The time has come and all your hard work is going to pay off.  Now to make sure you are ready.
You must make sure you have your first night's meal with you.  You don't want to have to find your luggage and retrieve it from your room.  You might not be able to get to your luggage so have that with you as you enter your ship.

  • Also have couple blanks in case you find out they gave you the wrong menu.
  • Do you need your for bin and safe list for ingredients.
  • Do you need your salad dressing if you have a fridge or your seasoning cause you will be eating lunch on the ship?

I suggest as soon as you get on board the ship head straight to the dinning room where you will be eating.  Hopefully someone will be there but if not make sure you get someone as soon as possible even if you must ask for help.  Send the family to have fun if you must because they might get bored waiting, but to me it is a MUST to speak with someone.

When some one arrives tell them you sent an email telling the chef that you would be arriving today and you have a special diet request (They probably don't know about it but if enough of us do this as a routine the cruise ship will hail our request and hopefully someday hires me to make great menus for us).  Pull your paper out and tell them chef Daniel has helped you!

Ask to see tonight's menu to match your request with what is being served. This is where you would use the blank if a mix up on menus and somebody sent you the wrong one. (again if enough of us do the same way they will know us. When I went on my second cruise the hostess that waited on us was the same hostess that  we had on our first cruise.  She remembers me and she said it was the paper i gave for my meals.  This was a different ship from our first cruise so these employees move from ship to ship and let’s start them with a routine and maybe they will understand the gluten monster better.)

Show them or tell them that you are at table # and are eating at #### this time and is the hostess that is working that area available to talk with you.   If this is your hostess then tell them that they can expect a sheet like this at dinner time for the next few days of meals.  If it is not your hostess you will speak with them when you come in to dinner that night and explain your special meal request.  It is not a must to talk with your hostess now.  You are there to give your special meal request to somebody in the dinning room so that they can take it back and give it to the head Chef now.  The chefs are working in the back preparing the meal. After you have given the meal request it is time to eat lunch.

The ala cart places I will speak about. Since I have gone I have only experienced these types so let me know of any areas that I don't talk about so I can break it down for you.

With all of the ala cart stations you will find that the cooks and not the chefs are cooking the food.  This is a big difference. Some are below for you to understand.

  • 1.  Some cooks cannot speak much English. That hurts if you are trying to explain what you want.
  • 2.  Some cooks haven’t been cooking long or have only been cooking what you see. So a hamburger cook only knows hamburgers and that is it. He might not even know what rare, medium rare, and medium well are. The cook's knowledge is limited so by asking for a special diet he say "huh?"

First and foremost is patience. Be respectful and thankful and don't PISS anyone off.

You have a long cruise. I try to wait for the area chef, *(I explained about the area chef in a previous blog.  The area chef most likely speaks English well and he has been cooking for a long time and does more than just flip hamburgers. If the cook you are with does speak and understand English try to explain everything to him.  If he doesn't understand then wait for the area chef.  The area chef doesn’t know of you yet because the Head chef in his morning meeting doesn't know about you, so introduce yourself to the area chef and remember what he looks like in case you return to this area again for a meal..


Special note ** (The head chef has a morning chef meeting with all the area chefs to go over the day's events like weddings, special diets and changes to menus. So if you notify them with our paper at dinner and every dinner they will talk about us in the morning meeting and the next day's, and the area chefs will know that you need special care).


So now you are going to ask the area chef or cook who understands you to help you to get your lunch. First tell him you have a
special diet request then ask them to get your meal.  YES I said the area chef to get my food if that’s who I trust. The area chef is not going to cook your meal--you’re asking him to supervise it to make sure it is done properly.  You are supervising him that he does it right.  Make sure you explain to the chef or cook you have a gluten free diet and you cannot have (if you are in the hamburger area say bread, if you are in the seafood area say the sauces). Keep it short not to overload him and ask him for exactly what you want. You do need to be detailed about it though with instructions like "use this plate" and "use this fork to pick it up."

 
Lets briefly look at some ala cart stations I know about:

  • Hamburger stand:  I give them the plate after I wipe it off of any crumbs that might have fallen from other hamburgers. I ask the chef to pick the hamburger up with a fork that I give him right off of the grill.  (the spatula has crumbs on it on the bottom where it might be touching bread.). Also keep an eye and see if they are grilling buns--ask for a hamburger way over on the other side of the buns. I also ask him to give me fresh French fries right from the fryer. Usually they only cook fries there but if they cook onion rings and other stuff stay away from fries.
  • Seafood station: This area has two burners usually and they cook with sauté' pans. I would ask for the chef to sauté' me some seafood up.  I would tell him just seafood and olive oil.  The seafood bar changes every day on our ship. One day they might sauté' seafood and add a sauce or the next day they just warm up a new burg mixture of seafood. If there is a lot of people I wait until there is no crowd. On my cruise I told the chef that I would come every day for lunch just before they open (that way no pans are dirty yet form them cooking).  So if they open at 12:00 for business I arrive early . Each day at lunch they would cook me some shrimp, scallops and swordfish. Even if it was not on the menu for the day (yes they would have it for me because I asked so don't be afraid to ask for something--that is what the cruise business is for--to make you happy).  For me this was a perfect lunch rarely I take a chance at a buffet. Again, respect them and be nice and let them know you enjoyed it.
  • Sushi bar. The chef at the sushi bar is a chef not a cook usually. The food is prepared in front of you. So you just need to ask if it is marinated, spiced or has a sauce on it. If it is marinated I would stay away. The chef there did make the marinade, so you can ask what is in it and just try to be careful and look at your safe list.  If it has a sauce the chef there is the one who made it also.  You just need to ask questions about how he prepared the sushi.  Keep a eye on the chef and see how he works. Does he work clean or dirty to determine if there is a good chance of cross contamination. Make sure not to eat any fake crab meat, and bring your own gluten-free soy sauce.
  • Buffet. This to me is the hardest. Because every area of the kitchen cooks the meal and those cooks are not out serving the meal and you cannot ask them about the food. The bakery makes tons of dessert but there is no pastry chef to talk to.  The meats are cooked by chefs in the back and cooks cut it up (remember about cooks). So to ask exactly what is on the meat? They don't know and probably don't understand you.  Then all the food sitting in pans with people using tongs to grab two or three items with the same tongs. CROSS CONTAMINATION AT THE WORST...If I see something like boiled shrimp I know is gluten free.  I wait patiently until they bring a fresh pan out and then I step in before they dump it.  Or I do ask the area chef if he can get me some fresh ones from the back. Sometimes I might ask the area chef about the meat and what seasonings are on it.  It is a gamble at the buffet so you just have to be patient, watch and if you get something get it from a fresh pan before it is dumped. You should really ask what seasoning is used because you might be grabbing steamed vegetables you think and don't ask and get sick because it is seasoned with a seasoned salt that has a preservative that has gluten so ASK.
  • Other ala carts. Sandwich area with sliced meat and cheese. Again like all ala cart ask for fresh items in the prep area and not the meat sitting in their little pan next to the sandwich prepping area. You should give him a fork so he can grab it because his gloves probably have crumbs on it from the sandwiches. This food again isn't 100% gluten free because they might cut some pastrami and just wipe the slicer down and then cut the turkey you asked for.  You again have to judge if it worth it and decide if the cook does a good job. I usually went for the cheddar cheese. Some mozzarellas have wheat in them so if they have the wrapper, ask and they will show you. That goes for any other ala cart meal.

My Important points to remember if all you forget:

  • I TIP THE SOUS CHEF IN THE DINNING ROOM WHO COOKED MY MEAL EVERY DAY.  I TIP THE HEAD CHEF AND THE ALA CART CHEFS WHO REALLY WENT OUT OF THERE WAY FOR ME. BECAUSE I PUT THEM THROUGH A LOT.  That is also good practice for your local restaurants you eat at.  They remember and you put your faith in there hands more than the waiters and waitress if you think of it.
  • JUDGE IF THE COOK THAT IS AT THE ALA CART STATION CAN UNDERSTAND YOUR REQUEST SO THAT WILL SAVE YOU TIME. Just sit and listen to him talk. Is it English?
  • HAND THEM YOUR PLATE, FORK AND ANY OTHER CONTAINER SO YOU KNOW IT HAS NO GLUTEN ON IT.
  • DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK TO SEE THE PACKAGE THAT THE FOOD WAS IN. IF THEY CAN FIND IT THEY WILL SHOW YOU.
  • CHOOSE NEW CONTAINERS IF YOU USE A CONDIMENT AS IT COULD BE CROSS CONTAMINATED.  DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR A BRAND NEW UN OPEN CONDIMENT. THEY GO THROUGH A MILLION
  • KNOW SOME OF THE INGREDIENTS THAT ARE ON THE FORBIDDEN LIST
  • BE PATIENT IT IS A LONG CRUISE.
  • TRY TO FIND THE AREA CHEF OR COOK YOU ALREADY SPOKE TO HIM THEY WILL REMEMBER YOU.
  • BE CONSISTENT AND ALWAYS START OF BY SAYING "I HAVE A SPECIAL DIET REQUEST."  IF THEY HEAR IT ENOUGH TIMES THEY WILL REMEMBER YOU 
  • If you think they made a mistake when you get your food. THROW IT AWAY AND GET ANOTHER. You don't want to start by getting sick here or any time. Say you dropped it and remember the mistake they made and make sure they correct it.

Now you should be ready to tackle ala cart meals.  I will go over the sitting at dinner in the dinning room next. Now you are on the ship getting some food and having fun.



Chef
Daniel P.
Soigne'

 I am available for consultation and to converting menus for you for a cruise. Email me

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