Congratulations to all our ACCLA Students on Being selected for the Apollo Interviews held on the 29th & 30th of January 2018 and kick-starting their Cruise line Careers. And also all the best to them in their future endeavor’s.
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.
Comfort food is a staple on board cruise ships whereas unusual dishes are quite rare. In galleys of all floating restaurants, cruise ship chefs work to deliver a steady stream of familiar dishes, perhaps with a bit of innovation but with familiar ingredients.
However, there are times that restaurants cater to the adventurous, offering culinary experiences to guests that they might never have dreamt of trying. Exotic ingredients such as caviar are widely available, but other lesser known but equally coveted strange treats are also on offer.
Qsine on Celebrity Cruises came up with the idea of sushi popsicles, one of which included a spicy salmon roll on a popsicle stick covered in coating of crushed cheese Doritos. Another favourite snack at the restaurant is popcorn fish n chips, which are small nuggets of popcorn, potato and batter-fried fish served in a movie-style popcorn bag.
These aren’t as unusual as some of the other treats available. One of the few meat-free unusual options on board is tempeh. Cruise ship chefs on vessels like P&O cruises learn how to make dishes using seitan and tempeh. Originating from Japan, both these dishes are a stand-in protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
Tempeh appears like a cake made of seeds. These are in fact soya beans that have been fermented using fungus spores. The process causes them to bind together into a cake form that is then eaten as is or used in soups, salads, sandwiches and stews. Thanks to its nutty, meaty and mushroom-like flavour, it can even be used as a substitute for meat in tacos and other dishes.
Seitan is often known as wheat meat, made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules are removed. It turns into a sticky, elastic-like mass of insoluble gluten which is cooked before being eaten. This versatile food item is eaten baked, fried, or steamed, or used as a substitute for meat for its close textural resemblance.
A popular but unusual food that finds its place on cruise ship menus around the world is escargots. It is not difficult to find especially at the dining room on the Royal Caribbean, where the cruise ship chefs serve a delicious escargots bourguignonne – tender snails slathered with garlic-herb butter.
In the reptile category is the much-loved and sought-after frogs legs. Carnival’s range of cruise ships features this item on its menu. One of the ways frogs legs is served on ships is with provençale herb butter and warm garlic bread. Many vessels receive pre-cleaned legs to hasten preparation and save on space, but it helps for cruise ship chefs to know how to clean frogs from scratch.
A little less popular reptile dish is alligator. Carnival’s range of ‘Didja treats’ or ‘rare finds’ includes alligator fritters. This is served as an entrée, often using alligator tail meat that’s been marinated, breaded and fried, accompanied by spicy dipping sauces.
On cruise ships around Australia, one might find kangaroo meat on the menu, but it is more likely to find this during excursions on land as a type of novelty dish. Kangaroo meat is said to be healthier, with less fat, tending to be an option for fitness enthusiasts and adventurous foodies.
Cooking unusual meats and dishes allows cruise ship chefs to expand their repertoire and flavour range, a skill set that widens their culinary expertise.
End-of-year holidays are some of the busiest times of the year on cruise lines the world over. Celebrations begin from Thanksgiving at the end of November and continue through to Hanukkah, and then on to Christmas and New Year.
Most people prefer spending time with families at this time, and many, instead of doing the traditional dinner at home, go on cruises. It allows families to get away from extreme weather – very hot in the southern hemisphere countries such as Australia and very cold in places like Europe, the US and Canada.
Being together means guests enjoy lots of meals and treats, for which cruise ship chefs have a big role to play. For each big holiday, certain traditional delights form part of the festivities and it is key for cruise ship chefs to know what they must look and taste like. After all, many cruise guests will look for that ‘authentic’ taste that takes them down memory lane without having to go through the trouble of making it themselves.
This is a celebration that is all about the food. Research has shown that most Americans eat more on Thanksgiving than they do on any other day of the year. The holiday is celebrated in commemoration of a meal shared by native Americans and the early European settlers to the continent, known as the Pilgrims.
A traditional Thanksgiving meal is incomplete without turkey. So cruise ship chefs must prepare beautifully glazed birds that can be carved to reveal its delicious stuffing. This is often a bread based mixture combined with sage, chopped celery, carrots and onions.
Side dishes are equally important and cranberry sauce is almost a must-have. Others include mashed potatoes, gravy and brussels sprouts. Green bean casserole is another favourite, as well as Thanksgiving’s most popular dessert of pumpkin pie with its beautiful aroma of various spices.
Hanukkah is typically celebrated anytime between the end of November and the end of December. The Jewish holiday commemorates the Maccabees’ successful rebellion against Antiochus IV Epiphanes when the wicks of the sacred candelabrum in the temple burned miraculously for eight days.
Cruises during this time decorate their vessels with Hanukkah motifs including the traditional menorah or candelabrum and beautiful fresh flower arrangements in colours of blue, silver and white.
It is time for chefs to focus on kosher meals and traditional fare that is baked or fried in oil, in memory of its importance at the temple all those years ago. The most prominent delights are latkes or potato pancakes, sufganiyot or doughnuts filled with strawberry jam, matzo ball soup made from unleavened bread and chicken soup, and gefilte, an appetiser made of minced fish.
Cruise ship chefs also serve up a variety of dishes made of cheese and dairy.
Christmas & New Year
Many families make Christmas and New Year a getaway they can celebrate together. New Year cruises are some of the most expensive ones, and cruise ship chefs must pull out all the stops to ensure guests feel like they’ve had an amazing gastronomical start to the New Year.
Because both celebrations are so close together, many dishes revolve around the same theme of decadence. Dining buffets will most certainly see a roast turkey or goose with all the trimmings.
Desserts and goodies are of prime importance during this time. Gingerbread cookies are an international favourite, with many cruises offering cookie decorating workshops for children. Mince pies stuffed with dried fruits and spices make an appearance everywhere as do chocolate yule logs and traditional Christmas pudding.
Eggnog, a rich, creamy beverage sometimes spiked with brandy, rum or bourbon, is a popular drink around Christmas time. At the New Year countdown, it is customary for guests to receive a glass of Champagne to celebrate.
Food is central to a vacation – whether it is simple rural grub or world-famous meals that require hours of waiting for a table. Cruise ships and celebrity chefs have noticed this, closing the chasm between consumer aspirations and logistics with restaurants on board.
The trend slowly started more than a decade ago, but has caught on in a big way. Now, almost every major cruise ship has a restaurant led by a celebrity chef or features a big name on some menu or other.
If successful, restaurants by celebrity chefs on cruise ships work wonders for all involved. Celebrity chefs are able to reach out to more customers through the cruise ship’s sheer size and capacity. They are also challenged by the list of fresh ingredients available and are able to showcase their talent through mind-blowing food despite this limitation.
Cruise ships, on the other hand, are able to leverage the fame of these celebrity chefs and attract food-loving guests who might otherwise not have a chance to visit their land-based restaurants. On board, the team working in the restaurant, such as cruise ship chefs and service staff, are required to meet exacting standards. It adds an excellent boost to their work experience, and provides them with knowledge they can use at any point of life.
Celebrity chef Curtis Stone explained the idea as being able to connect with people through food. Stone, who runs a very successful land-based restaurant called Maude in Beverly Hills (USA), leads concept restaurant Share on Princess Cruises which encourages pass-the-plate meal sharing and communal eating that is rustic yet at the same time different.
Other celebrity chefs who have restaurants on board cruise ships include Angelo Auriana (Princess Cruises), Guy Fieri (Carnival Cruise Line), Jose Garces (Norwegian Cruise Line), Thomas Keller (Seabourn Cruise Line), Marco Pierre White (P&O Cruises), Arnaud Lallement and Scott Hunell (Disney Cruise Line), Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa (Crystal Cruises), Jamie Oliver (Royal Caribbean International), Jacques Pepin (Oceania Cruises) and others.
India has representation in Atul Kochhar, who creates modern Indian cuisine with a British twist on board his P&O Cruise restaurants East (Ventura) and Sindh (Azura). His light twist on the otherwise vibrantly fragrant Indian cuisine allows it to open up to many more guests and passengers, some of whom might not have tasted this cuisine ever before.
From the guest’s point of view, celebrity chefs on cruise ships are an exquisite deal, particularly for those who love good food and fine dining. The celebrity chefs have their own restaurants around the world, where meals can cost hundreds of dollars and reservations can be hard to come by. Eating at their restaurants on board offers guests the chance to indulge in their food at a fraction of the price and waiting list.
A five-course dinner at Angelo Auriana’s Sabatini, for example, will set guests back just US$25 per person, with additional pasta or entrées costing just US$10 each. Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant charges just US$15 per person. Others like Guy Fieri’s offerings at Guy’s Burger Joint are actually included in the price of the cruise ticket. This is considered an absolute steal for passengers.
Celebrity chefs must ensure consistency and quality at their onboard restaurants as their name depends on it. While they may not be available on the cruise ship 24/7, they are known to visit at least once every six weeks to ensure that the head chefs are following recipes and procedures correctly. Additionally, they may hold training sessions with the galley staff, host an interactive meal with guests or even lead a masterclass or cooking demonstration.
If done right, successful partnerships with celebrity chefs can mean profits all around.
Apart from creativity and passion, cruise ship chefs jobs demand vigilance and a keen eye on food safety. Being attentive at every step of the food production and service process enables cruise ship companies to keep their guests safe from food related diseases and in turn secure their reputation in the market.
Companies in the US ensure that cruise ship chefs follow the HACCP system – Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point – which research has shown is a viable food safety operation system. By rigorously following the procedures, chefs on board can identify chemical, physical and biological threats at any step of the flow of food – from delivery and storage to cooking and service.
All across the board, including the galley, the HACCP system follows a seven step procedure.
- Analysing the hazard
Here, kitchen management and cruise ship chefs carefully observe how food is prepared, cooked and served. Notes are made about each step of the process from temperatures of food to the utensils used and the manner in which the dish is plated. It begins from analyzing the various dishes on the menu and noting which dishes are most susceptible to contamination. This effectively means that every restaurant on board a cruise ship will have its own HACCP system.
- Determining the points of risk
This involves observing how the food is made and noting at which points during the process risks can be prevented, removed or reduced to safe limits. These are called critical control points. They could be the minimum length of time or temperature – or critical limit – that a certain food item must be cooked for/at, or that a dirty dish must remain in cleaning solvent or hot water, or even the temperature at which a food must be defrosted at.
- Establishing critical limits
At this juncture, cruise ship chefs must determine the highest and lowest points for preventing or removing a hazard or reducing it to safe levels. Procedures may specify how to reach the temperature necessary for cooking a meat product safely, or how long a certain dish could remain in the holding pot.
- Formulating procedures for monitoring
With the fourth step, HACCP moves into the next phase of safety – controlling the hazard. This involves specifying ways in which cruise ship chefs or other staff assigned to the job can monitor whether safety measures are being consistently maintained. This can mean checking the internal temperature of each dish or even each individual steak or chicken breast.
- Corrective action
If the safety parameter, that is the critical limits, are not met, procedures are to be put in place to guide staff on what to do next. This could mean continuing to cook a dish until it reaches its internal temperature, or discarding a dish that is not considered safe to eat. All corrective action is logged for records.
- Checking the system
Through this step, cruise ship chefs are able to figure out if their safety method works. Through hazard analyses, logs, monitoring charts and other records, they are able to check where the weak points of the safety system are and implement remedial action. This remedial action will now form part of the new critical limits to be checked and logged.
- Keeping records
Maintaining records and logs are a very important part of the process. Cruise management are able to assess food safety conditions easily. Cruise ship chefs keep records of monitoring activities, remedial action, equipment to ensure they are in good working condition, supplier information including invoices, shelf-life, specifications, etc. This helps revise the HACCP plan often and keep it as watertight as possible.
In the old days, food on board a cruise ship was not much awaited. Lack of technology and resources made it impossible for vessels to offer food that was worth advertising. Today, cruise ship chef jobs are among the most coveted sea-faring posts. All because the food culture on board a ship has taken a turn for the better.
There is a certain drama associated with food on board a liner. Cruise ship chefs are expected to create art with every plate, and plates generally run into thousands per meal per day. With the variety of food options available on board today, guests are spoiled for choice and many are not afraid of taking advantage of the high-quality complimentary offers available.
A recent study by travel insurance company Allianz Global Assistance found that as much as 9.4 per cent of guests did not leave the ship when it called on a port thanks to the free food and drinks on board!
This purely goes to show that not only are guests enamoured by the indulgent choices available for free, but they also opt for these over newer culinary experiences they might encounter while out in port. That says a lot about the standard of food served on board cruise ships these days.
Still, there are others who want to go all out and enjoy on-board dining, sometimes paying more than US$100 for a dining experience that could involve the captain, a celebrity chef, a specialty gourmet meal or a themed dinner. At least a couple of times during most cruises, guests are expected to turn up to a formal dinner where they are served items like foie gras, escargots, lobster tails, prime steaks or ribs, game, sabayons, and Boerenjongen’s sundaes.
Thanks to the sheer volume of passengers, cruise ships stagger meal timings to ensure that everyone enjoys a memorable experience. In the main dining room, guests can choose Traditional Dining where they are assigned seats, a time slot and a table, where they will go through an entire cruise dining with the same set of people. With Flexible Dining, they can arrive as they please and will be seated at tables that have vacant seats. A large number choose the latter.
The crowds will obviously show at main meal slots and this is the busiest time for cruise ship chefs – the breakfast rush is between 7am and 9am, lunch between noon to 2pm, and dinner between 6pm and 8pm.
Another dining area that is a big draw, particularly for children and youngsters is the buffet restaurant, where casual attire is permitted. These are usually on the same deck as the pool and often see guests flock in after a tiring swim. Buffets serve a smörgåsbord of items from breakfast, lunch and dinner, and sometimes mid-morning and late afternoon snacks as well. An outdoor grill is usually open serving burgers, hot dogs and fries all day long.
Food and the culture surrounding it is changing on board and cruise ship chef jobs are at their most challenging ever. Guests are demanding more and cruise companies are delivering, bringing a certain standard to dining options on board and providing value for money fare.
Dishes are becoming so trendy that celebrity chefs are cashing in. Cruises offer kitchen tours and cooking classes for food lovers, healthy and special options for fitness enthusiasts and those with dietary restrictions, as well as comfort food that has always worked.
It’s no wonder then that most guests depart with a few added kilos around their waistlines.
Cooking is often seen as an art, but as with all things, beneath the aesthetic surface is a science that helps it come into being. In that essence, cooking is also a science. Knowing what temperatures work best for different types of food and reactions that will take place between different ingredients can all help the chef innovate every time he or she gets to work.
Molecular gastronomy is a style of cooking that celebrates the science behind the art. Cruise ship chef jobs have typically followed set recipes, with ingredients, styles, tastes and even final outlook dependent on a pre-decided menu. But that doesn’t mean there’s no chance at all to get a taste of this innovative style of cooking.
Cruise ships these days have top chefs from around the world opening their own restaurants on board where they cook as they please and chefs in these ventures play with creative dishes every day.
Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas features Wonderland, a restaurant that plays on the fantastical with ‘noodles’ that turn into soup and liquefied ‘olives’ that explode in the mouth. There’s even a ‘garden’ of baby vegetables growing in pumpernickel ‘soil’.
Britannia has a fine dining restaurant called Epicurean which features molecular gastronomy styles that uses precision cooking, freeze drying and the use of liquid nitrogen to place focus on particular aspects of texture, taste and appearance that enhance the dining experience. There are Bloody Mary lollipops with Worcestershire sauce centres, or a prawn and oyster palette with pimento sauce in a paint tube, or mango with coconut milk disguised as a poached egg.
Crystal’s Symphony and Serenity cruise ships also dabble in molecular gastronomy where equipment such as Pacojets, immersion circulators, high emulsion blenders, dehydrators, and smoke and spray guns play a big role in the kitchens. One of the top sellers on the menu is the Délice, a cylindrical white chocolate mousse sprayed with dehydrated strawberries that have been blitzed to look like red velvet powder. In the centre, is puréed passion fruit that serves as a beautiful contrast of texture alongside a coconut macaroon crumble and baumkuchen on the outside.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the birth of ‘molecular gastronomy’ as a term did not take place in a kitchen. A physicist, Nicholas Kurti, and a chemist, Herve This, coined it in 1988 and the principles of this type of cooking have been popularised mostly by chefs like Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck, Grant Achatz of Alinea, Ferran Adrià of El Bulli and others.
Understanding and studying molecular gastronomy can help with inventing new recipes. Today’s world celebrates innovation, but is also quick to criticise. Cruise ship chefs must be open in their work to learn the basics thoroughly and then use the principles of molecular gastronomy to turn classics into new culinary experiences.
Research suggests that the average guest gains around 7-10 pounds on a cruise. With thousands of guests per cruise, that’s a lot of food to cook to satiate the cravings of all. Cruise ship chef jobs demand a wide knowledge of culinary styles to cater to varied tastes and also offer folks on vacation a different experience from what they’re used to at home.
Generally, cruise ships have a main dining room and a buffet area that are complimentary for all passengers. But there are also a number of specialty restaurants, lounges, bars and cafes throughout the liner. The new Carnival Vista has around 29 dining spots across the ship, including two by celebrity chef Guy Fieri. Overall, the types of cuisines cruise ship chefs rustle up fall into one of the following categories:
Despite the many gourmet options often available on board, many guests – especially children – reach out for things they are familiar with. British guests might want bangers and mash, fish and chips, Welsh rarebits, Cornish pastries or sticky toffee pudding. The French look forward to onion soup, gratin dauphinois and croque monsieurs. US comfort food is favoured by many around the world – macaroni and cheese, apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, meat loaf, tuna casserole, fried chicken and stews. Ice cream, hamburgers, pizza, dumplings, sliders, pancakes, and others are popular as easy choices and grab-and-go meals.
All of these – including breads, pastry bases, ice creams, sauces and soups – are made from scratch on board the cruise ship, and as a chef, you could be responsible for any of these.
Cruises offer a well-rounded experience, and while the ship is sailing, it is not uncommon for guests to go the extra mile and try out specialty cuisine to set their vacation apart from the rest. Cooking specialty cuisines often involves using rare ingredients and having a special skill set, so experience works in your favour. Gourmet ingredients used here include foie gras, caviar, stinky tofu, artisanal cheese and coffee, edible seaweed, truffles, certain types of mushrooms, and umeboshi.
The Epicurean on P&O Cruises, for example, serves a range of delicate dishes, from chicken liver parfait with wood smoke and Spanish cured ham with Manchego cheese and olives, to loin of wild boar and salt marsh rack of lamb. Many are cooked using molecular gastronomy techniques and incorporate liquid nitrogen for special textural effects.
Restaurants serving cuisines from around the world find their way on board. Asian tastes – Japanese, Thai and Korean – have long been a favourite, as have Italian and Spanish dishes. Indian food is now making inroads onto cruise lines as well.
Cruise ships also cook cuisines of the ports they stop at, offering trainee chefs a welcome insight into specific regional dishes and varied experience with every contract. Princess Cruises rustles up delicious Bahamian favourites including cracked conch shells, johnnycakes, souse and guava duff. Uniworld’s south of France tour sees dishes like daube provencal, bouillabaise, and iced Montélimar nougat parfait.
Now and then, as more people realise cruising is fun and do-able, cruise ship kitchens receive special requests from guests. These span the range from allergies to diets and even baby food. Companies differ in their policies of what is available to guests on board, but as competition increases, they widen their offerings to be more inclusive.
There might be requests to tweak certain dishes to suit special requirements, particularly when ordering room service. Food is generally required for vegetarian, vegan, low or no fat, low or no salt, lactose intolerant, dairy free, gluten- or wheat-free, low cholesterol, diabetic, kosher and halal diets, as well as allergies to certain ingredients.
In all cases, the more of a variety of food you cook as a cruise ship chef, the better your chances of moving forward in your career.