Episode 206 – Galley Tour

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.

Chef Danesh in front of the small Chef’s Table galley.

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 were between lunch and dinner shifts, but there was still activity going on. Top right: Gulab Jamun soaking in honey syrup in preparation for tonight’s Indian-themed event.
Everything is gleaming stainless steel. Since open flames are not allowed on ships, all the grills and stovetops are induction.
We were taken past the rows and rows of refrigerators used just to hold ingredients that have been prepped for cooking or baking, the blast chillers, the thermal mixers, the huge sparkling clean meat and cheese slicers, and got a glimpse of the Holy Grail: the gelato machine (right), which stands about
4 feet tall and cranks out 8 unique flavours each day.
In the bakery, huge clean surfaces for creating croissant dough were flanked by proofing and baking ovens (top left and right, respectively).
Check out the size of the dough mixer bottom left compared to the full-sized human chef beside it. Bottom right: a lidded mixer to prevent splash.
The Room Service staging area. Trays are ready to go with wine and condiments, and a plating chart ensures that each meal arrives looking beautiful.

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.

Left: orders arrive on screen direct from the servers.
Right: a stack of menus awaiting approval or revision.
Each restaurant has a budget within which they must remain
when setting menus.

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.

Left: Manfredi’s staff chopping garlic.
Right: the secret to how each
bread basket looks perfect.

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.

8 comments

  1. I’m amazed at all the information you have been able to provide your readers. This has got to be the best way for your readers to enjoy a world cruise without actually stepping aboard a cruise ship. I can’t imagine what’s in store in your next blog but I look forward to it.

    Like

  2. I always enjoy touring a ship’s galley and your descriptions made me feel like I was there.

    It’s good to know if we see a menu we like on our 2024 World Cruise that we’d better be sure to enjoy it then as it won’t be repeated within 100 days!

    And so many cooks! When we went to Iceland in August 2021, I enjoyed watching food being prepared in the the open galley in the World Cafe.

    I especially appreciate that Viking made the conscious decision to keep the full complement of cooks even while sailing at 50% capacity. Also that “Viking’s culinary staff feel(s) appreciated and well-treated by their employer”.

    I like supporting ethical business models.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was fascinating. Thank you so much for the detail. We just booked a Viking Ocean cruise (15 day Italy, The Adriatic and Greece) to replace a canceled one to Polynesia. Soooooo reassured to know the menus won’t repeat in our entire journey. (I would put an overfed, laughing emoji here if I had one!) We sailed with Viking Ocean once before in 2019 and have been trying to get on board again for literally years now. Hope you survive the strawberry-free days to come and continue writing about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for your thorough description of the preparation & delivery of some of the most creative dishes that I have ever seen. I am impressed with the organization, cleaniness & endless creativity by these 80 cooks. A challenge they meet every single day! Unbelievable!

    Liked by 1 person

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