Fun and Informative Cooking Demonstrations On A Cruise Ship
The Oceania Regatta cruise ship offered plenty to do on the cruise ship including many different enrichment seminars and a wide variety of entertainment. This would be important over the 26 days we would be onboard this cruise ship! The duelling chefs entertainment was probably our favourite!
On an early “sea day” we learned that there would be a cooking demonstration in the main lounge. We were intrigued enough to add this to our busy plan for the day. How would we know that this would turn out to be one of our favourite entertainment sessions on board. And we learned something too! We would return to view the cooking demonstrations 4 times over our 26 day cruise.
Two cooking stations and one prep station was set up on the stage. Executive Chef Mario presided as the MC – directing, teasing and coaching various chefs from the different restaurant venues on the preparation of key menu items. While both Mario and Paolo are from Italy (Sicily and Sardinia respectively), as we had learned when we visited Italy for 10 weeks the previous year, the cooking in different parts of Italy is often very different. Mario did not always get it done his way!
When Mario worked with Lenka (from India), Lenka held his own when insisting he was the expert at producing a curry based Thai dish. When pastry chef Renee joined him for one class, towering over Mario, it was clear that Renee was the expert for all sweet offerings.
While we were given copies of the menus that would be prepared, Mario quickly tore the menu sheets up, saying that cooking was often much more creative and fun than just following the steps on a piece of paper.
Duelling Chefs Entertainment
While the pasta machine made great pasta, the chefs used the pasta as props as part of the duelling chefs entertainment.
Mario was the star of the show but we got an extra entertaining day when the corporate French chef joined him and they debated the merits of French versus Italian style of cooking. The debate provided good duelling chefs entertainment. The good natured ribbing between them the two chefs left us laughing and not sure “to butter and not to butter”!
Throughout the cooking demonstration we were given a lot of information on how to cook better and you even earned a glass of wine if you answered his questions just the way he wanted or asked a particularly interesting question. When Lenka ran out of wine to distribute, he finished distributing the rest of the bottle of cognac that Mario had used in his shrimp pasta sauce.
We took the opportunity a few times when we saw the chefs walking around to follow up on questions that didn’t get answered during the demonstration. Just a few cooking tips I scribbled down at the cooking demonstration:
- Sear the risotto at the beginning before adding stock to seal it
- Don’t stir risotto, just occasionally shake the pot
- Put the liquid in risotto to level of rice (the stock should always be warm)
- Let the risotto rest after 18 minutes – add butter to bind the rice and Parmesan cheese for taste
- Sear all meat (from room temp) at a high temperature with the meat covered with a light flour – to keep in juices
- To cool down oil to keep it from burning, add a little butter
- Cook meat on medium heat slowly
- Sear scallops on high heat – to get rid of water
- Flambé with alcohol is used to to keep the taste but lose the alcohol taste
- Use a different knife for everything
- Don’t add salt when you cook – can’t take salt out
- Don’t use Semolina in pasta dough for pasta you are cooking fresh – only use it for “hard” pasta (e.g. lasagna that gets put in the oven)
- Make pasta and keep it in fridge for 24 hours to mix the flavour and improve the elasticity – add a teaspoon of vinegar to make sure the colour doesn’t change
- When making pizza dough, add a pinch of sugar, add a little olive oil if you want it to be crispier, the dough is ready when it is “white”
- Don’t cook with extra virgin olive oil (too strong) – use regular olive oil for cooking and save the extra virgin oil for drizzle
- Use balsamic to offset the sugar when you caramelize stuff (e.g. shrimp, onions)
- Slice peppers really fine to cook faster and to be less bitter
- When melting sugar, add a touch of corn syrup to stop it from crystallizing
Don’t Miss A Cooking Demonstration On A Cruise Ship
The cooking demonstrations had just whetted our appetite – for both lunch when the demonstration was done and to consider a gastronomic trip on the bigger Oceania ships that included a much more extensive set of cooking lessons. One of Oceania’s cooking cruises would include Master Chef Jacques Pepin himself (Executive Culinary Director for Oceania Cruises).
With the rise of cooking shows, most people expect not only education but a high entertainment value. We certainly got this each time we put the duelling chefs entertainment on our cruise schedule!
Have you had the chance to experience a fun cooking demonstration? Did you learn any other good helpful cooking tips?