Holland America brings an entirely new approach to cuisine with a new slate of chefs creating all new menus.
Holland America is famous for relatively small but uncrowded ships; well appointed with lavish art, extensive libraries and extra-cushy staterooms. The longer and more exotic itineraries offer slower-paced cruises perfect for reading or catching up on movies. The crew is outstandingly accommodating, mostly Indonesian and Filipino staff-members who have made careers out of serving at sea.
But if there is one area where we have heard whispers of Holland America slipping it is in the culinary offerings. Holland America was the only major cruise line not to consult with an outside chef to create menus; such as Charlie Palmer for Seabourn, Jacques Van Staden for Celebrity or Jacques Pepin for Oceania. Holland America chose to promote a chef from within the cruise industry, Chef Rudi Sodamin, because of his experience on almost every major cruise line in the world.
Now Rudi is an excellent chef, but it is possible he was not given the ingredients he really needed to create a competitive cruise cuisine. The complaints include entrees not being prepared as ordered, a general decline in cuts of meat, uninspiring presentations and blander tastes in sauces.
Now Holland America is taking new steps to restore its culinary reputation by announcing its new "Culinary Council," of affiliations with several famous chefs and restaurants from around the world.
The star-studded names on the panel came as a welcome surprise to our esteemed culinary editor Janice Wald Henderson. Here is the line-up: Jonnie Boer, David Burke, Marcus Samuelsson, Jacques Torres, Charlie Trotter and the New York iconic restaurant, Le Cirque.
Meet the Culinary Stars
Jonnie Boer is head chef at De Librije in Zwolle, recognized as one of the 50 best restaurants in the world, and only the second restaurant in the Netherlands to be awarded three Michelin stars. His catering company, Food on Tour, sells its own products, and in 2008 Boer and his wife Thérèse opened a new hotel with restaurant, as well as a cooking and wine school. The restaurant, Librije's Zusje, was awarded its first Michelin star within six months of opening. Boer was named a Knight in the Order of Orange Nassau in 2005, one of the Netherland's highest honors.
Here is what Janice Wald Henderson has to say about Jonnie: "Although I haven't yet had the pleasure of sampling Jonnie Boer's cuisine, I stand in awe of his reputation -- and hope he will be cooking onboard!"
David Burke Blurs the lines between chef, artist, entrepreneur and inventor and stands as a leading pioneer in American cooking today. His fascination with ingredients and the art of the meal has fueled a career marked by creativity, critical acclaim and the introduction of revolutionary products and cooking techniques. In addition to his flagship restaurant, David Burke Townhouse, Burke's other properties include Fishtail (New York, N.Y.), David Burke at Bloomingdale's (New York), Burke in the Box at McCarran Airport (Las Vegas, Nevada), David Burke's Primehouse (Chicago, Ill.), David Burke Fromagerie (Rumson, N.J.) and David Burke Prime (Foxwoods Casino, CT).
Here is what Janice Wald Henderson has to say about David Burke: "David Burke is one of the most daring, creative chefs around. His food pushes the envelope of creativity, but it's always grounded in precise technique. His flavors are bold and his enthusiasm is contagious."
Marcus Samuelsson has won numerous awards, and was chosen as one of the Great Chefs of America by the Culinary Institute of America. Born in Ethiopia and raised by adoptive parents in Sweden, Samuelsson's award-winning cookbooks connect contrasting geographies and palates. Blending culture and artistic excellence, his best-selling "New American Table" cookbook celebrates local farms and kitchens. He is the winner of Bravo's "Top Chef Masters Season Two" and was guest chef at the White House for the Obama administration's first state dinner for Prime Minister Singh of India. His latest restaurant, Red Rooster, opens in Harlem in November 2010.
Here is what Janice Wald Henderson has to say about Marcus Samuelsson: "Marcus Samuelsson has incredibly diverse skills. His execution can be flawless. He's like a great jazz artist, riffing on themes. Samuelsson puts pizzazz into Scandinavian cooking and then effortlessly switches instruments (so to speak) to prepare modern American and ethnic dishes of finesse. His unusual background (born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden) certainly contributes to his broader view of cooking. He does not let geographical boundaries confine him. Instead, he erases boundaries, with often dazzling results."
Jacques Torres is a former pastry chef at Le Cirque and Le Cirque 2000 in Manhattan. Born and raised in southern France, he has authored two cookbooks: "Dessert Circus: Extraordinary Desserts You Can Make at Home," which earned a 1999 James Beard nomination, and "Dessert Circus at Home." In 2000 he created Jacques Torres Chocolate, which specializes in fresh, hand-crafted chocolates, and he was featured in "Chocolate with Jacques Torres" on the Television Food Network.
Here is what Janice Wald Henderson has to say about Jacques Torres: "Jacques Torres is one of the world's best pastry chefs. Period. His work with chocolate, in particular, propels him to the top. His desserts look fabulous, but taste as exceptional as their appearance. Torres is classically grounded yet has adopted American ingenuity and made it work for him. He is both a classic and an originator, at once."
One of the finest restaurants in the world, Charlie Trotter's in Chicago has helped establish new standards for fine dining. It has been recognized by national and international institutions and has won 10 James Beard Foundation awards, including Outstanding Restaurant and Outstanding Chef. Author of 14 cookbooks, Trotter hosts the award-winning cooking series, "The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter." He also operates Trotter's To Go, a gourmet shop, and produces a line of private-label organic products.
Recognized as Humanitarian of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Trotter's foundation raises money to support people seeking careers in the culinary arts.
Here is what Janice Wald Henderson has to say about Charlie Trotter: "Charlie Trotter is one of my favorite chefs. His approach to cooking is relentless, and I mean that in the best of ways. He is always out to excel, to top no one but himself. The world's best chefs consider him a peer. His intelligence is reflected in his dishes, which posses layers upon layers of nuances, that reveal themselves slowly as a meal unfolds. His food is neither fussy or pretentious. They reflect the "unsexy" part of cooking, that would be hard work."
The final announcement made by Holland America regarding remaking their culinary image is a new affiliation with the world famous New York eatery Le Cirque. The idea is to create a special "An Evening at Le Cirque" special night in the exclusive specialty restaurant onboard most Holland America ships, Pinnacle Grill.
On at least one night on virtually every voyage, the Pinnacle Grill will be transformed for into a Le Cirque-like atmosphere. On those special evenings, menu offerings, wine selections, table decorations and the restaurant setting will be tailored to create an authentic Le Cirque dining experience.
Not only will guests have the opportunity to dine on unique Le Cirque dishes including Lobster Salad "Le Cirque," Sweet Corn Soup and Côte de Boeuf, they also will be able to learn how to cook a dish or two during special Le Cirque demonstrations in the on-board Culinary Arts Center.
"My family and I are excited to enter into a partnership with a cruise line that has such a celebrated and highly regarded reputation," said Sirio Maccioni, founder of Le Cirque. "I recently sailed with Holland America Line and was very impressed with their cuisine, impeccable service and high level of hospitality. I look forward to putting my own culinary touch on the dining experience and sharing Le Cirque with Holland America Line guests."
Additional enhancements to the program include screenings of the HBO documentary "Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven" on in-stateroom television, as well as the opportunity to purchase a Le Cirque crème brûlée dish and Le Cirque founder Sirio Maccioni's book, "Sirio: The Story of My Life and Le Cirque."
Le Cirque is a recipient of the coveted James Beard Award for restaurant of the year and has been ranked among the best in the world for decades by food experts. Le Cirque founder, Sirio Maccioni, is a legend and one of the industry's most-respected restaurateurs. Le Cirque restaurants are located in New York, Las Vegas and the Dominican Republic.
Le Cirque and Maccioni has helped to launch the careers of many illustrious chefs, including Daniel Boulud, Christophe Bellanca, Alain Sailhac, Rick Moonen and Holland America Line Culinary Council Member Jacques Torres.