Andrew, a well groomed man in his early 30s, standing 5'7" with a food thermometer in the outside top pocket of his white cooking jacket, was born and raised in Goa, India - which is on the west coast of India. He was one of five children. The eldest sister married a chef, and it was he who inspired Andrew at a young age to take a liking to the kitchen. Andrew went on to collect a catering diploma from a local school in Goa and moved to New Delhi, where he worked in the hotel industry for 7 years. His first two international expertises were Italian and French, and these assisted Andrew in becoming a Sous Chef.
But Andrew knew he was not meant to live the rest of his life in New Delhi, or at minimum, a stationary hotel. Andrew wanted more. He knew he was good at what he did and he put in the long hours to prove it. One day, he noticed an advertisement in the New Dehli newspaper, "Time of India", that was requesting chefs, cooks and Sous Chefs. He applied for First Chef and two months later was contacted by Carnival and given the good news. He was headed for the States, Miami exactly, to cook on a cruise ship.
Andrew didn't see much of Southern Florida - as he was whisked from the plane and taken to his new home - The Celebration. With absolutely no training or formal indoctrination program back in 1989, he started working as First Chef. After 6 months, and good reviews by the kitchen management, Andrew received the first of many promotions to come, as he was put in charge of the Italian Galley. This means being responsible for the Italian food on the ship, not the Italian passengers or crew members!
After 2 months of garlic, pesto and pasta, Andrew was moved to the Main Galley, where he received training on a variety of international cuisine's from one of his favorite teachers, Head Chef Angelo D'Mello. In a short time, Andrew became proficient on:
Andrew, in 10 months on the Celebration, received intense hands-on training in a very demanding field. He deserved a vacation, and took the mandatory head-cleansing two months off and returned to Goa. He decided he liked ship life enough though to return, so upon arrival in Miami, he was promoted to the "Tournent Chef" aboard the Celebration.
In three months, Andrew earned the opportunity to move to the brand new Ecstasy. This ship carries up to 600 " more" passengers than the Holiday class ships, so although the menus were similar, it meant learning a whole new galley and including crew, feeding a total of 3,000 people three meals per day, plus snacks and midnight buffets. That's equivalent to 10,000 meals per day - and heaven knows how crazy I get serving 6 people one meal, so could you imagine the pure logistics of this much food being prepared? Anyway, after one year on the Ecstasy, Andrew was promoted to "Sous Chef". (The Fantasy class ships have 2 Sous Chefs)
One of Andrew's highlights (or should I say "perks"), was flying to Finland shortly after becoming a Sous Chef, and sailing the brand spanking new Sensation back to the States. Of Finland, Andrew said "It's a great place to visit, with pretty scenery and lots of bars". The transatlantic journey went smoothly and he stayed with the Sensation for about a year, before being transferred to the Holiday as "Acting Chef", which is the highest level of Sous Chef.
All these years of hard labor and extremely long hours are surrendered for the opportunity to become Head Chef. Reading back through my scribbly notes, I'm almost dizzy from all the different stints Andrew accomplished. But he was to have one more before receiving the Holy Grail of Calories. He spent his six months of "Acting Chef" probation aboard the Tropicale, and in 1994, was promoted to Head Chef.
And then, his travel schedule picked up a bit... He had stints aboard the Holiday, Fascination and Tropicale again (present) within 24 months, and along the way, has accumulated the basic cuisine knowledge of approximately 20 countries, including Philippines, Indonesia, South America and several European communities.
Where's The Waiter When You Need Him?
For several reasons, I wanted to get a little bit more intimate with the workings of the whole dining event, from the time the food is prepared till the time the plates are cleaned. To do this, I'd like to start out with an explanation of the Dining Room positions and their individual responsibilities.
The Tropicale, FYI, was built in 1982 and is a wonderful ship. It's the smallest of the Carnival fleet, but also the most intimate. Ship capacity is just over 1,000 - which in my book, is still a large ship. However, compared to the soon-to-be-launched Carnival Destiny, which has her own zip code and 2,600 hungry passengers, the Tropicale looks quite modest. (My review of the Tropicale in Alaska can be found in the SeaLetter's Master Index).
The Tropicale in Alaska
So, what type of staff does it take to feed 1,000 passengers and 500 crew members daily? Here's a rundown:
Busboy: 45 Total
Waiter: 45 Total
Head Waiter: 2 Total
Assistant Restaurant Manager: 1
Restaurant Manager: 1
Food and Beverage Manager: 1
Hotel Manager: 1
How Many Cooks "Are" In The Kitchen?
When you are seated in the Dining Room of a ship, you may catch a glimpse of the revolving doors that bring you your culinary delights and take away the evidence. So who's in there? How many people did it take to prepare such a feast of sin?
This being my first "assignment" (I'm noticing that my handwriting is really looking more like a plate of unregimented spaghetti.), and although I am an avid cruiser, the understanding of the work force tree behind those doors was quite intriguing, and hopefully my explanation will not require a Marinara sauce.
Lido Pantry (which is Boiler Room Cafe' and Promenade Deck)
Staff Chef (takes care of Staff - crew and officers)
How 'Bout All Them Taters!
Yes we have some bananas, potatoes, and carrots today. Enough in fact, to handle this floating flotilla feeding frenzy for the whole cruise - and then some. One of Andrew's main responsibilities is learning how to use the computer. Asked if he was a "Hacker", Andrew said "No Doug, a bit more like a Hunt and Pecker". However, it is his bits and byte knowledge that really dictates how much food the ship should secure.
Andrew logs his purchases into a computer program (spreadsheet), and based upon usage, plans his food purchases for the following weeks. On this current itinerary, Andrew places his food orders in Vancouver. With the exceptions of fresh fish deliveries in Ketchikan, Skagway and Seward, and a few other needed condiments along the way, this purchase is enough for two weeks. Seward, the northernmost POC, is a small town with limited food supplies, so Andrew figures he saves the ship a lot of money by spending approximately $180,000 in British Columbia twice per month.
This is a bit more of a science than I first thought, as the ship operates under fairly rigid portion controls, and they are logged as such. And even to the surprise of Andrew, he said that from one week to the next, the usage changes very little. In Alaska for example, the crowd is predominantly mature adults - and their eating habits are very similar, whether they live on the West coast, East coast or Canada. The most popular meals are ones that feature salmon, but when the usage gets high, Andrew just takes a fishing pole to the back of the crew deck with his buddy Daryl D'Souza, the unrelated F & B Manager.
Andrew and Daryl D'Souza
The weekly shopping list is a bit overwhelming, as you might try to picture yourself in your favorite local grocery store requesting the following:
It's pretty apparent that the King of Sweat, Richard Simmons, who has had a few cameos on Carnival TV ads and sailed several times, didn't eat too much from the above menu! But for those who do watch their intake, the ships have become very health conscious lately with the introduction of low fat selections sprinkled throughout the menus.
After 18 years of cruising, I know that some passengers are pretty hard to please. I can sit with just about anyone on a cruise and find a way to have fun, but the hardest person to dine with is one that finds fault with food on a regular basis. In general, for what you pay, the food on a ship is wonderful. But I could not resist asking Andrew and Daryl about any particular customers that stuck out in their minds which caused quite a stir with their requests.
Well, Carnival does a pretty good job in making sure that these ugly stories don't make it to print, but the two D'Souzas shared with me a few interesting comments and overheard requests:
Le Tour de Galley
My previous 15 cruises were in the Caribbean. Therefore, I never had time to catch the Galley Tour. I was more interested in Baking and Mixing. It's a different pace on an Alaskan ship, especially if you have some misty or rainy weather. I was offered a tour of the Galley, and had to rearrange nothing...
This is pretty much Daryl's domain, so I just let him go to town. Before we really got through the doors and near the galvanized cabinets and preparation tables, I was instructed to take some notes on their Sanitation scores. The US Public Health Service, makes (I believe) surprise visits aboard all ocean going vessels that serve food to Americans. These scores can really hurt a ship.
Anyway, out of the possible 100 points, the Tropicale received a 92 in 1995 and a 93 the last time they were in Tampa. The passing grade is 86, and many careers are at stake on this measurement - - so you can bet that the kitchen management looks at these scores seriously.
We came through the galley door on the port side of the ship, and after walking up the ramp and past the galley offices, you'll immediately notice that the galley has windows on both sides. This is the only Carnival ship afforded this luxury. Just next to the windows is probably the most interesting part: it's a room that contains the fruit, vegetable and ice carvers. This is a very unique talent and Carnival has to import this type of expertise from the Philippines. There, the tradition of carving is passed down from one generation to another.
First Seating Lunch was just beginning, so I was able to experience a little of the madness. A few dropped full dishes went crashing and after a few "attaboys" for the rookie, the cleanup man was there in a flash removing coleslaw from the Rubbermaid mats. The main line, which is similar to a cafeteria, is where the waiters receive their food. They grab a big tray and move down the line picking up their orders. When someone asks for a larger portion, it's usually handled in seconds. But requests that are off the menu or out of the ordinary slow down a whole table's food, and blocks up the galley. Both the D'Souzas stressed that special requests are fine, but please give them as much advance notice as possible.
My eyes were looking at the salad area and main line, but my stomach kept saying "Hey, where's the land of Oz", and just about that time, Daryl gets me in front of the Pastry Chefs. Ooh la la, they sure know how to dress up their calories on Carnival! I hadn't been hungry 'til that point, but all the cakes and tarts were taking control of my senses, so off to the next stop before they had to restrain me.
In a minute, we were in the Crews' and Officers' messes, where many of the waiters and busboys get their first few weeks of training. There was a salad bar in the Officers Mess, but on the Tropicale, neither mess room seemed elaborate.
At my request, I asked to see the storage area of the food. Strange request, I gathered, but nonetheless, I was there and had the time. So down the elevator we go and into an area that contains about 10 very large walk-in freezers and assorted dry goods cages. I discovered that some of the initial food prep is done down here, like potato peeling and onion peeling. Everything seemed to be in a neat and orderly fashion, yet I was surprised to see so many workers down there. One thing that is of big concern now to the ships is their garbage disposal; almost all debris must be classified and discarded together - such as plastic, paper, bottles, food and cans.
As we finished up the interview, we talked of the ship's upcoming itineraries. After three more weeks in Alaska, they were to have two weeks (I think) in a San Francisco drydock before heading to Hawaii for two trips. Both Andrew and Daryl were excited about the menus they planned, which included lots of fresh pineapple and many dishes with the local fish "Ono" - such as Baked Ono and Basted Ono, which includes rosemary, cumin, curry and of course, pineapple.
As I stretch and pump life back into my keyboard hands, I realize that in the seven hours or so that it took me to put ink to this spaghetti, the Tropicale and the rest of the Carnival fleet served approximately 58,500 meals. That's entertainment!
My special thanks go to Dennis and Daryl for their assistance with this review of the Tropicale's life-line, the food. And special kudos to Andrew D'Souza, the Tropicale's Head Chef and gracious host par excellence. I would trust my culinary eccentricities to this gentleman any day of the week. Bravo!
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please