What does a guest chef do, anyway?

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For this cruise, I’m contracted to put together two demonstrations and two hands-on classes. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s still a lot of work. The demonstrations make up part of the at-sea offerings aimed to keep the 1,981 guests amused while the boat lumbers onto the next port, plus they’re broadcast on TV throughout the ship for the remainder of the cruise, and included on the DVD that guests can purchase to take home. In the end, it’s like setting up for two 45-minute television shows.

On the Noordam, I work with the events team, in this case led by the deeply engaging Party Planner Linda, who physically sort of reminds me of Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous, but the similarity ends there since she’s not a shallow drunk. Guest chefs are assigned a chef to work with and mine is the talented Chef Jerome. As soon as we arrive, we go over the details for two demonstrations and hands-on classes. In addition to prepping for the demo, I work with Chef Jerome’s team to come up with individual tastes of what’s been presented to the 200 or so guests expected to attend.

Since we’re crusing the Mediterranean, I focused the first demonstration on lemon risotto and a pan-fried halibut with olives, garlic and tomatoes, plus no-knead artisan bread infused with herbs de Provence. The demo for our stop after Barcelona will focus on classic paella. For the first hands-on class today, we made bread, handmade pasta and shrimp in a saffron tomato sauce.

The people are nice, our digs are great. It’s not quite a vacation, but it’s not exactly work, either.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.

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