You can also download the PDF Version of our Bi-annual Newsletter Here
You can also download the PDF Version of our Bi-annual Newsletter Here
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
You 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.
Continental 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the most important cruise ship chef job is serving hygienic food. This process begins long before the food reaches the kitchen and is then served to guests. Storage and preparation procedures are key factors that affect the quality of food on cruise lines.
Cruise ships place huge orders for food supplies to carry them through days at sea. Proper storage helps keep them fresh for longer and safe to eat. Cruise line companies design ships to have various storage areas for different food items – fresh vegetables, dairy, different types of meat, canned items and even beverages. Each of these storage areas has different temperature settings linked to the food being kept within.
There are various ways to check whether food is safe when the delivery arrives. Temperatures of food items, particularly frozen food, must be checked, and since most food is frozen on arrival each consignment must pass the test, or be rejected.
Certain foods are more susceptible to going bad at warmer temperatures. These foods – such as milk or other dairy products, must be 5 degrees Centigrade or below when the delivery arrives. Frozen food like meat and seafood should be frozen solid when it arrives at the cruise ship. There should be no signs – liquids, water stains or ice crystals – that the food had thawed and been refrozen.
Cruise ship chefs and food handlers must be careful to check for food that has passed its expiration date before storage and before preparation as well. Those that have are rejected immediately.
During storage, food must be labeled correctly. Ready-to-eat food such as potato salad or hummus is clearly marked by these common names and also a date by which it should be used or eaten.
It’s not just edible items that need correct storage. Cruise ship galleys use chemicals and cleaning supplies to wash dishes and keep the area disinfected. These should always be stored away from food and prep areas. After use, these chemicals and even dirty liquid such as mop water must be disposed of according to instructions from the manufacturer.
Utensils and vessels that have just been cleaned must also be stored correctly so they air dry and do not get contaminated before use.
One of the main ways for food to get infected by microbes and other germs is through cross-contamination. Clear cut procedures and safety measures can help avoid this situation. This is particularly important for cruise ship chefs who handle both raw and ready-to-eat food items – such as say salad leaves and cooked prawns that might go in a prawn cocktail.
For this, cruise ship chefs have separate equipment and workstations for each type of food – meats, seafood, poultry, vegetables, fruit, eggs, dairy, etc. Workstations and equipment are always cleaned thoroughly before and after they are used.
Cruise ship chefs must also be very careful that ready-to-eat food does not come in contact with raw food. For example, beef steaks that need cooking should not be anywhere near a plate of cut fresh fruit that’s about to be served.
They go so far as to not mix different items or multiple batches of the same item when soaking produce in standing water or ice water. Almonds and sprouts, for example, should not be soaked in the same vessel. Similarly, one batch of lettuce leaves that may be kept crisp in ice water should be separated from a different one that may have been taken out from the fridge later.
Temperatures are critical during preparation. Several guidelines and manuals list out the various temperatures at which to thaw food items, and how to do it correctly.
Food that has been prepped but is not being served immediately should be returned to a cooler as soon as possible.
By following procedure, cruise ship chefs ensure that guests stay safe while eating their favourite food.