Celebrity chef Kevin Woodford talks to Tom Vaughan about helping Stena Line overhaul the food offering on its ferries, with his new menu now available on six of its Irish Sea routes
How did the partnership with Stena come about? It came through a cold call to my agent asking if I'd be interested in looking at what they are doing aboard Stena ferries. At first I thought it wasn't really my thing, as ferries aren't synonymous with quality food. But I spent a week travelling on some of their ferries and was blown away by the refurbishments they have made on them.
What needed changing about the food offer? I looked at the food and it was OK, but it was also time for a change and a bit of a kicking. Companies can find it easy to disassociate themselves from skills development as it can be easier to buy things in and reheat them, but Stena were keen on bringing on their chefs. My passion is teaching, and I looked at the chefs on board and saw a willingness to learn. It won't be a quick fix, though.
With ferries not known for their quality food, have you struggled to turn the offer around? Changing things needs a willingness at the highest level, capability from the chefs, and time. What I'm doing is going back to basics and giving the chefs the skills to cook the dishes. At the most basic level that means teaching them how to cook a dish and sending them away to learn it like a robot, but that's not a long-term solution.
The menu is quite ambitious in places. Is there demand for this on board? The demographics are interesting on board, and we need to cater for all socio-economic demographics. The big sellers are the likes of the burger and pizza, so what I did was take it back to basics, and now the chefs make their own pizzas with home-made tomato sauce.
At the end of the day, no one is aiming for Michelin stars, we're just trying to satisfy all the passengers on board.
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