Twin chefs make it twice as nice
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.
Nicholas and Mark Oldroyd