Cruise Line Cuisine: Is it Really Gourmet?

| September 25, 2009

One of the biggest surprises many first time cruisers face is the outstanding quality of cruise ship cuisine.

I will admit I have paid limited attention to the culinary claims of cruise lines in the past. I knew I liked the food, but I never wondered if it is truly the gourmet quality they claim. The truth is that I never felt fully qualified to render an opinion. But now that CruiseMates has organized its first culinary cruise, to sail Oct. 30, 2010 with Chef Matt Sigel, my eyes have been opened to the intracacies of cruise line cuisine.

Matt is a talanted chef who was also a contestant on Fox's "Hell's Kitchen." We are also very fortunate to have a new contributor to CruiseMates, the very highly regarded Janice Wald Henderson of Los Angeles. Janice is a longtime contributor to Bon Appétit Magazine and a dining editor for A former resident of both France and New York City, Janice hobnobs with the best chefs in the world and is a true authority.

I am not an accomplished gourmand, but with the help of Janice and Matt I have learned a great deal about the cruise line affiliated chefs. And here is the truth; the more I learn the more impressed I become. By the end of this article you will know what I mean, So, let's get started.

Join our Cruise Mates Culinary Cruise with Chef Matt Sigel

Cruise Line Celebrity Chefs Let's start with the "consulting chefs" to whom most cruise lines claim an affiliation. The stature of these chefs should surprise you as many of them qualify as "world's best" in one way or another. They are not only highly awarded; they have also owned or managed some of the most famous restaurants in the world.

We will discuss each of these chefs in detail, but first let's examine the specific role and level of commitment of these consulting chefs, because this article wouldn't matter if they were being used in name only.

A consulting chef is usually called in when a new ship comes online or a new onboard restaurant is opened. The chefs must create original recipes that can be prepared successfully and consistently within the limitations of cruise ship kitchens, also known as galleys. The recipes also must consider the delivery schedule of fresh ingredients, the number of kitchen workers, their roles and the number of people who must be fed at any given meal.

After the menu creation process, the consulting chef must train the onboard chefs and kitchen staff on how execute the new recipes. This training may be done on land or in the actual cruise ship galley.

Just in case anyone is now thinking, "But these guys aren't actually cooking my food," in reality executive chefs rarely do. Their job is to create, train and supervise, much like Gordon Ramsey on Hell's Kitchen. Much like any successful modern artist.

But this does bring up an important point. It is helpful to know when the consulting chef last did his training because his influence can wane with time. The onboard staff can gradually adapt their own style to recipes, and food budgets and suppliers can also change. So, in addition to introducing these chefs to you, we will also examine the level of their commitment and when they last worked directly with a cruise line.

Continue Article >> Cruise Line Cuisine (Part 2)

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Chef Matt Sigel's Cruise with CruiseMates Join us on the brand new Norwegian Epic for a unique culinary CruiseMates cruise Epic 10-30-10. Our guest chef is Matt Sigel, a contestant on season four of Hell's Kitchen on the Fox Network. Great recipes, cooking tips, insight into the life of a chef, discussion of cruise line cuisine and the comradery of your great CruiseMates readers.   Go>

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