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How to Prepare for a Cruise Ship Chef Interview

How to Prepare for a Cruise Ship Chef InterviewVying for a job that many others are hoping to get is always daunting. But it’s worth remembering that thousands have stood in your shoes before, and succeeded, whether or not on the first try. Still, there are a few key things to keep in mind when preparing yourself for your first interview to get a cruise ship chef job.

Appearance

As part of the wider hospitality industry, appearance makes a strong impression. Dress formally and decently. You needn’t look at branded clothes or fancy accessories. Clean, well-ironed skirts, shirts, trousers and dresses work well. Shine your shoes and wear clean socks. While a suit and a tie could leave a better impression. For those choosing to wear dresses or skirts, it’s best to play safe with regard to decency – hemlines should not be high, necklines not deep, and midriffs covered unless you are wearing a sari.

Body odour

This is an uncomfortable issue that many experience. Sweat and, thereby, body odour are amplified when one is nervous or anxious. This is worsened in tropical conditions where humidity is high. Most interviews will be conducted in an air-conditioned room but nervousness does not play fair. Try to stay calm by revising your answers to common questions, listening to music, meditating silently or engaging in other activities that relax you, so you avoid sweating. Choose clothes made of fabrics that breathe easily, such as linen, cotton and hemp. Take a shower before heading out for the interview, brush your teeth and wear deodorant or perfume.

Punctuality

This is extremely important as it shows your work ethic. Be at least 10 minutes earlier than your allotted reporting time. If you leave home early, it will ensure you do not have to rush and in the bargain, get hot and sweaty. It will help to confirm the exact location of the interview so you do not get lost. Request landmarks and specific directions beforehand, if necessary.

Research

Know a little about the company you are applying to. Websites can provide information about their area of operation and cruise ships, crew programmes that you might be interested in, perhaps even a particular cause that they support.

Understand the responsibilities of the role you are applying for and note down questions you may want to ask. If you know someone who works for the same company, speak to them about work conditions, opportunities for skill development and other details.

Prepare answers

It helps to have answers to questions many interviewers like to ask. They may ask you questions related to your knowledge and skills, such as the recipe to a particular dish, cooking temperatures and cleanliness routines. Interviewers may also want to know what your long-term plans are at work, about your strengths and weaknesses, and why you think they should hire you.

Other easy questions such as your favourite dishes to prepare or a cuisine you are proficient in, about your educational qualifications or the reason why you wanted to work as a chef.

For these, focus on the job you are applying for and ensure your answers show how you meet their criteria. Always answer honestly and try not to ramble on.

Above all, be confident.

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Cruise Ships & Local Produce

Cruise Ships & Local ProduceCruise ship chefs no longer have the liberty of sticking to ‘common ingredients’ in the galleys. Sure, the regulars are available, but trends are pointing to a more nuanced guest list and a more travelled palate. In that sense, knowing local cuisine and how to use locally sourced ingredients is now paramount.

Today, guests on a cruise ship are not shy about asking where their food is from. Many are concerned about sustainability and animal cruelty, so part of cruise ship jobs includes knowing as much about the ingredients as you can.

To feed the thousands who embark on cruises each trip, vessels must plan the menus for all of their restaurants well in advance. All their ingredients and stocks are also tendered for and ordered weeks ahead of the actual trip. So it helps to know which ingredients are good at each port.

New Zealand, for example, is known for excellent quality mussels, while Sydney by contrast is famous for its oysters. Cruise ships stopping in Hawai’i will most likely pick up tons of fresh pineapple from there because that’s what’s good.

Using locally sourced ingredients also reduces costs for cruise ship companies. Vendors are able to provide the freshest produce at port with a reduced cost of transportation. This, in turn, could also reduce prices of the food. For example, it is logically cheaper for an Australian cruise to buy good quality beef from a port in the same country than for them to source special wagyu from Japan. The wagyu might still be available on board, but the prices will certainly be higher.

Smaller ships find it much easier to localise their menus, particularly those sailing around the Mediterranean or even in Scandinavia. Holland America’s seafood brasserie offers guests a fresh catch of the day, picked up in ports it stops at. This means that cruise ship chefs would need to learn how to clean and cook the various species of fish common in that area.

Similarly, the Princess’ cruises in Alaska takes interested guests out on a fishing excursion and encourage them to get their catch cooked on board anyway they like. It’s a unique experience for guests and presents a lovely challenge for cruise ship chefs too.

Using locally sourced ingredients also helps the communities of the ports cruise lines visit. Lindblad Expeditions, for example, has developed a close connection with farmers and vendors in the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador, sourcing a variety of ingredients from kale, chillies and tomatoes to pork, craft beer, even cocktail mixers and sugar from them.

Working with locally produced wine and cheeses is also very common. This presents a nuanced challenge for cruise ship chefs, as cheeses in particular have very specific tastes and using them as an ingredient requires precision and care.

Menus on board cruise ships now feature gourmet-style items such as quail, cold-smoked salmon, and wild forest mushrooms, artisanal cheeses and seafood that is unique to a certain area or port.

Learning more about the food of the ports on the itinerary and the various ways to cook them can not only enhance cruise ship chefs’ knowledge but also their skills and techniques that will hold them in good stead throughout their careers.

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Five Types of Wines and What to Pair with Them

Five Types of Wines and What to Pair with ThemStudies show that global consumption of wine is increasing. In the US, imports of rosé from France grew as much as 4,852 per cent since 2001, according to food industry analyst Food Dive. With many cruise ships ferrying US passengers, this trend is sure to find its way on board as well. As such, it is important for those with cruise ship jobs in the food and beverage section to know the wines being served on board, and what to pair them with.

Commonly, wine is divided into red and white, but as cruise ship chefs would know, there are five basic types. Let’s look at each with suggested wine pairings.

RED WINE

The colour of red wine doesn’t usually come from black grapes as these fruit have a greenish-yellow pulp. The colour and flavour of the wine is extracted from the skin of the fruit. New wines can look a bit purple, while slightly more mature wines turn red, and older wines get deeper to brown.

Look at pairing food such as mushrooms and truffles with a Pinot Noir, a hearty steak with the usual Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux red, and Malbec for heavy Asian meat dishes and spicy barbeques.

WHITE WINE

It is the colourless grape pulp that normally goes into making white wine. Black grapes are also used to make white wine, but the vintner must be extremely careful when separating the pulp from the skin. The liquid from the pulp is then allowed to ferment completely to make dry wine or only partially for sweet wines.

Go with Chardonnay for a meal comprising fish in flavourful sauces, but if there are tangy elements to the dish choose a Sauvignon Blanc instead. You could also pick something a little more region specific like Portugal’s Vinho Verde or Spain’s Verdejo. For lighter flavours choose a Chablis, Arneis or Pinot Grigio.

ROSÉ

To make rosé, a vintner uses only a small amount of dark grape skin, enough to lend colour and a hint of flavour but not enough to make it a true red. There are numerous ways to make rosé, and a wide variety of grapes from around the world are used for different flavours. It is currently an increasingly popular choice with millenials.

Rosé is in fact a great wine for cheeses thanks to its fruitiness. It’s the perfect wine for Mediterranean food. During the summer, suggest Italy’s Bardolino Chiaretto with salads, grilled fish and raw oysters. Guests who prefer slightly sweeter tastes can go with Portuguese varietals that can even be paired with mild curries and rice-based dishes.

SPARKLING WINE

Sparkling wine is the fizzy variety of wine. Natural fermentation either in a bottle or in a large tank causes a high concentration of carbon dioxide which gives the wine this fizzy quality. Champagne is the most famous sparkling wine, and in the European Union the name is legally reserved for wines made of grapes grown in the Champagne region of France.  

Champagne is known to pair well with slightly salty dishes, so it’s a great option to offer with savoury hors d’oeuvres including foie gras, smoked salmon and caviar. Use a rosé sparkling varietal such as the beloved prosecco with Asian food and antipasti, or the slightly cheaper cava to go with sushi and tapas.

DESSERT WINE

Dessert wines typically have a higher amount of sugar than the others, but its specific categorisation differs around the world. To make dessert wine, vintners either use naturally sweet grapes; fortify the wine with sugar, honey or alcohol; or extract the water content to concentrate the sugar.

The go-to method of pairing sweet wine and dessert is to offer an acidic wine for items that incorporate fruit and an intense wine for a strong flavoured dessert. If sweetness is the main element, cruise ship chefs must ensure that the wine is sweeter than the dessert. California’s famous Zinfandel goes well with rich caramel pecan fudge or cheesecake, Hungary’s Tokaji can be paired with cheese plates or sweet cheese desserts, Moscato with raspberry or strawberry desserts, and Moscatel with heavy chocolate ones.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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