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Cruise Ship Chefs: Prepping for Peak Hours

Cruise Ship Chefs: Prepping for Peak HoursSo many people eat on a cruise ship at every meal that the main dining halls have staggered eating times. Menus at both buffets and à la carte restaurants can be complex and elaborate. Ensuring that every guest is served within a decent time frame can be stressful. It is here that proper planning plays a key role in service for rush hour. Cruise ship chefs begin prepping  meals the previous day. It begins with a look through the menu to understand the requirements of all the meals that will be served. This includes all the dishes – from salads to desserts, beverages and cocktails.

Estimates are made of the number of dishes expected to be ordered and a requisition form is sent to the provisions staff. This form includes every ingredient required for the next day’s meal. The provisions team ensures that all of these ingredients are readily available for the cruise ship chef the next day.

Preparations for rush hour begin early. Often, this can mean turning up at 4am for a 6am breakfast. Breads, donuts, pastries and other items are quickly put together and sent into the ovens to bake in batches. Meats or vegetables that need marination are set aside in the mixture and refrigerated until required.

Preparations for peak hour also include cruise ship chefs taking care of salad dressings, roux, meat gravies, coulis, jus and other accompaniments to main dishes. This way, when the time comes, they can concentrate on making fewer elements of the entire dish and simply ladle the accompaniments on quickly.

In this case, labels are very important. As soon as something is prepped, it goes into an appropriate container or bag and labelled with a name or description and the date or time. This helps cruise ship chefs know if something has been freshly prepared or it has gone past its use by date or time and could pose health risks if used.

If possible, best-selling items in each kitchen are prepared ahead of time to avoid any backlogs during rush hour. These could be certain items that the cruise ship has recorded as popular fare among its passengers over time.

Special orders are significant as they are out of the way but need to be made with extra focus and attention. These include meals for those with allergies and other dietary restrictions for health, religious or lifestyle reasons.

It helps greatly when special orders or restrictions come in ahead of time so cruise ship chefs can prepare early, sometimes making a meal off menu for the guest. If not, you must be prepared to rustle up something delicious on the go.

Preparing for rush hour on a cruise ship is like strategising a military operation. With key components in place and everyone doing their job with full attention and focus, it is possible to serve every guest to their full satisfaction.

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HOW TO LEAVE YOUR MARK AS A CRUISE SHIP CHEF

HOW TO LEAVE YOUR MARK AS A CRUISE SHIP CHEFLife as a cruise ship chef often receives criticism. No doubt it is tough and requires long working hours, but the take-aways in terms of skills and experience are immeasurable. Hundreds work as cruise ship chefs but not all are able to leave their mark and stand out. It may not be easy, but following a few basic habits can help you leave your mark as a cruise ship chef to get promotions within the cruise industry or recommendations for when you leave.

Keep a clean slate

The pressures of work can take their toll on anyone. It can lead to mistakes, which are understandable; but it can also lead to employees losing their cool with others. Never pick fights, engage in discriminatory behaviour or do anything illegal. These activities will go on record and could affect your next job application. Keeping a clean slate will get you top employee ratings.

Follow instructions

Thousands of dishes are cooked, plated and served at every meal on a cruise ship. Chefs need to know exactly how they must taste and what they need to look like to maintain consistency. It is important to follow instructions so you can help the food and beverage team with their goals. Consistency in quality of cooking, and particularly plating, is always noticed.

Be innovative

Following instructions, however, does not mean you cannot be creative or innovative. If you find something that can be improved or changed, bring it to the notice of your superiors. Good suggestions are welcomed, and although they may not always be implemented due to logistical or technical reasons, they will be noted. These could go on your record when you ask for recommendations for another job application.

Health & hygiene comes first

On cruise ships, hygiene is of utmost importance. Being noted for your strict adherence to hygiene standards will bring you recognition. Make sure you wash your hands often and correctly, keep your uniform spotless, and keep your nails trimmed at all times.

Ensuring you stay healthy and fit also works to your advantage. It might be difficult to exercise when you have long hours, but putting in 20 minutes a day with a well-balanced diet can help a great deal. This shows the company that you are less likely to be a health liability.

Be a team player

Being able to work well with others is always an advantage. When superiors note that you keep team spirits up, can be counted on to take the lead in stressful situations, and maintain composure during crises, they are more likely to promote you.

If others take the lead, make sure you do everything you can to achieve the goal. Coordinate with other members on your team, help those who might need a hand, and ask for help if you feel things are sliding on your end. The main aim is always achieving the collective goal.

In addition, sticking to general rules of hygiene and discipline always help when making your mark as a cruise ship chef.

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Cruise Chefs: How to Make Your Dish Exciting

Cruise Ship Chefs: How to Make Your Dish ExcitingPassion and creativity go hand-in-hand for chefs jobs. But with thousands in the fray, it becomes increasingly important to stand out at work. Knowing the basics may not be enough as you grow in the industry; you will need to up your game by making your dish exciting and appealing.

One of the main ways to create a new dish or make an existing dish exciting is to eat. Eat the dish you’re looking at changing and also other food, particularly those you are unfamiliar with. This will help you understand flavour profiles and expand your range. It will also give you the chance to pick up on tiny details of the dish and give you ideas for elements to change. You will be able to create interesting new pairings, or even swap a small element in an existing dish to completely change the flavours.

Another way to change a regular dish is to play with existing elements. Often, young students follow the book to the ‘T’, making sure every step of a recipe is followed through thoroughly. At a later stage in one’s career, you can look at taking your favourite dish that you have made beautifully for years, and switching it up. This can be done by playing with elements such as textures, plating and portion sizes.

You could take a curry and carb dish and make it exciting by introducing a crunchy element. You may not need to change the flavour, but just changing the texture can make the dish exciting. For example, instead of regular steamed rice, you could use rice crackers. Or instead of a boiled vegetable, you could use a purée.

Guests are becoming more adventurous with food, even on cruise ships. Watching food shows and reality TV contests can give you ideas of how to hero one ingredient on the plate and complement it with simple additions. Perhaps you could put the focus on beef or mushrooms and use even items like coffee or chocolate unusually in a savoury dish. The flavour changes can be subtle, but even so can make a dish different and interesting.

Talk to other chefs about ideas for your dish. You might find that a little tweak to an original idea could make it even more interesting. You can bounce off ideas for flavour combinations, thematic interpretations, and even presentation.

Finally, plating can be as important as the dish itself. A poorly presented dish will not be appetising to look at, thereby ruining the experience of the diner before he or she even puts a morsel in his or her mouth.

Plating is so important that when chefs are developing new dishes they sketch out several potential designs of presentations before the dish even comes into being. The kind of serving dishes, their size, shape and colour can make a difference too. Placement of the various elements on the plate is important as well, focusing on which ones the diner is likely to eat together.

Remember to pay attention to detail. Contrast colours of vegetables and meat, use long elements to create the illusion of height and create beautiful designs using sauces. Gorgeous and technically difficult garnishes are also a great way to catch your diner’s eyes. Meshes, chocolate shards, edible flowers and other similar elements can add an interesting component to your dish.

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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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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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Why Passion is Required in a Cruise Ship Chefs Jobs

Why Passion is Required in a Cruise Ship Chefs JobsThe culinary world is a fast-paced, constantly evolving and hard working industry. Learning how to be a chef and keeping up with trends can suck the life out of you. This is the basic reason why it is so important to have passion for your work, particularly as a cruise ship chef.

Being a cruise ship chef is a demanding job

The world of cruise ship chefs involves hours of hard labour, behind the scenes. It is extremely rare that a cruise ship chef is called out by a guest to be thanked. You will probably be one of dozens working on the menu for the day, ensuring everything is up to standard. Having an undying passion for cooking will ensure that no matter how thankless your job is, how badly your day went down and how tired you are at the end of it, you will still wake up the next morning raring to go. Every day of your contract.

Evolution is the name of the game

Guests on cruise ships are no longer satisfied with the same food every day. Even classics need to be top-notch, treated with care and sometimes put a spin on to remain relevant. As a cruise ship chef, your job may require you to ensure that the menu developed by the company is followed to the T. This does not mean there is no evolution or change. Menus are often revamped from one season to the next, or you may be transferred to another vessel. Keeping the passion for being a chef alive will ensure you get through what might seem a mundane job to a point where you make the decisions.

The process of passion is baptism by fire

Passion is not just a heartfelt desire to do something for the rest of your life. It survives the test of time and the ravages of hard work. To do this, one must go through the process of passion. Whether it is a full-scale graduate course in hospitality or a series of rigorous short-term diplomas in culinary specifics, there may be days when you ask yourself if you are truly cut out for the industry. But this is where the passion for the culinary arts is born. If you love what you do, you will persevere through the short-term for long-term gains.

Learning is an important part of passion

In the culinary world, simply knowing you have passion is not enough. Learning is an important part of cruise ship chefs jobs, particularly in the fundamentals. Having a good grip on the basics is the foundation for tweaking skills and techniques even later in life. Keep an eye out for masterclasses by renowned chefs, tutorials and workshops to continuously learn new things and broaden your horizon.

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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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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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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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