One might wonder how a kitchen on a cruise ship works. A floating hotel that sails for days over glassy seas is indeed an idea of ingenuity in the hospitality world. However, over decades the art of storing, cooking and serving sumptuous food by cruise ship chefs has been perfected. NT BUZZ speaks to head chef of American College of Culinary and Language Arts (ACCLA), Seby Fernandes to know about the secrets of a cruise ship kitchen
SHERAS FERNANDES | NT BUZZ
- How do cruise ships meet the diverse demands and a large number of passengers on a ship?
Cruise ships offer a variety of food choices to suit the demands of passengers. There are usually four main dining restaurants on a cruise vessel and smaller eating outlets serving ice-creams, pizzas, burgers and lots more where guests can dine 24×7. Further, passengers can order for room service anytime of the day. These ships also have offers like ‘cruises now pay later’ that attracts large number of passengers as well as numerous on-board activities to meet the demands of large number of passengers on a ship.
- Tell us about the food storage process and what type of food does it include?
The ordering of stores happens well in advance which is planned according to the menu, all the food and beverages that will be served during the particular cruise. The ordering of food and beverage is mainly looked after by executive chef, beverage manager, store manager and purchase manager. All the supplies received are stored in various fridges. For example, fruits and vegetables will be stored in walk-in fridges; items like fish, meats and poultry will be stored in freezers; while the other food products that do not require refrigeration will be stored in a dry store.
- Tell us about the hygiene and safety standards in a kitchen of a cruise ship
The cruise ship has very strict rules about personal hygiene which needs to be followed on daily basis. For example, short nails, having a shower, clean uniform, proper personal grooming is a must especially for those who are handling food, controlling time and temperature of food and basic procedure of cleaning which is wash, rinse, and sanitise. This helps prevent cross-contamination.
- How do cruise ships cater to passengers suffering from allergies and other health problems on board?
If there are any guests who have allergies, they will provide a list of items that they are allergic to, such as gluten or nuts well in advance, before the cruise begins. Therefore, the chef has enough time to purchase the items they require. If the guests need a special item they will make a request a day in advance and only the authorised chef will prepare it according to the requirements which are called as allergy special orders. Besides, there is a medical centre on board which can take care of minor health issues like fever, sea-sickness, vomiting, etc.
- What are the challenges faced by a cruise ship vis-à-vis the onshore hotels?
Ships sail from port to port, thus the stock must be received on time. This requires a lot of planning which needs to be done well in advance. If it is missed, then it is very challenging to get the required supplies on the next port.
We have to face extreme weather conditions.
Working seven days a week for six to eight months depending on the position.
If a team member is sick or fired, there is no replacement immediately as it can take at least 15-30 days or even more for a replacement.
The rules are stricter on cruise ships which are related to hygiene and food safety as it is a very confined space and if any one or two guests or crew fall sick, there are chances that other guests may fall sick within a short period of time which is called as an outbreak.
- What is done with the leftover?
There are lot of guidelines according to Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) standards, by which the leftover food can be reused. Left over whole fruits or vegetables such as bananas, apples, cucumber, tomatoes, can be reused as long as they are not cut.
- What do you do in cases of emergency? Example natural calamity or pirate attacks
The cruise industry follows a very advanced navigation system by which they are informed about the weather conditions well in advance. In case of bad weather, the captain will change the route to another destination as safety is the first priority. Ships keep a safe distance from pirate areas such as Somalia in order to ensure the safety of all the passengers onboard.