The cruise world has seen Viking Cruises take over top honors, first with Viking River Cruises popularized by Downton Abbey, and now with Viking Cruise’s two spanking-new, ocean-going ships Viking Star and Viking Sea. They’ve outscored every other line, including the top-rated Crystal Cruises, with passengers consistently praising everything from the design of the ships themselves to the culinary output on board. The dining experience’s high marks are a salute to the excellence of Viking’s galleys and certainly to the range of its menus.
The job of feeding some 350,000 passengers a year falls on the able shoulders of chef Anthony Mauboussin. The young French chef already presides over the 59 River Cruise ships’ kitchens, and will now expand his reach to include the newest additions of the company’s fleet – 930-passenger ocean cruises.
As Viking’s ocean fleet continues to grow, Mauboussin is tasked with developing recipes that are unique to the ports of call for each ship. North American favorites like beef Wellington and poached salmon run on a 14-day rotation, but every destination is represented by three fresh menu items: an appetizer, main course, and dessert.
Just this fall, Viking Star made its way across the North Atlantic — first to Canada and then on to New York. From there the ship was repositioned to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a series of 10-day West Indies explorations. The ship will continue on this course until spring 2017.
The Viking Sea will undertake the line’s first world cruise next year, and Mauboussin will head to his home kitchen in Chamonix, France, to develop three new items representing each of the 17 new ports the ship will visit on its 120-day voyage. The chef has had lots of practice, having prepared Viking Star’s menus for its maiden voyages to the West Indies tropics.
Consulting his 250 cookbooks, the chef first develops menu items by working on four a day, and in these days of fusion cooking he demands a certain geographic purity. He researches his dishes to make sure they demonstrate a true representation of local port ingredients. The work hardly stops there as Mauboussin then confirms that his onboard chefs de cuisine can be readily supplied with the ingredients needed to make each of new dishes he creates.
One new Caribbean dish by Mauboussin is seared mahi mahi with passion fruit sauce, eggplant and mango salsa, and crushed fingerling potatoes. You can actually make this dish yourself using the recipe shared here.
To make this dish, Chef Mauboussin first had to find a local source in Puerto Rico for the mahi mahi to assure freshness and available quantity for the high demand needed by the ships to serve as many as 300 guests at one sitting. Since Puerto Rico is one of the world’s great fishing destinations, this was no obstacle. Similarly, the island is a fruit-grower’s paradise with passion fruit and mangos in abundance as two of the island’s leading exports. About the only thing that doesn’t thrive in Puerto Rico’s tropical climate is cress, used as a garnish in this recipe. The cress is imported from Miami to the island, and ultimately to the Viking Star’s kitchens.
Finally, the completed dishes must be scaled up to cook for high-volume restaurants. Once the space and storage limitations for each of the ships’ kitchens are factored into the recipe criteria, the dish goes into Viking’s computer network with product guidelines and rigidly maintained steps. At that point, the on-board cooks have access to each menu item. Then the executive chef aboard Viking Star, Ashley Duff, will make the final decision on which night the seared mahi mahi will be served; and whatever night that is, the oohs and ahhs coming from Viking Star’s passengers will serve as a fitting reward — further proof that Viking Star’s exceptional food has justly earned its place as the No. 1 cruise line for food aboard in this year’s “World’s Best Awards” in Travel and Leisure magazine.