ABOARD THE MV AEGEAN ODYSSEY–We were on board the Aegean Odyssey for ten days. When you are dining in the same venue for ten days, the quality of the food is an important issue. I am happy to report that I did not have a bad meal on this voyage, and enjoyed many superior ones.
The chef is the person who, on such a small ship, exercises a great deal of influence and control. I sat down with Chef Stefan Berndt to ask him about the culinary style of the ship and about his background.
He has good chops – he’s cooked at restaurants in Germany and England, at Relais & Chateaux properties, on cruise lines like Silverseas, Oceania and Celebrity, and at the iconic Claridges in London. He’s worked on big ships and on small ones, and ships like the Odyssey are, he believes, “more personal, with more room to put your own individual stamp on the menus.”
“I would describe my cooking style as international, with a Mediterranean flavour,” he explains.
His work space on board the Odyssey is a busy but well organized kitchen, which he runs with quiet efficiency. “There is not a lot of stress in my kitchen. The Gordon Ramsay style would not work here. There are always times when things get busy, but we all work together.”
“Everything is made from scratch on board, – soups, croissants, bread, sauces and desserts – except for ice cream, which we buy. We often use fresh local fish and vegetables.”
His days are long – often from 6 am to 10 or 11 pm, but he seems to be passionate about his work. “I like the fact that I can work without recipes and have some independence in the kitchen. Each cruise we add small changes. We can adjust our menu to suit what is fresh and available.”
That interest shows in the food. Breakfasts have all the expected dishes, including hot and cold dishes, but the array of fresh fruit and yoghurt is excellent. The coffee is okay – doesn’t have the kick that I like, but it is fresh and hot. I can get my caffeine fix by ordering an espresso in the lounge.
Meals in the main dining room are served with grace, and the dishes were virtually the same as the ones offered in the upstairs terrace dining room. I enjoyed meals of grilled lamb, roast beef, fresh fish, and vegetarian options. There was always a very good variety of vegetables, and the salads were fresh and came with several different toppings – sliced avocados, walnuts, anchovies, capers etc.
Meals on the Terrace were spiced up by pasta stations or tapas stations that offered an extra level of choice.
I was most impressed with the dessert table – always a work of art, it was laden with delicious cakes, pies, chocolates, fruit and a fine array of cheeses, as well as Italian ice cream.
While this is not the high fashion food you might find in a fine dining restaurant, the meals were very good, ranging from quail and grilled shrimp to lamb chops and Greek salad. I was never disappointed with the food – always fresh and always with lots of choice.
Photos by Barbara Ramsay Orr