butter, cheese and coffee.