Guest Post: What it Takes to Deliver the Culinary Wow on Oasis of the Seas

by 1249

Recently a reader posted a desire to know more about the culinary effort that will deliver the Wow to Oasis of the Seas’ guests. I asked Josef Jungwirth, our Director, Culinary Operations to give some flavor (sorry) to our readers’ understanding. Josef is a key lieutenant for the overall Food & Beverage team under the direction of Frank Weber, Vice President, Food & Beverage. Josef has presided over the culinary aspect of our new ship launches for many years.

Josef Jungwirth, Director, Culinary Operations

Josef Jungwirth, Director, Culinary Operations

I am privileged to manage, together with my culinary team, all the projects and tasks related to the food offerings onboard the greatest and most innovative ship built to date, Oasis of the Seas.

My task was to develop the menu programs for all the different types of restaurants which span from a first rate exclusive restaurant (150 Central Park) to a casual Italian trattoria, a tapas style at Vintages, all the various Café’s, the ever popular Windjammer buffet, a spectacular dining room, room service, and more. Calculating these menus and concepts includes tantalizing the taste buds of 6,200 guests, and our 2,300 internal guests (crew), a grand total of 8,500 for breakfast, lunch & dinner, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Cooking aficionados who prepare meals for themselves, for their families and occasionally plan a BBQ or party will truly appreciate what it takes to create the vast and varied number of dishes available onboard the ship on a daily basis, continually throughout the whole cruise.

Initially a lot of time was devoted to the development of the various venues giving each of the restaurants and food outlets have their own personality. Many of Royal Caribbean favorites such as Chops Grille, Café Promenade, Sorrento’s, Johnny Rockets, Windjammer, and Vintage can still be found, and a number of new eatery’s such as 150 Central Park, the Seafood Shack, Giovanni’s, Park Café, Chef’s Table, Donut Shop, Café Mondo and others have been added to the selection.

Once the various concepts were defined, then it was time to write the menus and develop the recipes – a very comprehensive process, to say the least.

Over the past 12 months regular menu workshops were held. Testing was done in our Test Kitchen located at Corporate Headquarters. Some testing was conducted right onboard the ships. The process for creating the dishes and recipes included the expertise of my talented team of Senior Executive Chefs and myself utilizing the best and freshest ingredients.

Every dish on each of the menus was put through a series of critical assessments. Here are a few considerations:

• Are the flavors and textures balanced and varied?
• How many steps are involved in sampling all the dishes?
• Is it feasible to execute this dish for the anticipated amount of guests?
• Do the dishes have an appeal to our international guests?
• How much preparation time is involved?
• Do we have the proper skill set to prepare and execute these dishes?
• Do we have the necessary equipment and space available?
• Is the dish within our budget guidelines?
• Are we able to receive these products onboard our ship consistently?
• Are the products we selected trans-fat free and from a sustainable, safe and approved food source?
• Are we happy with the presentation of the dish, and is it achievable?
• Is the menu description matching, and not over promising?

The next step is to invite our Company’s Executives to taste the new dishes. My Culinary Team assembles in the Corporate Test Kitchen to prepare for the luncheon [Adam’s note: I like this testing business]. Taking part in a luncheon in the test kitchen will always assure an element of excitement, especially to those who are invited for the tasting. Afterward the menus are tested for several weeks onboard one or two ships in our fleet. We gather all the feedback and comments from our guest, our front of house service staff and any needed adjustments to the individual dishes or menus are made before final approval is granted.

In addition to dishes being made by a recipe; all breads are freshly baked, all sweets and pastries are freshly prepared for each meal period, and all meats are cut onboard in our Butcher Shop. We prepare our own stocks, sauces and soups. Every dish ends up being prepared and plated to order.

In order for us to create and prepare all these high quality meals using only the freshest ingredients, I worked together with Senior Chef Helga Finnsdottir, who manages and oversees all the Galley, and Food & Beverage Front of house design, to select the Oasis’ culinary team. This team consists of 240 highly energized and dedicated team members who are supported by a team of 102 hard working stewarding team members who are responsible for keeping our galleys ship shape clean.

It will take a total of 342 team members, from 25 different countries, to prepare all the foods for all the venues. Managing the culinary operations team is Executive Chef Ivo Jahn who looks forward to his position onboard the Oasis in operations which can not be compared to anything existing today.

It is my belief that one of the most crucial aspects to the successful launch of Oasis of the Seas is a team which is highly motivated, well trained and has good discipline.

A good flow of communication, providing a clear vision along with specific directions on what is expected, providing the necessary tools, knowledge, equipment and materials to arrive at the respective results is equally important.

It will be simply incredible as these efforts all come together. It can be best described as a symphony orchestra, and I have the privilege of being the conductor.

  • marie fisher

    When you break it down the way you have it seems like an overwhelming task you have undertaken. We can’t wait to dine at 150 Central Park. And The donut shop, give me a cabin right next door and I would pay a premium! Good luck with this adventure!

  • Mike P

    Thank you very much for a tremendously informative post. It sheds light on a subject I’ve been reflecting on for a few years now. In my first and second cruise I was astounded by the selection, variety, and abundance of eating options on the ships. It was truly a cornucopia of tastes and smells. I think you could burn off a whole meal just walking around the entire windjammer buffet on Voyager. But as time went on, I’d say since about my third cruise, I’ve felt something was ‘missing’ with the food selection.

    I simply couldn’t put my finger on it, but after reading and reflecting on your post I realize that what’s missing is comfort food. Yes, there is a good variety of comfort food such as pizza, burgers, and french fries on every cruise I’ve ever been on. There are bagels and biscuits, and toast for breakfast, etc.. But they have seemed to be lacking.

    What your post clarified for me is that it’s not the basic makeup of the food, it’s the nuances that turn it from food to ‘comfort food’. For example, there are biscuits on the breakfast buffet, but not southern style butter milk biscuits which have a very distinct taste, appearance, and texture. There are bagels but not the oversized deli bagels. There is no fried bologna sandwiches. Yes, these are definitely south east comfort foods but other examples abound: Traveling further up the east coast, you find hot dog vendors as a perfect example of what i”m talking about. RCI serves hotdogs but they are more like ¼ lb 4th of July cook out hot dogs than the types of hot dogs that are enjoyed every day.

    Imagine a Voyager / Freedom / Oasis Class ship where on the grand promenade or boardwalk one of the standard food vendors is an original style New York Hot dog cart. It could have knish’s, New York style bagels, cream soda (which you could charge for), and Sabaret ‘dirty water’ hot dogs, and a complete line of condiments from New York vendors. Add those exact tastes, smells, and presentation to the most wise cracking server you can find and you have real comfort food for any customer from the North East.

    The smell of the hotdogs, the texture of the buns, the prattle of the guy in the apron. I would argue it would be one of the most popular food vendors on the ship. If done right, the benefit to royal Caribbean could be a very inexpensive serving station (how much could a hot dog cart cost?), lowered food costs and higher perceived value on the part of the customer who would be getting something included that they are willing to pay for ever day.

    There is much more to this subject that can be explored, for example dining room comfort food options such as fried fish platters. I’ve gone on too long already and I think I’ve brought up enough examples to start a dialog. The key would be to not loose the dining excellence that currently exists, but to tweak the comfort options with a high degree of attention to detail and authenticity. To truly invoke the / emotions / smells / familiarity that the customers are most comfortable with.

    If implemented correctly all it can do is offer the option to make happy customers even more comfortable!

  • marie fisher

    Can you tell me what Concierge Gourmet means? I have read about this and it says “mix and match” breakfast, lunch and dinner offererings. Would love for you to explain what that means. I have always loved the coffee machine in the concierge lounge and now it sounds like I have something else to look forward too. Thank you