Interview with Executive Chef German Rijo – Savor Your Destination culinary cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse – Part 2
16,000 meals a day. That is how many meals are served on board the ship, Celebrity Eclipse, to 2800 guests and the ship’s crew each day. Can you imagine the menu planning and the grocery list that it takes to serve that many meals? We have seen the grocery list and it is staggering. For an average 16 day cruise, the Eclipse will go through 25,545 pounds of beef, 10,252 pounds of chicken, 22,652 pounds of fish, 15,200 eggs, 96,540 liters of milk, 58,659 pounds of fresh vegetables, 52,652 pounds of fresh fruit, 250 pounds of herbs/spices, 35,000 liters of beer and 18,450 bottles of wine, just to name a few items. The complete list was quite impressive. Even more impressive is that for the most part, these provisions are delivered in one shipment while in port during the turnaround before setting sail again.
If you think being an Executive Chef of a restaurant is a stressful job, how would you like to be responsible for serving over 16,000 covers a day, eight months out of the year and manage 186 employees? That is exactly the job required of Executive Chef German Rijo on board the Celebrity Eclipse. Chef Rijo took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to chat with us while we traveled on the Eclipse during their Savor Your Destination culinary cruise several weeks ago.
Chef Rio has been with Celebrity Cruises for 20 years and has been Executive Chef for 15 of those years. His culinary education began in his home country, the Domican Republic, learning as a young boy in the kitchen with his mother. He then moved to Miami, going on to England and France for more training. He has opened five new ships including the Eclipse, Equinox, Millenium, Summit and Infinity. Residing in the Dominican Republic with his wife and two children when not at sea, Chef Rijo has a great personality, smiles effervescently and enjoys a good laugh. While he is getting calls every few minutes during our conversation, he seemed incredibly relaxed for a man with what has to be a true 24/7 job.
He attributes his ability to relax (just a bit) to his very strong team on board the ship. This team is comprised of 174 cooks and 12 assistants which include three Executive Sous Chefs and five Sous Chefs. He said that Celebrity Cruises is excellent when it comes to training their staff so they thoroughly understand the menus and proper service which makes his life less complicated. The Solstice Class ships, which have been named as “Best Cruise Ships” by Frommer’s 2011, are outfitted and provisioned the same to promote consistency of experience for the guests as well as facilitating easier transfer of staff between ships. The ships have the same restaurants and menus, including specialty restaurants. Guests come to expect the same cruising and dining experience on board one ship as they would have on another.
Since each restaurant on board the ship has its own galley, there are three Executive Sous Chefs that are responsible for the Ocean View Café (casual indoor and outdoor dining), all of the Specialty restaurants on Deck 5 and the main dining room, Moonlight Sonata. There are Sous Chefs that manage the galleys of each of the Specialty restaurants: Murano, Qsine, Tuscan Grill, Blu and Bistro on Five. In addition, there are several other dining venues including the AquaSpa Café (for AquaSpa class passengers), Mast Grill and Café al Bacio & Gelateria. James Beard Award nominated Executive Chef Jacques Van Staden creates all the menus for the Celebrity ships. Chef Rijo and his team are responsible for executing these menus on board the Eclipse.