February 22, 2022.
Every time we watch the ship being provisioned, we ask ourselves what the Star’s pantry must look like.
Today, while we didn’t see the pantry, we certainly got an idea of the scope of the culinary operations on board by means of a main galley tour led by Chef de Cuisine Danesh.
There are 7 galleys on each of this class of Viking ocean ship: one for the main restaurant, one for the Chef’s Table, one for Manfredi’s, an open galley for the World Café, a crew galley, a small galley for Mamsen’s deli, and the pool grill galley.
Our tour today took us through the first 3 areas, starting at the Chef’s Table where 6 chefs prepare the fixed 5-course degustation menu being presented each night. That gave us new perspective into why reservations are required, since the portions and plating are so strictly controlled.
Next we entered the HUGE multi-section main galley, which prepares food for the main venue, plus room service, all the gelatos served on board, all the fresh breads and pastries for the Restaurant and World Café, and preps the salads and seafood for all the passenger restaurants.
We also saw the ordering system. On board, every server carries an iPod on which they take orders which are immediately linked to the relevant galley (or bar, for that matter). Those orders instantly appear on a large video screen and, in the case of the restaurants, are also immediately printed onto a chit that goes to the kitchen.
We passed by the dishwashing station and endless racks of china and glassware.
Ted asked about freezers. Since all proteins on board arrive fresh frozen (think of fishing vessels with flash freezers on them, for instance) we assumed that the ship’s freezers must be massive. Indeed. We were told that the freezers, one floor below the main galley, are as large as the entire galley!
Fruits and vegetables are stored in huge humidity-controlled refrigerators, and are all washed with a special solution before being used. Normally, provisioning – especially of perishables – is done at least every 7 days, but in our current case it will be longer since we’re crossing the Atlantic and our next full provisioning can’t happen until Câdiz Spain. That presents a challenge, since not all items can be kept fresh that long. For instance, Chef Danesh mentioned that we’re out of strawberries, a “problem” exacerbated by the fact that Viking rejected over half of the strawberries to be loaded in Uruguay since they didn’t meet their quality standards.
Speaking of quality, Viking just keeps impressing us. There are 80 full time cooks on board. Since we’re cruising at 50% passenger capacity, Viking could have pared down their kitchen staff, but made a conscious decision to keep the full complement since so many had already been without contracts during the pandemic. He also mentioned that since Viking is a successful growing fleet, it offers lots of opportunities for promotion. Every one of the 80 cooks on board is required to have completed culinary school plus at least 2 years of cruise experience on a comparable high-end small ship cruise line (e.g. Oceania or Seabourn).
Chef shared some interesting information about the crew galley. The menus there are designed based on the diversity of the crew, so that everyone has familiar foods while they are away from home. Nice!
Passenger menus were also discussed. For most cruise lines, including Viking, the most common cruise length is 14 days, so menus are normally set to repeat on a 14 day rotation. Viking doesn’t want its world cruisers to get bored though, so for our 4-1/2 month long world cruise, the menu rotation is ONE HUNDRED DAYS. Just imagine the challenge of coming up with that many unique menus, given that a “menu” has dozens of appetizer, main course, and dessert options.
As we left the main galley, we passed a “secret” escalator that leads directly into the main restaurant, saving staff with trays of food from having to deal with stairs or wait for an elevator.
We ended our tour in Manfredi’s galley, where fresh pasta is made daily, and their iconic Bistecca is grilled on a special surface that mimics barbecue charring.
It was pretty evident throughout our tour that Viking’s culinary staff feel appreciated and well-treated by their employer. One more plus on our Viking checklist.