Speed / June 2016

Cruise Diner, The Queen Mary II

Nervous breakdown waiting to happen? Or awe-inspiring achievement in super-sized service? Josh Sims climbs on board the Queen Mary II with chef Craig Dunn, to find out how he manages…

Craig Dunn might offer you crab scotch egg with puffed rice and lemon confit, or turbot with almonds and potato gnocchi. Perhaps sir might prefer smokies and leek soup, or beef wellington? Indeed, these are just a few of the 270 dishes Dunn has spent the last few months preparing. If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that he will serve some 19,000 dishes a day. Indeed, his ability to manage this fanfare of feasting is why he is the operations and development chef for Cunard. It’s his job to get the dining right on the Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and, most prestigiously, for the 2700 passengers of Queen Mary 2, which leaves Southampton for New York later this month after a major refit that sees the opening of two new restaurants and the overhaul of another two. On board will be 45 chefs.

“The logistics of the job don’t bare thinking about,” says the man who, prior to joining Cunard, was Michael Caine’s executive chef for five years, and who, in his younger days, worked on the Queen Elizabeth 2 - “so I soon learned that cooking on a cruise ship is completely different to doing so in a restaurant or hotel. You’re catering to a wide demographic, 24 hours a day, everything from a sandwich to a seven course tasting menu.”

His biggest problem is just getting hold of the food - like any good restaurant, he chooses to buy from suppliers as locally and as sustainably as possible. But while this necessarily means he has to plan internationally - a six month world cruise will entail resupplying in Los Angeles, Sydney, Singapore among other spots - it also means working with suppliers able to commit to providing a lot of foodstuffs over the year-long term of their contract. “We buy in tons, not in kilos,” as Dunn puts it. And he isn’t kidding. When the Queen Mary 2 sets sail on its seven day trans-Atlantic voyage in a few weeks, it will have first taken on board 150,000 tons of produce.

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Josh Sims

Josh Sims is a writer on menswear, design and much else for the likes of Wallpaper, CNN, Robb Report and The Times. He's the author of several books on menswear, the latest 'The Details', published by Laurence King. He lives in London, has two small children and is permanently exhausted.