The Heart of the Operation
I took a tour of the kitchen “galley” of the cruise ship. I’ve done this on ships before and always found it absolutely fascinating. And this tour was no different.
On board are 2500 guests from countries around the globe. The ship is also home to crew made up of 34 nationalities. It’s a little world all its own. Feeding all of these people, accommodating all of their cultural, religious and health restrictions, while providing delicious and varied dining options is a gigantic undertaking; one that is done with near perfection each and every minute of each and every day, serving approximately 13,000 meals a day.
You have to admit that is impressive. On a seven-day cruise (ours is 14 days) the ship uses –
- 1500 lbs. of tenderloin
- 1800 lbs. of whole chicken
- 1400 lbs. of chicken breast
- 2700 lbs. of rack of lambs
- 1200 lbs. of pork loin
- 700 lbs. of salmon
- 350 lbs. of tuna
- 2100 liters heavy cream
- 3500 dozen fresh eggs
- 2400 lbs. butter
- 7000 lbs. potatoes
- 2100 lbs. onions
- 1500 lbs. carrots
- 6300 lbs. romaine
- 1200 lbs. cookies
- 450 gallons ice cream
- 5000 lbs. fresh fruit
After taking seven cruises I still believe the food we had on our very first cruise was the best; as was the service. My husband thinks this is because it was all new and fresh to my naïve eyes. Exciting and new (as they would say on the Love Boat). There might be some truth to that. But I also think as the ships have gotten larger and as cruise ship companies are competing for customers and dollars the effort it takes to provide that same level of care as we had 23 years ago when we took our first cruise is nearly impossible. That is not to say our food or service is not good – because it is – everywhere on the ship but most especially in the dining room.
Taking the tour of the kitchen helps me appreciate even more the “machine” of the cruise ship galley. The bakery is a 24-hour operation. Any bread you are served is never more than 2 hours old. They hand form 8000 breadsticks a day.
There is one person in charge of all ice cream, gelato and sherbet on board. It is all handmade daily. One person’s entire job is to make ice cream all day. Fresh made with fresh produce and ingredients.
There are two chefs in charge of all soups. Soups are made fresh each day, approximately 6 different fresh made soups each day. I have had several soups on board including a spectacular French Onion Soup, Mushroom Soup today for lunch, and last night a Lobster Bisque that took 17 hours to prepare start to finish.
There is an “Executive Chef” overseeing all operations but there are many department chefs as well. There is one chef who is responsible for all the crew dining (the crew have three separate dining areas to choose from), there is one chef who is responsible for the main dining room while another one is responsible for all the “specialty” restaurants. There is one chef in charge of the buffet café while another one is responsible for the “healthy” spa options. There is a chef in charge of all pastries.
Onboard are trained sushi chefs, kosher chefs and chefs whose main job is to make sauces. There are salad chefs, and a chef who makes all garnishes. There are staff whose job it is to fillet the fish in the fish room while other staff are busy managing the pantry and stores.
All proteins come from the United States and need to meet US Health regulations. That means that even though this cruise left from Argentina, there is no Argentine beef on board. Of some disappointment to me was the fact I learned that all the salmon was farm-raised (except the lox which is from Norway). Farm raised salmon to a girl from the great Pacific Northwest is like bland mush -never graces our tables at home, and I don’t intend to eat it on the ship either. I have had fish twice however, a Branzino Sea Bass and Dover Sole. Both were very good.
I also went to a special presentation where the fish chef demonstrated how to make both the Branzino and the Sole. That was fun to watch and interesting too. I learned all the chefs on board only use Kosher salt in their cooking.
The abundance of fresh produce is remarkable and on a 14-day cruise fresh produce is brought on board three times. They did admit that sometimes in South America they have trouble finding all of the required ingredients they need to follow the Celebrity-wide menu (all ships are serving the same menu), but for the most part they can get anything they wish. My husband and I ordered a kale salad the other night, and the “kale” looked suspiciously like romaine lettuce. It was romaine lettuce. Maybe kale isn’t available in South America? I need to ask this question.
On the tour they talked about their efforts to not waste food, but all the same they are not able to donate unused food due to US Health regulations. On board is a recycling system for all food waste. After four hours on the buffet most food is recycled.
All and all the entire operation is fascinating and I really loved seeing the spectacularly spotless kitchens and crew hard at work. They do an exceptional job and I appreciate it. Several times a day.
Now I’d like a tour of behind the scenes of where they store the wine and alcohol!