‘Playing with food’ a passion for Holland America chef

As a youngster growing up in Austria, Rudi Sodamin would stand by his mother’s side in the family kitchen. He not only liked the smell and taste of food, he liked how it looked.

Rudi Sodamin has been a Holland America chef since 2004.

To him, the colorful ingredients were like paint that an artist could use for an edible masterpiece. “Food is the paint of our lives,” he said. “Food is art.”

At a pre-Seatrade Cruise Global lunch aboard the Holland America Eurodam in Fort Lauderdale this week, Sodamin shared some of his culinary expertise. Not only did my lunch feature delicious cuisine prepared by Holland America’s Culinary Council, it also was served on Sodamin’s exclusive limited-edition plates made by Bernardaud, the leading French manufacturer of Limoges porcelain.

Each large white plate charger is decorated with a Food Face that the culinary pop artist has created. Mine was titled “Rudi’s Catch” and had facial features composed of fish, shrimp and other tasty ingredients.

Rudi Sodamin’s new book features 150 of his Food Faces.

On board Holland America Line ships, guests who dine in Rudi’s Sel de Mer restaurant can enjoy dining on these special plates. Currently available on the Amsterdam, Eurodam, Niew Amsterdam, Oosterdam, Westerdam and Zuiderdam, the restaurant is scheduled to be rolled out across the fleet this summer. Dinner costs $49 per person.

How the Food Faces all started, Sodamin said, was several years ago when the chef was playing around in his kitchen. Feeling whimsical, Sodamin made a simple happy face on his plate with some edible components.

“It made me smile,” he remembered. “So, I began making face plates with meals for other people and the response was always the same – it made people happy.”

My luncheon plate was titled ‘Rudi’s Catch.’

Pleased with the reaction, Sodamin began making more and more faces, using vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, grain and sweets. Over time, he created a cast of unforgettable characters expressing a whimsical spectrum of human emotions.

“Food is universal,” Sodamin said. Food crosses all ages, languages and cultures. Regardless of gender, nationality, race or social status, food can be an international language that appeals to everyone. People around the world can connect and communicate through food.

To keep track of his Food Faces, Sodamin began photographing them. Before long, Sodamin had hundreds of the unusual Food Faces. “My hobby became an artistic passion.”

‘Mama Minestrone’ has a distinct Italian flavor.

Sharing his collection with artists, culinary colleagues and friends around the world, Sodamin was told that he should compile the Food Faces into a book. So he did. His new book is aptly named “Food Faces – 150 Feasts for the Eyes.”

For an artist and a chef, Sodamin said the biggest compliment he can receive is to make someone happy with his food and his art.  As he concludes in his book, “It would be hard to enjoy any higher praise.”

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