Category Archives: Cuisine

The Art Of Cooking

The Art Of CookingFor most of human history, cooking has been viewed as a necessary skill, without which humans are resigned to be foragers and hunters. Over the years, with the opulence of empires and their show of wealth, cooking transcended that realm into something of extravagance and show.

From basic food forms like pies and roasts, food became more dainty and sophisticated to include newer creations such as bruschetta and salads. More recently, cooking and its final products have focused on technique, appearance and quality, causing many to refer to this skill as culinary art.

Art is loosely defined as visual, auditory and performing artifacts that express the author’s imaginative, conceptual idea, or technical skill intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power. Much of this can be applied to the culinary arts.

People in the world of culinary arts, including cruise ship chefs, are expected to have in-depth knowledge of food science, nutrition and diet. Students are taught this art just as one would painting or sculpture – including its history, specific techniques and creative expression.

By nature, an artist uses a blank canvas to stimulate the senses. Cooking a dish and its presentation can cause similar effects. Heston Blumenthal, for example, created a stunning dessert out of something quite classic. He turned the favourite Italian dessert tiramisu into a potted plant.

The dessert is served in a clean pot and appears to be a sapling planted in a soil. To the eye, soil is hardly appetising, initiating a tasteless, bitter, perhaps even unsavoury effect. In this way, it stimulates the eyes and the imagination. Once the diner comes closer, the aroma of the chocolate soil and the mint or basil plant stimulates the olfactory senses.

This changes the diner’s approach to the dish, inviting him or her to try it. Finally, the taste buds are stimulated and the diner feels comfort from tasting something familiar, joy at having overcome the initial reaction and from the pleasant surprise.

Art can be constituted as a reaction or a relationship between the viewer and the object or experience. A similar example in the modern art space is of Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, whose early installations in the 1990s sought to bring people together by cooking meals such as pad thai and Thai green curry for visitors.

This may not be culinary art but shows that art is simply a sensory effect on its audience. They may not perceive it as beautiful or – in the case of culinary art – delicious, but that is their perception of the creator’s vision.

Culinary artists undergo years of rigorous training in skills, food safety, the understanding of chemistry and thermodynamics, and more, to give them a firm foundation of how ingredients react with each other and the elements around them.

The creativity rests on their own imagination to design dishes that evoke positive sensory responses from diners so that people keep coming back for more.

For cruise ship chefs, their jobs on board may not give them the full freedom to practice their creativity, particularly lower down in the hierarchy, but in celebrity kitchens or once they climb the ladder, the world is their oyster.

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Breaking Down Haute Cuisine & Fusion Cuisine

Breaking Down Haute Cuisine & Fusion CuisineFood is one of the most important elements of a cruise. Today’s cruise ship chefs jobs place exacting demands for technical know how and knowledge of varying cuisines to suit almost every taste preference. Two trendy cuisine styles that are catching on in cruising today are haute cuisine and fusion cuisine.

HAUTE CUISINE

The French have always been known for their cuisine, but this fame really began in the 17th century. Before this time, France was simply learning more about food ingredients brought in from its conquests and the newly discovered Americas.

A good meal at this time was considered to be one with huge portions, with one record showing about 66 turkeys at a single dinner. Haute cuisine can be considered to have been invented with the appointment of Marie-Antoine Carême – later called the father of French cuisine – as the head chef of English King George IV. Carême was famous for his excessively rich dishes, elaborate decorative edible centrepieces, and also his books on cooking. He took his ideas from La Varenne, who was the first to make roux, and individual or single portion pastries and pies.

He set the stage for the reign of French chefs, followed by Georges Auguste Escoffier in the 19th century, who modernised haute cuisine into what it is today. Instead of the elaborate feasts of old, he worked with Carême’s decadent sauces and other culinary concepts to focus on smaller portions using high quality ingredients and precision.

Haute cuisine changed the way food was served – from bringing in all dishes at once, to service in courses. The legendary French meal consists of up to 17 courses, from hors d’oeuvres to cold cuts to cheese boards.

Haute cuisine continues to follow these practices, with one of its main contributions to the art of cooking being efficiency. Escoffier created the system of dedicated stations for various elements of a dish – soups, sauces, starches and vegetables, grills and fried items, and pastry dishes. This system is still in use today.

FUSION CUISINE

Compared to haute cuisine, fusion food is thought of as a relatively new concept. As a modern concept, it became fashionable in the 1970s but as a basic concept, it has been around for millenia. Fusion cuisine is basically marrying different styles and techniques, something that has been done with every migration since the beginning of time.

One example of this is spaghetti, which is thought to have been inspired by the exposure of Italians to Chinese noodles. In India, this is apparent with the inclusion of tomatoes and chilli into the cuisine after these ingredients were introduced by the Europeans.

Where haute cuisine is classic and follows certain techniques and recipes, fusion cuisine is more forgiving and fluid. Chefs need not follow the rules and service need not be in courses.

One of the first chefs associated with fusion cuisine is Richard Wing who combined French and Chinese cooking, and later Wolfgang Puck who cemented the idea of Eurasian cuisine.

Fusion cuisine requires a solid knowledge of a variety of techniques and ingredients, and a particular affinity for good flavour combinations. It means knowing whether elements like garlic and passionfruit could work well together.

Fusion cuisine has received some heat from chefs who dismiss it as a confusion of styles and elements. However, despite this, fusion cuisine remains popular and the simpler recipes possibly cheaper and easier to recreate at home compared to haute cuisine.

As competition gets stiffer, food companies are bringing more innovative fusion cuisine ideas to the mix. One new style that has caught on recently is the food mash-up, combining two food types into one. This has spawned creative dishes such as the Cronut – pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s croissant-donut recipe which looks like a donut but is made with croissant-style dough and is filled with cream.

Others include the ramen burger with a ‘bun’ of fried ramen noodles, fruit sushi, pastrami egg rolls, the mac n cheese pancake sandwich and tandoori chicken bruschetta.

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How Cruise Ship Chefs Can Reduce Kitchen Wastage

How Cruise Ship Chefs Can Reduce Kitchen WastageCruise ship chefs jobs involve cooking delicious food for thousands of people at least three times daily. This does not take into account snacks like fries, ice creams and cookies spread out over the course of the day. With so much food being prepared, there is bound to be wastage.

In recent times, cruise ship companies have received negative attention for food wastage. However, in any commercial kitchen, it is difficult to completely eliminate waste as much of this depends on the consumer. If a parent orders a side of vegetables for their fussy child who either eats very little or does not touch it, the dish must be thrown out.

But wastage is not just bad for the environment, it is also bad for the bottom line. Reducing kitchen waste can save the company a lot of money. Food waste on cruise ships has been estimated to be as much as 30 per cent, so making changes in house can help a great deal.

One of the easiest ways for cruise ship chefs to reduce wastage is awareness. Understanding the impact of food leftovers and other waste can help them look at how they store and prepare their dishes differently. For example, they can reduce the amount of mass that gets cut off along with the head of a vegetable such as carrots or turnips.

It also helps for chefs to use specialised equipment when cooking. Using paring knives to skin fruit or fillet knives to clean and debone fish allow them to execute the job properly, with minimum wastage. Similarly, using spatulas when transferring food or ingredients from one utensil to another also helps reduce the amount going into the bin.

Food that perishes quickly must be used and stored smartly. The provisions manager assesses the amount of produce required for the days before the cruise ship hits port again and stocks accordingly. Cruise ship chefs must ensure they use the most ripe fruit and vegetables first so they do not go bad.

Those that are slightly overripe can be used in recipes that require them, such as jams and preserves, pickles, soups and stews and even ice cream. Dry bread is very often to make toast and breadcrumbs.

Sometimes, cruise ship chefs can get innovative to reduce wastage. Daily specials are a great way for them to use up food that has already been cooked but not served. Leftovers of the same day like rice can be used to make rice pudding or Asian-style fried rice. Grilled meats and fish have a variety of uses including club sandwiches, soups, wraps, tacos, pot pies and more.

Still, it is important for cruise ship chefs to try and cut wastage before food is prepared. One way to do this is learning about how each person moves in the kitchen. Training sessions allow the entire food and beverage staff to understand the rules of movement in a galley. This means that people in a particular position follow a certain pattern of movement in their work. This not only increases efficiency but also reduces any unintentional bumping that might cause spillage.

Additionally, it helps to store cooked food correctly. For example, storing new batches of mayonnaise to the right of the fridge and older ones to the left increases the chances that the older ones will be used first, particularly when cruise ship chefs are in a rush and don’t have time to read use by labels.

During service, some cruise ships use smaller plates to reduce portion sizes, particularly at all-you-can-eat buffets where guests are more likely to fill up their plates whether they are hungry or not. When serving heavy food such as rich desserts or thick sauces, serving sizes can be reduced to a more appropriate amount.

Food wastage is a vital issue that many cruise ships are trying to tackle to not only help the environment but also reduce financial losses.

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Unusual Types Of Cooking Methods

NUSUAL TYPES OF COOKING METHODSCruise ship chefs jobs involve the knowledge of numerous cooking methods to whip up the wide variety of dishes served on board. Thousands of meals are made to satisfy every taste, from thin crust pizzas to grilled chicken, slow-cooked roast and delicious deep-fried donuts.

Some of the common methods of cooking used by cruise ship chefs include baking, grilling, frying, roasting, stewing, boiling and pressure cooking. In addition, there are others that are slightly more uncommon in home kitchens requiring technical knowledge and / or specific equipment. Here are a few:

SHIRRING

Shirring is done mainly with eggs, typically cooked in a dish called a shirrer. However, these days, they are cooked in any glass or ceramic dish with a flat bottom. The method involves baking the eggs in butter until the albumen turns opaque but the yolk stays runny. Shirred eggs are most commonly eaten for breakfast or brunch.

COCKAIGNE

This is a method of slow cooking chicken breasts using low temperatures to heat the meat from the outside in. Oil or butter is poured into a pan so it covers the bottom evenly. Medium high heat is turned down to medium and flattened chicken breasts are cooked on one side for a minute before the heat is reduced to a simmer and the chicken flipped over to cook for about 10 minutes. During this time, the chicken is covered and cooked using the trapped heat. After this, the dish is taken off the heat, but left to sit still covered for an additional 10 minutes to finish the process.

BAIN-MARIE

A bain-marie is a water bath in an oven, using fluid in between two dishes to heat the food gradually and gently. A great variety of dishes can be cooked in a bain-marie, particularly custards and cheesecakes as this method of cooking prevents it from crusting and cracking on the top.

Bain-maries are also used to melt chocolate, thicken condensed milk for desserts and make delicate sauces such as hollandaise and beurre blanc.

SOUS VIDE

This cooking method uses accurately controlled, low temperatures to cook food over an extended period of time. The produce or meat is generally vacuum sealed in a plastic bag or glass jar and placed in a water or steam bath where temperatures vary between 55 degrees C to 60 degrees C for meat and a little higher for vegetables.

Sous vide cooking locks in the juices and aromas of the food being cooked resulting in flavourful dishes which retain moisture and are cooked evenly.

BASTING

This method is popular when cooking delicately flavoured meats, using their own juices or special marinades to retain flavour and moisture. The dish is placed on a grill, in an oven or rotisserie and cooked over a long period of time. Moisture-rich vegetables and fruit or fatty food such as bacon are sometimes added alongside to ensure that that there is constant moisture throughout the process. Basting requires care and attention as the meat can easily dry out if the method is not followed correctly

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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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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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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.

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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.

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