How do you choose your menus for the Antarctica season?
The menus chosen for Antarctic sailings are very specific. The goal of these is to create a menu by factoring in how long each individual produce item will last, while providing our guests with an exceptional culinary experience. On these longer itineraries, we try to use the fruits and vegetables that we know we can’t keep for too long first – for example leek remains fresh much longer than a bell pepper or a strawberry. There is a lot of focus and extra work involved in curating these menus. We can’t simply disembark at a port to buy more produce like we would do if we were sailing a region such as the Mediterranean.
What are the biggest challenges of cooking and running the dining venues in Antarctica? How do you overcome them?
Our biggest challenge is ensuring that all of our produce remains fresh – we spend at least an hour each day monitoring our fridges to guarantee they remain at the perfect temperature to keep our produce in excellent condition. This also involves laying out our refrigeration in a way that works best for our produce, by keeping fruits and vegetables in ideal locations dependent on whether they prefer a slightly cooler temperature or higher humidity. Almost every recipe on board is calculated to the gram to allow our chefs to place orders as accurately as possible, in order to reduce our food wastage and guarantee we have just the right amount of everything to feed our guests.
Can a destination like Antarctica still inspire your dishes and menus like other destinations do?
For me, Antarctica has been the most inspiring destination of all over my years on board cruise ships. Other destinations make things too easy as you can find everything everywhere. With Antarctica, you have to get creative in the kitchen and think outside the box to create remarkable dishes. It can be hard to create these dishes in remote places, but I truly believe that the lessons learned are invaluable and extremely rewarding.
Do you have an example of an ‘Antarctica-inspired’ dish?
A dish ‘born’ in the Antarctic region is the ‘Purple Rain’, served in Scenic Eclipse’s Chef's Table. It involves a piece of salmon being curated and marinated in red cabbage juice for 24 hours. Afterwards it is slowly torched and served with pickled blueberries, red cabbage salad, raw red cabbage gel and red cabbage dust. Our guests are often very surprised by this dish – red cabbage is such an underrated vegetable, but one which has really flexible flavours. By using different preparation techniques we’re able to make the most of the flavours.
Visiting Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many. To what extent can you still enjoy and appreciate a destination such as Antarctica when you’re so busy doing your job?
We are so lucky to be able to enjoy this beautiful region while working. I think every crew member would agree with me that it's probably one of the toughest areas to work in, but also by far one of the most incredible ones. The scenery never gets old, and no matter how many times you sail the region you always see something new. We make the most of our spare time to enjoy the views that we are so privileged to get to enjoy – views that not everyone will get to see in their lifetime. It is just stunning – the landscapes, the animals and the colours are unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it's something so hard to put into words. It has to be seen with your own eyes!
Away from cooking, what was your personal highlight of Scenic Eclipse’s debut Antarctica season?
I am so impressed with the ship itself. She remains calm even in the strongest of winds and waves. My favourite part about sailing with Scenic Eclipse is its ability to dock straight onto the ice, allowing our guests and crew to walk onto the ice in the middle of the Antarctic ocean. For me that is one of the highlights of my career on the ocean and something I will cherish for the rest of my life.