Way to Go: Dining Aboard Queen Mary 2 & Meeting the Executive Chef

Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2

There is a story told about the eminent French chef Jean Troisgros.  (He was the Ferran Adria of his day, dazzling food folk with his innovative dishes.) Three food writers from the United States were among those who set forth to worship at his multi-starred restaurant. They rhapsodized about their first course: a heavenly composition of Foie Gras with Haricots Verts and Warm Vinaigrette. They adapted this lovely composition for their readers. Thus in translation it became: Bologna with Frozen String Beans and Thousand Island Dressing.

I mention this because I just experienced the real thing: an Atlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2 (QM2). Sailing, it seems, is rather different from cruising and the QM2 is the most magnificent ocean liner of them all. It is therefore only appropriate to arrive in formal attire to dine in a setting of unparalleled elegance and luxury.

I was so fortunate. I was introduced not only to the Queen (Queen Mary) but also met the charming Executive Chef, Karl Winkler. Naturally, my first words were to ask how he got his job. I am describing my grand adventure to illustrate just how many opportunities there are in the foodservice industry.

Chef Winkler is Austrian, and before ascending to his current exalted position, he’d worked in restaurants throughout Europe, London and New York. He has 33 years experience in the hospitality industry as does his Executive Sous Chef, German-born Klaus Kremer.

I love facts and figures so here are a few:

  • There are 150 chefs and 60 sommeliers on board, who are assigned to one of  the eight restaurants.
  • Each venue has its own chef de cuisine.
  • The Britannia restaurant alone serves 1,200 meals for each seating.
  • The Queens and Princess Grill caters for 400 guests.
  • In addition, there is the Todd English restaurant, the Lotus (Asian food), The Carvery, (traditional English roasts) and the Boardwalk Cafe.
  • A galley reportedly caters excellent food for the ship’s officers and crew.

The sheer quantities of food for a 6-day transatlantic crossing are quite staggering. These are the quantities food that is consumed:

  • 50 tons of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • 12 tons of meat
  • 8 tons of poultry (chicken, duck and turkey)
  • 2 tons of cheeses and dairy foods
  • 5,000 gallons of milk
  • 2 tons of sugar
  • 12,400 eggs
  • 20 Kg Russian caviar

No word on the quantity of Veuve Cliquot and other champagnes ordered but 6,000 cups of tea are served every day, and 8,000 linen napkins are laundered every day too.

Seawater is converted into fresh water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. The demand for water is extraordinary, equating to 79 U.S. gallons per person per day.

Aboard ship, the constant activity is eating…breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and late night munching (french fries at midnight). Super food is available all the time. If anyone is feeling a little peckish between meals, there is 24-hour room service that arrives, with a smile, almost instantly.

The service is beyond brilliant! Nothing is too much trouble. If, for professional reasons, we wanted to sample four extra dishes, the request is fulfilled without even a hint of a raised eyebrow.

So, I asked, “what happens to all the leftovers?”  “Ah! Good question.” Vast quantities of food are indeed left over. They are carefully scraped into a giant centrifuge that dehydrates it, while spinning the oils and fats into a separate container that later is sold to pet food and other processors. The compacted food is tossed overboard, and eagerly devoured by school of fishes that follow the ship!

Naturally, I had to ask if Cunard, owner of the QM2, takes interns (or is the term ‘extern’?). The answer, in this troubled economy is a reluctant “no, not now.” How about applying for job in the kitchen or as a server? A recent advertisement in India received 20,000 application for 60 positions. The fortunate recruits sign a contract for varying lengths of time. Round the world cruises last for 90 days with 30 days off.

Applicants must have experience in the hospitality industry though the length of time required varies. Those whose resumes pass initial scrutiny are invited to two interviews conducted in their home country. (Many employees are from the Philippines, Mauritius, India and other places while remarkably fewer are from the United States, United Kingdom, France or Germany as these nationals are less willing to spend long periods of time away from friends and family for extended periods of time.)

The 24-day Treasures of Civilizations voyage from Dubai to New York cruises the Arabian Sea to dock in Salalah, Oman before crossing the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, passing through the Suez Canal, then on to Alexandria, and Cairo in Egypt. It’s then on to the Mediterranean Sea to Athens before proceeding through the Aegean to Rome, Cannes, France, Barcelona, Spain, across the Straits to Gibralta, and finally crosses the Atlantic to stops in Paris and Normandy before Southampton and then to New York.

Other cruises explore the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Northern Europe (the Voyage of the Vikings), the British Isles, the Baltic countries, Norwegian glaciers and the ports of Spain, Portugal and the Canary islands.

The passengers are hooked for ever!  So, seemingly are the crew who spend their professional lives almost totally at sea.

Have you ever held a culinary or foodservice job like the ones described above? Any thoughts to offer?

2 thoughts on “Way to Go: Dining Aboard Queen Mary 2 & Meeting the Executive Chef

  1. I haven’t had a job even a little bit like that one, but I don’t think I could handle throwing away all that food, no matter how grateful the fishes were!

  2. I used to work on the QE2 in the mid 80’s
    it was a eye opener and a lot of fun and
    frustration ( refit in germany ) but Karl Winkler
    which was the Ex.Chef than in now on the QM2
    I did liked him as the boss .

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