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Even the Saucier on the 'Queen Victoria' is a Gordon Ramsay-Trained Gourmand

July 20, 2011 at 3:10 PM | by | ()

When you think about the people who make a cruise ship run, who comes to mind? The captain...maybe the head chef and cruise director, right? Well, with about 1,000 crew onboard Cunard's Queen Victoria, there's so many others in the shadows, all responsible for making your vacation an awesome one. And over these two weeks, we'd like to introduce you to them.

Last week we gave you exclusive peeks into the (somewhat) secret lives of a ship's officer, a "gentleman dance host," the ship's acupuncturist and its actual doctor. Now we're headed into the kitchens with Roberto, the Queen Victoria's Chef de Partie in charge of sauces.

He's just back from a month-long vacation to Bali, where he slept in an overwater bungalow and dined on fresh meals prepared in the rice fields. He's Roberto, and believe it or not, he's the chef in charge of making all the sauces for meals onboard the Queen Victoria, in the Brittania restaurant.

Oh, but it gets better. Roberto is not only a dashing English man of Italian and South African heritage who cuts a fine figure in his tall chef's hat; he's also a Gordon Ramsay-trained chef, with a CV that includes Ramsay's restaurant at Claridge's in London. And like many Londoners, Roberto feels a connection with New York, specifically with Thomas Keller's Michelin four-starred restaurant Per Se, where he comes to dine (and tour the kitchen) almost every time the QV docks in NYC.

Back onboard, Roberto's in the kitchen whipping up 7-8 different sauces a day before simmering down bones to prep for the next. His favorite sauce to prepare? "It's this red currant jelly, because it's so delicate and pairs so well with duck and chicken." Beyond sauces, he's a dessert man: "I love making a cold chocolate fondant; the middle becomes like chocolate sorbet and the preparation is a nice challenge."

Can you tell he's all about the challenge? Roberto's next rung to climb is to become a special orders chef, cooking for passengers with dietary needs. After that...up and up until Roberto is Chef de Cuisine and posing for photos next to ice sculptures.

A dessert of Warm Apple Strudel with Brandy sauce

What he loves most about the at-sea lifestyle: The challenge, to put it simply. Roberto is quickly working his way up in the chef world, exquisite dish after exquisite dish, but he thrives on anything that requires him to use his mind and work creatively. Hence the at-sea lifestyle, where he's cooking for thousands of people every meal and infusing every little brush of sauce upon your plate with his expertise and passion for the craft.

Favorite port: "When you arrive in New York, there's so much energy; you feel it right away." Roberto has a thing for the Big Apple as you could probably already tell from his love for Thomas Keller's Per Se. "If you want something...anything, you find it in NY."

Favorite on-land activities: As you can probably expect, Roberto is big on visiting the great restaurants of particular destinations, but most of the time he goes for a local experience in the markets. Sampling the delicacies, seeing the produce and gaining inspiration is Roberto's raison d'être, and he specifically names the markets of Civitavecchia (Rome), Norway and Barcelona—"the serrano ham and truffles!"—as ones he most looks forward to.

Up next: on Friday our series concludes with the man in charge of something very important: the cocktail menus.

Disclosure: We traveled to Norway onboard the Queen Victoria as a guest of Cunard, but all images and opinions are entirely our own (or those of the interviewees).

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher for Jaunted]

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