Holland America Line continues to work to refine how passengers experience a cruise and the world when sailing onboard a HAL ship.
Holland America has revealed a new focus on its dining program, as the line develops an enhanced onboard eating experience (always one of the best parts of a cruise) by tapping into the expertise of seven members of its award-winning Culinary Council.
Each chef on the council will cultivate a particular aspect of the overall onboard dining experience. The Culinary Council comprises a collection of elite international celebrity chefs.
It's led by Holland America Line's Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, who is joined by international chefs Jonnie Boer, David Burke, Elizabeth Falkner, Andy Matsuda, Ethan Stowell and Jacques Torres. Holland America Line also has announced a collaboration with wine critic James Suckling to curate its wine lists and who will work with master mixologist Dale DeGroff on Holland America's cocktail program.
I was fortunate to get a preview of the types of meals you can expect on a HAL cruise during a media event onboard Holland America's Eurodam in Fort Lauderdale to kick off Seatrade, the world's largest annual cruise conference.
We had delicious courses including grilled scallops, roasted and raw carrot and omega seed salad, seared fresh hamachi fish, aged beef tenderloin with shrimp, and chocolate puff pastry for dessert. The meal in Pinnacle Grill was incredibly varied and flavorful. Cruisers can expect similar menus and choices created by these accomplished chefs.
"Holland America Line's Culinary Council is made up of some of the world's leading food authorities who have a tremendous amount of talent and knowledge, and the most profound way for us to use their expertise is to have them focus on their specialties throughout our different dining experiences," said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line's president. "Culinary partners often only influence one restaurant or one area, but having seven world-class chefs enables us to cover our entire dining program and utilize their collective passion and creativity so all guests can enjoy their cuisine."
Check out the bios of the members of the Culinary Council:
Sodamin oversees all aspects of onboard dining, in addition to bringing his influence and expertise to Rudi's Sel de Mer. The popular French brasserie is a standalone venue on Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam and is featured on other ships through special pop-up dinners in the Pinnacle Grill. Sodamin was born in Austria and trained in France. He recently released his latest culinary masterpiece, an art table book called "Food Faces" that features more than 150 vibrant images of edible creations that display a whimsical spectrum of human emotion. His innovative approach has made him the most decorated chef on the world's oceans.
Jonnie Boer brings the flavors of his internationally acclaimed restaurant, De Librije, onboard select sailings through special "Taste of De Librije" evenings in the Pinnacle Grill. Dutch-born Boer is the driving force behind De Librije, a regional, fine-dining restaurant in the Netherlands. Recognized as one of The World's 50 Best Restaurants, De Librije has earned a three-star Michelin rating every year since 2004.
A leading pioneer of contemporary American cuisine and a master of French culinary technique, Burke will continue to enhance the menu at the Pinnacle Grill, adding contemporary flavors and new signature recipes. Burke partnered with Smith & Wollensky CEO Alan Stillman to open the critically acclaimed Park Avenue Cafe, and then, in 1996, he became vice president of culinary development for the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group. Burke is a restaurateur, cookbook author, inventor and consultant at ESquared Hospitality, which owns and operates the BLT restaurant brand. He has been featured on "Iron Chef America" and "Top Chef Masters."
At the forefront of the culinary arts and a recurring judge and competitor on the Food Network, Falkner will be introducing a variety of new lighter fare to venues across the fleet. Falkner is an advocate for people and chefs to think more like athletes and "stay fit to cook." Falkner does both savory and sweet, traditional and modern and has earned accolades for her ground-breaking San Francisco shop, Citizen Cake.
Matsuda lead the sushi offerings in Lido Market as well as the sushi menu available in Tamarind on select ships. Aboard Nieuw Statendam, Matsuda's creations will be featured at Nami Sushi, the new sushi bar inside Tamarind. The Japanese-born chef is at the forefront of sushi trends and techniques. At Matsuda's Sushi Chef Institute in Los Angeles, California, he teaches aspiring chefs and professionals about sushi and Japanese cuisine.
Stowell brings the unique flavors of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest onboard ships sailing in the region. Also known for his pasta and Italian dishes, Stowell will introduce several of his recipes at New York Pizza and select Lido Market stations on all ships. With an impressive roster of highly acclaimed restaurants, Stowell has helped to change the face of the Seattle food scene. He was named one of the Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine magazine in 2008 and chosen as one of the Best New Chef All-Stars in 2013.
A world-renowned chocolatier known as "Mr. Chocolate," Torres creates masterful chocolate desserts for Holland America Line's dining venues, as well as the Chocolate Surprise Dessert Parade featured on the last gala evening of every cruise. A French-trained Master Chef and artisan chocolatier, Torres is a James Beard Award recipient. After rising to executive pastry chef at New York's legendary Le Cirque, he opened a chocolate factory and stores throughout New York. Torres is co-hosting and head judge on the new Netflix culinary show "Nailed It" with Nicole Byer. The reality contest program pits home bakers against one another attempting to recreate edible masterpieces.
The cuisine on Holland America is a great mix of decadent delights and healthy options, which is just the type of cruise experience I crave. I always look for healthy choices that fit into my lifestyle choices, but it's always great to be able to dive into a gourmet meal bursting with new kinds of flavors, too. It's all about treating yourself when you travel, and these creations are beyond anything I'll ever be able to whip up in my own kitchen.
Another cool thing is that these meals connect cruisers to the destinations by utilizing ingredients and cooking styles reflective of the regions where the ships sail.
Have you sailed on Holland America? What did you think of the food and overall experience? Also, let us know how important food is to you when you travel.
Comment below, and thanks for reading.