Cunard’s head of culinary development Gareth Bowen dishes everything about food onboard – from his favourite dish to how much chocolate was used to create the mega Easter chocolate display.
Cunard, a cruise line renowned for its extensive history and British heritage, is a popular choice amongst cruising fanatics.
So, how does the line fare when it comes to food onboard?
We speak to Cunard’s head of culinary development, Gareth Bowen, to delve into the culinary scene at Cunard, with all your burning questions answered.
Q: Tell us about your background in the culinary field and how you ended up working with Cunard?
A: Like many chefs, I was interested in food from an early age. Whether that was cooking with my mother and grandmother, or foraging and hunting with my father.
I was lucky to be brought up in a household where dinner was always an occasion, and sitting down at the table with the family was the norm.
Growing up in rural Hampshire allowed me to be out in the country most of the time and I guess it was the culmination of the above that sowed a culinary seed.
Like most people, I went to college to continue in further education, and it was here that I realised that I wouldn’t enjoy being office-bound. After further conversations, and support from my family, I embarked on a Culinary Diploma and the rest is history.
My career has taken me to some of the world’s best hotels and restaurants – from the Mirabelle in New York to London, where I was Executive Chef of Shangri-La at The Shard, as well as Grosvenor Square and County Hall.
Cunard is a brand that I have always admired and reflects my previous roles within the luxury hotel sector. Albeit floating and always somewhere different!
Bowen: “It’s about a respect for the classics with a nod to the future.” Credit: Cunard
Q: What made you want to work in the cruise industry?
A: It seemed like the perfect transition from the luxury hotel and hospitality world to the luxury cruise sector. Having travelled extensively and experienced many cultures, I thought it the perfect match to share my vision and expertise with a wider demographic.
Working with Cunard allows me to be adaptive to geography, culture, cuisines, and a vast array of ingredients.
Q: How do you reflect Cunard’s extensive history in the food onboard?
A: Like many luxury brands it’s about the history and the ingrained classics that should never be forgotten. From the bygone era and classical dishes like Beef Wellington and Grilled Dover Sole, to some newer concept signatures dishes like our Steakhouse as well as all the new projects for Queen Anne.
It’s about a respect for the classics with a nod to the future.
Alaska’s wildlife and landscapes make it one of Bowen’s favourite cruise destinations. Credit: Shutterstock
Q: What has been your favourite dish to develop?
A: I have a soft spot for dishes within our Steakhouse at Verandah, as this was one of my first projects.
The suppliers we work with to deliver our beef are some of the best in the country. Regarding favourites, I guess it’s very dependent on my mood.
I love nothing more than a simple steak from our Steakhouse at The Verandah coupled with some of our wonderful sides and washed down with a deeply rich Shiraz.
I also love a simply-cooked piece of fish from our Main Dining room, to a curry that has been expertly layered with spices within our Alternative Dining.
Even our Afternoon Tea offering, with warm scones, strawberry jam, and clotted cream, always goes down a treat.
Q: Have you sailed onboard a Cunard ship? If so, where has been your favourite place to sail?
A: Yes, absolutely. I’m very fortunate to have been to some amazing places. Alaska must be one of my all-time favourites; it’s simply stunning.
I love the rugged beauty as well as the nature. From the Orcas (Killer Whales) you can view following the ship, to the sea eagles and marine life. It really is a must-see destination. On a personal note, the seafood is phenomenal, and I’ve had the chance to experience things that many people would not.
To be able to see and meet suppliers whilst travelling is a real treat. To be able to then bring their products and my experiences onboard and create menus is the best part of my job.
Opening the doors for our guests to experience the wonders of the destinations we travel to is everything to me.
Bowen finds inspiration from everything for his dishes. Credit: Cunard
Q: Where do you find your inspiration for developing new dishes?
A: From all around! Within the team, personal memories from travel, online, fellow chefs, chefs onboard and the team ashore. It’s so easy to get inspiration nowadays from social media, new restaurants opening, cookbooks, television and magazines.
The list is endless. It can be as simple as walking around and seeing a bakery window or visiting a supplier. The one memory that stands out the most is a recent visit to the Mediterranean and in particular the French Riviera, where I experienced the most wonderful Bouillabaisse (and chilled glass of rosé), whilst sat in a small fishing town looking out to sea at the very boats that brought that catch in that morning.
That’s what I strive to create for our guests and our concepts/dining onboard.Q: What is something that most people don’t know about working in culinary development for a major cruise line?
A: Understanding global seasons, guest demographic and futuristic trends is far more complicated than the simple four seasons of the UK.
It takes cooking seasonally to another level. UK products are not always available all around the world – nor would you like to eat hearty braised dishes, in the UK winter, whilst on an Australian voyage in 40C heat.
What my team and I try to do is write menus that reflect the best of the destination and port that our Queens are in. We can do this within our Buffet, Main Dining, Grills and above all with concept ‘pop-ups’ in our Alternative Dining restaurant concepts.
This requires huge planning from our logistics and procurement teams.
Cunard aim to build relationships with the countries they visit to get local produce. Credit: Cunard
Q: Do you have any environmentally-conscious dishes in the works?
A: Purchasing locally, building relationships with the countries, towns, and villages we visit is always at the forefront of our development.
Ensuring we have availability and are able to tailor our menus around the seasons of the countries we visit. It is vital as this helps us to reduce our carbon footprint. Without quality ingredients or products my world of menu development, concept ideation and execution are nothing.
I think we tend to forget about the heroes that are our local farmers, suppliers, producers, and artisans. Collaboration with local suppliers is everything.
Q: Do you have any fun facts about the huge volumes of food needed onboard?
A: A recent fact from our Easter voyage is the chocolate we use for our Easter displays, amenities and sculptures. Comprising of the below per ship (x3), courtesy of Nicholas Oldroyd-Operational, Exec Chef:
Each Easter egg display comprises approximately:
- 80KG of Pure Dark Belgium Callebaut
- 60KG of White Callebaut Belgium Chocolate
- 100Kg of Milk Callebaut Belgium Chocolate
About Lucy Abbott
Lucy is a recent Journalism graduate who has been working in the cruise industry for just over a year.
has sailed on a variety of ships, from expedition to river – with her
favourite being expedition cruising where she can admire wildlife and
Lucy reports on what it’s like to
be a young cruiser and is interested in new sustainable ways to cruise
as well as how cruising is becoming accessible for all.
Appeared first on: Worldofcruising.co.uk