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Dinner for TwoThousand? No Problem!

Submitted by on January 3, 2012 – 12:04 amNo Comment

By Susan McKee
The Road Trips Foodie

A galley tour is a must for all Road Trips Foodies on a cruise, so I joined in on one on the ms Volendam during its circumnavigation of New Zealand last month.

The level of organization necessary to provide food service for some 1335 guests (plus 589 staff) is a wonder to behold.

Was it hard to cook for that many? Not according to Executive Chef Troy Wastell (photo, at left). “It’s just a numbers game.”

What kind of numbers? Let’s see: 2000 people times three meals a day plus snacks….

A careful count is kept by computer of all items requested, prepared and served. This information not only maintains a running tally of what’s happening for the current meal, but allows planning for the next cruise.

A meal that’s especially popular on one cruise (Beef Wellington, say) is likely to be as popular on the next. Purchasing decisions rely on the data – even though, as Chef Wastell admits, sometimes what’s ordered isn’t what’s delivered (something is out of stock at the supplier, for example). Then the kitchen scrambles to rejigger the menus.

When asked what his biggest difficulty was, Chef Wastell laughed. “Learning Tagalog!” Almost all of the kitchen staff is Filipino.

Everyone has a specialty: the soup guys only prepare soup (and there are six different varieties each day). The salad guys do salads, the grill crew does hundreds of steaks, the dishwashers clean up. The pastry area is working ‘round the clock, fixing desserts during the day and specialty rolls and breads all night. (Only the sliced bread is brought on board.) There’s even a cook who does nothing for 12 hours a day but fix potatoes: every potato dish served on board is prepared by him.

Yes, the work days tend to be 12 hours. But, then, everyone’s living and working on board. Chef Wastell jokes that his commute is a two-minute walk. Crew contracts generally call for five months on the ship, then two months vacation. Chef Wastell rented a house in the south of Spain last time – not something most of us have time for.

(Photo ©2011 by Susan McKee)

(Full disclosure: Your Road Trips Foodie was the guest of Holland America Line aboard the ms Volendam on a 14-day New Zealand & Australia cruise.)

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