Monday, November 24, 2008

Chef at sea

For the past week, I battled the zesty Pacific from Hawaii to San Diego. I wasn’t sure what to expect, given that I had not been on a cruise for more than 20 years, and that was on the high school “booze cruise” that visited Cozumel. (The big drama was that my high school boyfriend and I broke up a week earlier, and he was dating one of my closest friends while on board.) My agent Larry recommended that I read David Foster Wallace’s essay Shipping Out on his own experiences on a 7-night Caribbean cruise and why he would never do a cruise again.

We flew from Kauai to Honolulu to meet up with the M/V Amsterdam in Honolulu. (Our entire experience with Honolulu was in the back of a taxi at night along the vast collection of stores along Waikiki). After security confiscated my chef knives, we took up residence in room 6163 on the verandah deck, an unexpectedly spacious room with our own balcony. After a brief morning visit to Lahaina on Maui on Day Two, we were off for four days at sea.

I started last Wednesday by gearing up, collecting my knives from the front desk and heading to work alongside the chefs of the Pinnacle Grille, the ship’s “reservations required” onboard restaurant. That kitchen is one corner of the massive food preparation operation that spans six decks and includes an onboard butcher, fish monger, dozens of walk-in coolers and at least 100 separate ovens.

The first day, they gave me a chef’s toque to keep my head covered in the kitchen. Aside from a wait staff manager, I never saw another woman in the kitchen. This fact, combined with my toque, prompted much excitement among the legions of Indonesian guys who work in the kitchens, all of whom bowed respectfully as I walked by.

Over the course of three days, I did two cooking demos and two hands-on classes in the ship’s swank Food & Wine Culinary Arts Demonstration Center. My part on the cruise was the last of a 65-day Grand Tour that started in Seattle, wove through Asia, Australia and the South Pacific. It went well, and the folks on board said they would have me back. But Mike and I weren’t quite sure as the final two days offered rocky, rolling waves that caused even some of the seasoned crew to complain about seasickness.

But on land, in San Diego, we both waved to the ship. I missed the guys in the kitchen, the lovely guests, the guy who came and cleaned our cabin whenever we left, and even left us ice. We started thumbing through the Holland America catalog. Maybe someplace warm with smooth sailing in 2009… ?

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Anonymous Andrew said...

Kat, hope to see you on a ship sometime! Looks like fun!

December 5, 2008 at 11:59 AM  

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