Food Sustainability On The High Seas

If you were in the middle of nowhere hundreds of miles from land, what’s the one thing you would want to eat? Although this popular query is not an unfamiliar conversation piece, it’s a question that the fine kitchens of luxury cruise lines never want their visitors to ask. In fact, with the abundance of provisions available on cruise ships, one should never want for anything when it comes to availability and variety. To ensure hunger is never a factor for any sea voyager, the kitchens of cruise ships have to get creative with their use of food to promote the longevity of rations during long trips. Multifunctional flavorings and ingredients can be a winning combination to aid in the accomplishment of this endeavor.

According to Janet Groene, a cruising cook and cookbook author who believes in having “backup for her backup” and “plenty of shelf-stable” provisions, there is one thing about cruising that never fails: “stuff happens.”

Failed refrigeration, desperately needed items such as ice that are unavailable upon arriving at port and lost supplies are all examples of culinary disaster at sea. Although fresh is always the preferred option for food, canned goods, concentrates and powdered fare are cost-effective, delicious alternatives to make for a successful culinary trip.


Concentrates, Flavors, Extracts and Pastes

Fruity cocktails usually play a substantial role in a traveler’s vacation time; tropical-themed paper umbrellas, unique flavor infusions and fruit garnishes add that special touch of ambience. In lieu of fresh fruits that can spoil easily or aren’t yet ripe, and purees that require refrigeration storage, chefs are turning to shelf-stable fruit, nut and other flavor concentrates,
extracts and pastes for culinary preparation that still yields a flavorful, high-quality experience. In many forms these items are natural or have a touch of sugar added, but they provide consistency in flavor, and storage requirements are minimal. The multitudes of uses they provide are great and efficient, too. Concentrated fruit flavors are perfect for more than the creation of alcoholic beverages and can be added to nontraditional drinks such as Italian sodas or iced teas for a touch of flavor. At the same time, these extracts and flavors are also great in dessert making (i.e. ice cream, flavored mousses and frozen yogurt) and savory applications (i.e. pistachio-flavored vinaigrette, peanut chicken satay, etc.). And because these types of products contain such highly concentrated flavors and aromas, a little goes a long way, so fears of running out can be somewhat alleviated.

The Powdered Options

Powdered ingredient solutions can also be a win-win for the cruise line chef. Powdered ingredients tend to get a bad rap but their purposes are clear. They provide shelf-stability, ease of preparation and consistency. An easy realization of this is egg white powder. The products are generally dehydrated egg whites that require rehydration with water, and more importantly, cut the time to extract the egg white while saving storage and refrigeration space.
Instant dessert powders can be like a culinary life raft to a cruise chef. Having the ability to make specialty desserts such as pannacotta, tiramisù or even molten chocolate cake with fewer ingredients in half the time, while still producing a full, authentic flavor and presentation is not easily accomplished especially when the number of consumers is high and staff sizes are small. The goal is sourcing the right product and understanding where it is important to be efficient, while still obtaining a product that is comparable or better than its scratch-made counterpart. Powders are sometimes frowned upon and misleading when labeled as “artificial,” and there are products out there to beware of, but many powders are forms of dehydrated, natural products which are made to provide the solution that fresh foods aren’t able to offer. It’s all about options that are smart and effective.

Ultimately, multifunctional solutions are one way cruise liners can effectively expand their list of menu options, while decreasing prep time, budget cost and the possibility of not having all the essential ingredients necessary to complete a buffet of dining selections. From product procurement to placing food on the tables, sourcing smart, quality multifunctional flavorings and ingredients is a win-win situation for chef and guests.