What’s for dinner?

Today we toured the main galley for the kitchen off the
Britannia Dining room. All the top chefs on board lined up like
celebrities to be introduced. Wearing their calf-length white
cotton aprons and tall, white pleated paper chefs hats.

The Executive Sous Chef Steven Peter Schaap, who is Australian, told me
that in the old days the number of pleats on a hat corresponded to
the number of egg dishes a chef had mastered. I think he might be
full of it! He also said that the chefs’ aprons were double
breasted to protect them from burning if they had to carry hot
platters close to their chests.

The kitchens on this vessel process
an extraordinary amount of food. On a 7-day voyage, they will serve
about 45,000 meals and clean over 500,000 pieces of china and
glass. This includes about 800 pizzas, 5,500 scones, 45,000 cups of
tea, 2,000 pints of beer, about 2,600 bottles of wine and 250
bottles of champagne. In terms of raw ingredients, a typical 7-day
trip will require 35 tons of fruit and vegetables, 15 tons of meat,
including poultry, 10 tons of fish and seafood, 15 tons of cheese
and dairy products, 1.5 tons of sugar, 33,000 pints of milk, 2,300
dozen eggs, 4 tons of flour and 1.5 tons of rice.

The ship has a
crew of 10 people who handle all the food provisioning when in
port. The storerooms include 17 huge refrigerators, freezers and
dry areas. Fresh products are loaded every 7 days, while dry and
frozen goods come on board every 12 to 14 days, depending on the
ships schedule. All this food is prepared in 12 galleys spread
around the ship, which operate 24 hours a day in shifts, Schaap
said. He and Executive Chef Klaus Kremer supervise a staff of seven
chefs de cuisine, including an executive pastry chef and a chief
butcher, 140 under chefs and 68 cleaners.

We entered the kitchen
through a large stainless steel revolving door. Staff enter through
one of these doors, drop off dirty plates and linen etc. then clean
their hands before proceeding into the inner sanctum. They exit
with new dishes through another door.

It’s all quite industrial
looking. Lots of stainless steel, white-tiled floor and labels at
each station, although the labels might have been added today just
for us. We passed through a beverage area, with machines for tea,
lemonade etc., and on into what looked like a long alley between
cooking stations. Each side was stacked with white plastic
individual dish covers. Each menu item for a main course has its
own prep and cooking area. Chefs on one side cook items, hand them
off to chefs on another who plate them and put them on a rack for
waiters, who have to line up for their orders. The waiters put on
the plastic dish covers.

On the pastry side, chefs were running two
Hobart mixers the size my dishwasher, and unloading silpat muffin
flats containing what looked like 24 chilled chocolate souffl├ęs per
dish. Cold items are prepared in an area of the galley called the
cold larder. The chef in charge will put together a sample plate of
the daily dishes which are then reproduced by his sous chefs. This
same method is used for other dishes, as well.

Kremer, a native of
Germany, who has been cooking on Cunard Line vessels for 25 years,
said Cunard does not have shore-side test kitchens. New dishes are
prepared on board and then tested. Menu items are prepared based in
the demographics of the passengers on any given voyage, according
to Chef de Cuisine Prasad Haldankarr who supervises one of the
largest restaurants on board, the Britannia, which serves as many
as 878 people in a seating. People from different countries tend to
prefer different foods and Cunard keeps track on its computers.
Each order at any given sit-down meal is entered in to a computer
as soon as the waiter gets out to the kitchen, so the company can
track trends. I took a photo of the Sous Chef at his computer,
which is where he spends a fair amount of time. He shares a
glassed-in office with the executive chef in the center of the main
galley where they can easily see the various stations around them.

I was surprised at how few people showed up for the galley tour,
only about 75 of so. Many were worried that our passage through the
clean cooking area might contaminate the food. Not to worry, said
Kremer, the 68 cleaners have it under control. “They do all the
work that we don’t want to do,” he said. Not only does the kitchen
have the capacity to wash and disinfect dishes in about 2 minutes,
it also has really strict sanitation controls.

So where does all
the waste go? Leftover food is pulped and thrown overboard when the
ship is far enough offshore. Plastic and papers are incinerated.
Glass and metals are crushed and taken ashore for recycling. The
most consumed item on this ship, no matter what the demographic is
water. And there is no way, the vessel could have enough room to
store water for a full voyage. The Queen Elizabeth has 2 large salt
water evaporators which process about 45,200 gallons of water a
day, which is about the daily usage onboard. That water then is
treated with chemicals and filtered to make even tap water in the
cabins potable.

It’s almost time for dinner. I think dessert might
be chocolate souffl├ęs.

I did not get a tour of the bridge or the
engine room because Mom and I were too cheap to pay for that
privilege. Oh well. We can do it on our next trip.

Photos: the
Executive Chef The Executive Sous Chef scenes in the kitchen all
the top chefs introduce themselves








One thought on “What’s for dinner?

  1. What a grand tour. We could use some of those cleaners in our kitchen. As Dennis the Menace told his hospital-bound mother, “wait till you see how nicely we’ve stacked the dirty dishes!” (A story recounted by Sammy)

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