A world of flavours
March 25, 2020
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ 880-guest Boudicca is in the midst of an epic 168-night ‘Grand Voyage’. Jo Austin talks to executive chef, Dirk Helsig
Dirk Helsig has been working on ships for 30 years. Having started his career in a hotel in the Black Forest at the age of 16, he joined Royal Viking Line in 1988 and then moved to Holland America before joining Fred Olsen in 2005. Remarkably Helsig is now working on his original ship, now renamed Boudicca.
The ship is now on an epic itinerary. Admittedly, it is not sailing non-stop and not all the guests remain for the entire cruise, but there are plenty of challenges keeping guests fed and happy on such a long culinary journey.
“Food is such an important part of the holiday and we like to tailor our buffets and menus using inspiration from the ports we are visiting,” says Helsig. “We tend to take on most of our fresh items in port and on this voyage we have 61 calls. Around 80% of our ingredients are fresh but there is a small amount, such as garden peas, that are frozen. We try to ensure variety across our five restaurants and rotate menus on a 14-day cycle.”
Mixing it up
Lunch and dinner menus are created in conjunction with teams at head office in Suffolk, but the galley team – a multinational crew of 61 staff – regularly curate themed buffets, for example curry lunches and Sunday roasts.
“We do have to cater for a wide variety of dietary requirements, from gluten and dairy-free to vegetarian and vegan, and we can arrange for kosher and halal meals when ordered. Storage is always a challenge and for ingredients we cannot buy fresh we request non-perishable items to be delivered to us in port around every 25 days. We have a very efficient storekeeper who ensures that all produce is fresh and we conduct checks of produce in our walk-in ingredient fridges daily.
“We also have a rational oven where we can dry or smoke food.”
Weather along the route can impact the plans and often Helsig has to cope with storms and rough seas. “We have taken lots of precautions from a safety perspective, such as securing certain bits of equipment and using wet towels on the counters to prevent dishes from sliding. We also reduce the amount of oil in the deep fat fryer so the hot oil does not spill over. It’s important to think before you do something,” says Helsig.