Twin chefs make it twice as nice

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

CRUISE on sis­ter ships Queen Vic­to­ria and Queen El­iz­a­beth and you’d be for­given for think­ing you are see­ing dou­ble. Each of these Cu­nard lin­ers has a chef named Ol­droyd, so you could guess they are re­lated. But here’s the jolly thing: they are iden­ti­cal twins and hold the same po­si­tion as ex­ec­u­tive chefs. What are the odds?

I am aboard the newer of these cruise ships, the 2092-pas­sen­ger Queen El­iz­a­beth, where York­shire­man Ni­cholas Ol­droyd is in charge of The Ve­ran­dah, the sur­charge fine diner that serves French-in­flu­enced fare in a vamp­ish art-deco set­ting wor­thy of any five-star ho­tel. Ni­cholas also rules over Queen El­iz­a­beth’s 10 restaur- ants, seven gal­leys and about 142 chefs, who turn out any­thing up to 12,000 meals a day. ‘‘I am the god- fa­ther,’’ he says. ‘‘Seventy-five per cent of the gal­ley staff have been with Cu­nard for more than five years, so it’s re­ally like a fam­ily.’’

He can’t wait to tell me his twin, Mark, is ex­ec­u­tive chef on Queen Vic­to­ria, where he is in charge of about the same num­ber of chefs across the ship’s di­verse din­ing out­lets. It all seems so madly un­likely, not least as the brothers are shaped like car­toon char­ac­ters — say, Twee­dle­dum and Twee­dledee. ‘ ‘ Never trust a thin chef,’’ Ni­cholas in­sists with a bellyshak­ing laugh. ‘‘Mum was a caterer for lo­cal golf clubs and such­like,’’ he tells me when I ask if food is a fam­ily tra­di­tion.

Pas­sen­gers pay $US35 a head to plough through a six-course de­gus­ta­tion menu at The Ve­ran­dah; this al­ter­na­tive con­cept is now de rigueur for the classi­est cruise lin­ers and the value is very good in­deed when you con­sider the cost of equiv­a­lent meals ashore.

In a more ca­sual mode, there’s also a $US10-a-head sur­charge for themed restau­rants at The Lido; de­pend­ing on the evening, there’s a South Amer­i­can grill at Asado, spicy Mex­i­can at Aztec and Asian spe­cial­ties at Jas­mine. Queen El­iz­a­beth pas­sen­gers who don’t feel like dress­ing up on for­mal nights tend to dine at The Lido.

In Bri­tan­nia, Queen El­iz­a­beth’s grand two-tiered din­ing room, the lob­ster ther­mi­dor with truf­fle- scented pi­laf rice is the ‘‘big num­ber’’ on for­mal nights, Ni­cholas says. The evening be­fore our chat, 960 were sent out over two sit­tings, with 10 nim­ble-fin­gered chefs co-opted to ‘‘lob­ster duty’’.

Cu­nard sta­tis­tics re­veal that each year 5870kg of smoked salmon, 15,817kg of break­fast ce­real and 54,947kg of scram­bled eggs will be served to Queen El­iz­a­beth pas­sen­gers.

The im­men­sity of the fig­ures doesn’t faze Ni­cholas, who’s off to check on The Ve­ran­dah kitchen; he wants his brigade to get the bit­ter chocolate just right to go with the roast pi­geon breasts tonight.

cu­nard­line.com.au

Ni­cholas and Mark Ol­droyd

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