By Marcia Levin
Ask anyone at Holland America Line “what’s cooking?” and you’ll get a variety of answers.
Don’t be surprised when those replies come in a variety of international accents -- thanks to the premium cruise line’s new Culinary Council.
Holland America’s Culinary Council is a group of highly respected international chefs, who will strive to create new dining options and culinary choices for guests on the line’s 15 vessels.
And, the culinary group will meet regularly with Holland America officials.
Meet the Chefs
The Council’s first meeting with HAL executives -- including Johan Groothuizen, the line's vice president of marine hotel operations and Holland America Line’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin -- took place in early 2011. They'll head the council.
Both bring a decidedly European influence to the council. Groothuizen is a native of the Netherlands.
Austrian-born Sodamin (shown at left*) is a member of the Academy Culinaire de France, Maitres Cuisiners de France and Honorary Member Club des Chefs des Chefs.
Sodamin has published several cookbooks, including “A Taste of Celebration” with complete menus and recipes for 16 celebratory occasions.
Each new Culinary Council chef supplied 10 recipes and photos before the Council members were announced. Sodamin says the council is comprised of “the best chefs in the industry.”
Jonnie Boer: Boer is head chef of De Librije in Zwolle, one of only two three-star Michelin restaurants in the Netherlands. He also heads a catering company.
Three years ago, with his wife Therese, Boer (shown at right*) opened a 19-room hotel with restaurant and a cooking and wine school in Zwolle.
He has his own greenhouse and offers menus “with things from nature” in his 40-seat restaurant, a rathskellar and at a seating area for 14 people inside the kitchen itself.
David Burke: A leader in American cooking, Burke (shown at left*) operates his own flagship restaurant called David Burke Townhouse in New York.
He also operates other culinary outlets including Fishtail and at Bloomingdale’s in New York City, at Las Vegas’ McCarren Airport, in Chicago, IL, Rumson, NJ, and at Foxwoods Resort Casino in CT.
Ingredients are the key to Burke’s creations. He's considered a pioneer in contemporary cooking techniques.
Burke addressed the issue of the chefs working together and claims their egos won’t enter into the discussion. He says that whether someone is preparing a dinner for 20 or 2,000 the “planning ahead, presentation and combination” are the answers -- and a major goal of the Council.
Marcus Samuelsson: Another New Yorker, Samuelsson (shown at right*) blends culture and cuisine.
Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, he was guest chef at the White House for the Obama administration’s first state dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.
Samuelsson recently opened the Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem.
He also won Bravo TV’s “Top Chef Masters Season Two.”
Jacques Torres: Creator of Jacques Torres Chocolates, Torres (shown at left*) specializes in fresh, hand-made chocolates and has been featured on television’s Food Network.
A former pastry chef at Le Cirque and Le Cirque 2000 in Manhattan, Torres was born and raised in the south of France.
Torres also has produced two cookbooks, one of which netted him a James Beard nomination in 1999.
Charlie Trotter: Charlie Trotter's Chicago restaurant has won 10 James Beard Foundation awards including those for "Outstanding Restaurant" and "Outstanding Chefs."
The author of 14 cookbooks, he hosts “The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter,” operates a gourmet shop and produces a line of private-label organic products.
Regarding Holland America's Culinary Council, Trotter (shown at right*) says “it’s about the company you keep and keeping good company and the right organization allows you to build something to a certain level.”
Every Culinary Aspect
Richard Meadows, CTC, Holland America's executive vice president, marketing sales and guest programs, says the council will bring “expertise and innovative guidance and will touch every aspect of our shipboard food service, from the Lido Restaurant breakfast buffet to the dinner menu of the Pinnacle Grill and everything in between.”
Holland America takes its culinary options seriously. At a recent Council launch I attended onboard Noordam at Port Everglades, we were treated to a lunch menu that would delight even the most dedicated gourmet.
We sampled "Marinated Tuna with Avocado Tapenade" and a grapefruit and sesame tuille (*shown at left)
Our group also tasted "Porcini Mushroom Soup," topped with cheese; "Seared Duck Breast with Clementines," accompanied by duck confit and peppercorn-chocolate dressing; and "Roasted Sea Bass" with espelette pepper and pureed peas.
For dessert, I loved the yummy "Pinnacle Cheesecake" with fresh raspberries and the petits fours. An irresistible thick, rich hot chocolate --from a recipe by Torres -- completed the dessert experience.
Guests who sail onboard Holland America's ships will receive a history of the Culinary Council and biographies of each of the notable chefs.
(Master Chef Charlie Trotter is shown at right with Stein Kruse, president and CEO, Holland America Line*)
Specialties from Culinary Council chefs will be identified as such on menus.
Holland America already has a strong portfolio of guest chef appearances. For example, prior to the announcement about the Culinary Council, this year 70 guest chefs were slated to sail on its ships.
Each of Holland America's ships offers a Culinary Arts Center where guest chefs conduct a complimentary cooking session for the ship’s passengers.
Special classes are offered on a fee basis. For example, guests might choose a "hands on" class that will replicate some of the new Culinary Council dishes; reservations are required.
Beyond the Culinary Council offerings, Holland America partners with New York City’s famed Le Cirque restaurant to create “an Evening at Le Cirque” in the Pinnacle Grill on all 15 ships.
Menu offerings reflect Le Cirque specialties such as Lobster Salad, Sweet Corn Soup and Cote de Boeuf.