If you’ve ever done a cruise (and if you haven’t, do), you know that you are faced with seemingly limitless choices at meal times. You can eat in the main dining, or in several other venues found all over the ship. You can have ciabatta, sourdough, rye or wheat bread with your meals. And that’s just the start.
That’s why it’s advisable to go with the Chef’s Signature Menu. It identifies a starter â€“ say, antipasti with cured Italian ham, melon, grilled Portabella mushrooms and baked caramelized garlic. A main dish â€“ for example, Lamb Shank with rosemary. And a dessert â€“ say, Tiramisu.
Or, start with Escargots Bourguignonne, followed by Filet of Beef and Grand Marnier Souffle.
If you don’t like those choices â€“ or if you want to sample more than one â€“ let these menu items run through your head: Caprese Salad. Scallop risotto with corn and mascarpone. Roasted garlic soup. Strawberry bisque with mint. Orange carpaccio. Shrimp cocktail. Lobster bisque. Oxtail broth. Pear soup. Caesar salad . . .
How does the cruise line come up with these culinary delights, and manage to prepare them for thousands of people at a time? We sat down with Chef Alfred Hauser of Austria, Executive Chef on Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas, to find out. Chef Hauser trained in Austria and says his teachers in culinary school provided information about working on a cruise line after he expressed interest in travel.
Why a cruise ship?
â€˜I like big operations,â€™ he said. â€˜And I get to travel the ocean at the same time!â€™ Hauser has served on 11 different ships and was part of the $40 million renovation of the Majesty of the Seas just last year.
How many cooks does it take to feed a cruise ship full of people?
Hauser serves as Executive Chef over 96 cooks and 40 stewards, who together manage to feed the 2700 passengers and 850+ crew on a typical cruise – who eat an average of 15,000 meals a day in all of the restaurants, including room service. Main dining room seating averages 700 people at each seating, plus a midnight buffet and meals throughout the day. â€˜Our biggest challenge is to serve that many guests within a half hour,â€™ he said. Hauser also works with Craig Whittale, Executive Sous Chef (from Australia), Kiran Naik, Sous Chef (India), and three assistant food managers and the various restaurant managers.
How do you choose the menu?
â€˜I like simple foods,â€™ he said. â€˜We do a lot of ethnic food in the crew areas â€“ a lot of curries. We have 12-15 different stations so there is room for a lot of choice.â€™ Chef Hauser said that they order food on a daily basis from a master computer over which he has approval. Changing the menu is â€˜up to the main office,â€™ but he gives input into the selections based on popular items and food trends. The most popular item? Chef Hauser says it’s the steaks, which are on the menu in some form every night.
. . . Rigatoni pasta with chorizo sausage, bell peppers, corn, and olives. Garlic tiger shrimp. Black Angus top sirloin, Juju Paneer Dhansak. Truffled Wild Mushroom Linguini Alfredo. Sea Bass. Salmon. Cherries Jubilee.
Had enough? If not, take a cruise. You’ll probably find that the Executive Chef is introduced by the Captain as, â€˜The most important person to all of us.â€™ And your taste buds will have to agree.
Photo credits: Paul K. Logsdon