Could you tell me a little about your career?
After obtaining a culinary diploma in 1988 of “Patissier, Chocolatier Confiseur Et Glacier” in my home country of France I built up my experience locally for a number of years, then joined the French Navy as a pastry chef. Following my military service I moved to Egypt to join the cruise industry. I returned to Europe four years later to work for a catering company and in 2005 I joined MSC Cruises in Switzerland where we’re headquartered. I was the line’s first corporate pastry chef in the company and I started with a clean sheet of paper. I created from scratch the line’s pastry and bakery sections, from the organisational structural and its processes and procedures, to the recipes themselves. It was an incredible and demanding challenge and one I thrived upon.
How did you come to the culinary industry?
I fell in love with the art of pâtisserie as a young teenager in my home town of Grenoble and I knew instinctively that I wanted my passion to become my career. I threw myself wholeheartedly into my apprenticeship at a local pastry shop and the early 4am starts never stopped my pursuit and motivation to learn and improve my skills. It was physically demanding but I look back to those tough times with fondness and absolutely no regrets. From those early days to where I am today, I have not been bored once.
How did you come to the cruise industry?
When I was in the French Navy I used to gaze at cruise ships sailing by the military base in the port of Toulon and I used to think, “I’m sure there is a pastry chef on board that luxury liner and I’d love to one day serve my recipes on such ships.” And the dream came true. I joined a cruise ship in Egypt’s Port Said with a single contract as a second pastry cook and hard work springboarded me to where I am today at MSC Cruises.
How long have you been with MSC Cruises?
I joined the MSC Cruises family in May 2005 as corporate pastry chef. I’ve been fortunate and proud to be part of the remarkable growth of the company. Success doesn’t stand still and I’m honoured that my team and myself are continually looking to push the catering boundaries. It’s demanding, challenging and hard work. But I wouldn’t swap it for anything. Every season we push ourselves to offer something fresh, different and ever tasty for our guests.
What are some of the special skills that have lead to your success?
From an early age I realised that attention to detail is absolutely crucial. It’s something that I remind myself of each and every day. And it’s an attribute that I instill in each and every pastry chef at MSC Cruises when I’m training my great and skilled colleagues. You’re never too old to learn something new and I have an open mind to implement new techniques. I believe in this attribute passionately as it’s a sure way for personal improvement and development which will translate into what my kitchen colleagues will serve to enhance the guest experience onboard in our terrific restaurants.
Please tell me about the revolutionised pastry programme!
We’re currently developing an entirely new pastry experience for our guests who dine in our main restaurants, Yacht Club and buffet areas. We’ll look to increase the variety and quality of pastry in our dietary restricted desserts to include new vegan, lactose free and no sugar added options. At the same time we’ll increase the range of desserts on offer, which in turn means I’ll be involved in a wider review of our buffet set up so we can enhance the dessert line.
What is new? What do I need to know?
I’m working on many different ways in which we can create elements of surprise such as having a ‘live dessert station’ but currently the final details are a ‘work in progress’, so watch this space!
What do cruise passengers usually expect in pastry and how are you changing that?
The guests expect a wide range of desserts and sweets each and every day during their holiday cruise and we provide that, of course. They also want to have a twinkle in their eye and see something that causes a positive surprise and at MSC Cruises we work hard, and I believe we succeed, to provide such moments of culinary beauty.
What are some elements of culinary planning and production that may surprise us?
The prime goal is to work on the variety and absolute quality on offer. But we want to serve up day-in, day-out a real element of fun and create what we hope will be some memorable moments. The dessert is the last course of any meal so my team are tasked with offering figuratively and literally, the icing on the cake!
How much is guest feedback an element of culinary planning?
It’s very important to us at MSC Cruises. Being open-minded and listening is crucial so we’re more than happy to revise a menu or update on a product based on what the cruiser suggests. And they are not slow in coming forward with suggestions, which we find incredibly helpful.
How is your menu selection different from other brands?
What I love about MSC Cruises is that our international reach means that on any given cruise we can have up to 180 different nationalities on board one of our ships. I take that challenge as a massive opportunity which allows me and the team to play with many international specialities in our menu. Hard work? Yes. Rewarding? Absolutely. I honestly cannot think of a scenario where any business has that ability to demonstrate their culinary skills and experience.
Any trends you are seeing -- foods, drink, eating habits, etc?
The precise dietary requirements of our guests develop and evolve and I’m really interested in that aspect to ensure that we’re always one step ahead and can offer them relevant and flavoursome options.
Are there pieces of new equipment or new processes you rely on?
All pastry shops onboard our five latest five newbuilds since 2017 - MSC Meraviglia, MSC Seaside, MSC Seaview, MSC Bellissima and MSC Grandiosa – are all equipped with what is known as a chefcut. It’s a state-of the-art water jet cutting machine which allows us to cut cakes, tarts and chocolates in a creative and consistent manner. It’s great for us and the end product is great for our guests.
Does your staff keep track of who likes what? How do you manage that?
We spend a lot of time behind the scenes to track the daily preparation verses the actual consumption. One size doesn’t fit all and each cruise is different so we pay special attention to the actual itinerary.
We use every piece of data cruise-after-cruise to analyse the most popular offerings and adjust accordingly, if necessary, the daily quantity of preparations to avoid as much possible waste of food. Waste is a serious issue all over the world today and something that we address in a meaningful and sustainable manner.