Recently Ric (@CruiseHabitRic on Periscope and Twitter) shared his 7 night Caribbean journey on Celebrity Reflection. Click here to check out his live blog from that sailing. Below read his take on the "Heartbeat of the Operation" galley tour".
On the first full day of the cruise, Food & Beverage Director, Clint Kelu, and Executive Chef Kuldeep Singh invited all of the ship’s passengers to take part in the “Heartbeat of the Operation Galley Tour.” The four of us went down to the lower deck of the Opus Dining Room about 15 minutes before the scheduled 11am start time. As we entered, crew members were at the entrance handing out small slips with group numbers on them. We were placed in Group 7, given a glass of champagne, and asked to take a seat in the dining room.
I’m glad we got there when we did, as this was a popular tour. The lower deck of the dining room was full when Clint took the stage at a screen set up at the foot of the staircase. After a presentation on the ship’s dining options and an introduction of the team leaders in the Food & Beverage department, Clint and Chef Singh opened the floor to audience questions. The pair answered all kinds of questions admitting that most of the questions are the same, but it’s more fun to get the audience to ask them. During the audience question-and-answer session, group numbers were called to tour either the upper or lower galley. The two floors of the Opus Dining Room are treated as two restaurants with identical menus as far as operations are concerned.
Before our group number was called, I was able to hear the following questions and answers.
Q: Does the ship pick up food along the way?
A: Food stores (provisions) are loaded on embarkation. Certified suppliers deliver to a warehouse in Miami. Orders for provisions are placed by the chef 2 to 3 weeks ahead of time.
Q: Could we run out of food?
A: There is extra food onboard to last at least a week.
Q: If we really like something we ate here and we want to try to make it at home, can we get a recipe?
A: Recipes are available, but they might be industrially sized. [I can’t tell if that part was a joke or not, but I think my friend would be totally ok with making gallons of that coffee pot de creme.]
Q: I have dietary restrictions. Can they be accommodated?
A: The Chef has an executive sous-chef to accommodate dietary restrictions and allergies.
Q: What happens to the trash?
A: Food waste is ground up in a pulper, then the pulp is incinerated.
Q: For Chef Kuldeep Singh, how did you get started in cooking?
A: The Chef learned to cook from his grandmother and developed an enthusiasm at a young age. When he demonstrated that he had not only the enthusiasm, but also the ability, he decided cooking should be his career.
Q: Are promotions internal or external?
A: High ranking chefs may be recruited, but there are also opportunities for promotion within the company.
Q: If I sail on another Celebrity ship, can I get the same dish I loved?
A: The main dining room menu is standard regardless of world region, however the buffet food can be adjusted by the ship’s chef.
Q: What are some ways the buffet food gets adjusted?
A: Destination related selections in the Oceanview Cafe are a goal, but there are limitations to safe provision of enough food.
Q: How does the crew eat?
A: The menu in the crew dining room rotates on a 14-day basis, and the chef also takes requests. Food left over from the guest galleys could be given to the crew depending on if it is safe to transfer to their galley.
Q: How long are you assigned to a ship?
A: Executives work four months on followed by two months off. Sous-chefs could be 4 or 6 months, then two months off. Upon a change of Chef, there is a one week transition period.
Q: What happens in the kitchen if we get hit by a wave? Do the pots and pans go flying?
A: The kitchens are designed to withstand rough seas, but it can cause issues in service. Once, the dining room lost a lot of china to a wave. The second seating was served on paper plates.
At this point, Group 7 was called and we toured the galley on the lower deck of the Opus Dining Room. We saw a dishwashing area where specially-trained crew members are taught how to safely and efficiently handle the industrial dishwashers. The crew members wear heavy duty black gloves to insulate their hands from the hot dishes.The dining room needs quick turnover on china, glassware, and silverware between dinner seatings. Like many other jobs on the ship, translating to an enormous scale requires both specialized equipment and specialized training.
The bakery operates 24 hours a day to supply breads, pastries, and desserts around the clock. Whether it was a biscuit, a croissant, that fantastic brioche bun, or a cake at dinner, it got baked on the ship.
Our next stop was a combination of the grill and the plating area. Along the far wall, the chefs were tending grills to prepare the meats for dinner. Space on a ship is precious, and the grill is just three steps from the plating area. At the plating area, the chefs assembling the plates have a picture of what the finished plate should look like in addition to a list of all the parts that make up the plate.
Our last stop inside the galley was the cold prep area. To promote good food handling practices, food that will not be cooked is prepared in a separate part of the galley. Here all the salad ingredients are freshly prepared from raw vegetables.
The tour concluded with a showcase of the ship’s specialty restaurants, Tuscan Grille, Murano, The Lawn Club, and Qsine, which I dined at compliments of Celebrity and I’ll be recapping in a future post. The restaurant showcase is where I met Nathan from Qsine and first encountered the curious multicolored 2-by-2 cube.
I was impressed by the organization and discipline it must take to day after day turn out so many precisely prepared meals for guests and crew alike. I was reassured by the emphasis on food safety and crew member safety. My group and I were glad we got to go on this tour so early in the cruise. It gave us an appreciation of the scale of the food and beverage operations on the ship.
A point Clint and Chef Singh repeated throughout the presentation, and this point was echoed by the crew members all over the ship, if you have a request or feedback, give it while you’re on the ship. Give the crew a chance to make it right. You might be surprised by what they can do. I saw Clint and Chef Singh in the Oceanview Cafe a few times during the trip and on one occasion, I approached them and gave them feedback I had on a vegetable combination dish. They let me know that if I wanted just one of the vegetables in the combination, I could ask for it alone. They are cooked separately, so it’s easy for them to leave something out.
We ate so many delicious things on the cruise and getting that insight into where all the food comes from was a worthwhile activity on the ship, and I’d recommend it for cruises that offer a similar tour.