"Remember, food is gold," said Executive Chef Joel Directo aboard the Ruby Princess, meaning that from his point of view, the food experience may be the most important part of a cruise.
Very good teamwork, good spirits and high staff morale are key to the food preparation and restaurant service, which in turn reflects on good management, he said.
On a 12-day Mediterranean cruise this past summer, Directo said his food operation had a budget of half a million dollars, allowing him and his team to prepare food for 3,400 passengers and 1,200 crew members several times a day.
For every cruise, there is an 86-page document for food and beverage provisions.
The daily food service usually starts around 4 a.m. and goes on until the next morning.
Everything is made fresh onboard except kosher and baby food, according to Directo.
Born in the Philippines, Directo studied political science, before focusing on his real passion – the culinary field. He said he started to cook tomato sauce at the tender age of seven.
He later worked in hotel restaurants, but realized that he had to go outside his own country to continue to learn, and subsequently worked in Saipan, Malaysia and Singapore.
One day Directo received a postcard from a friend who worked on a cruise ship. "Do you want to come?" the friend asked.
That was in 1993. Directo worked his way up through the ranks to executive sous chef, and was later named to the newbuilding team and has helped bring out 11 Princess ships, including the Ruby.