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When turf meets surf

31 October 2019

Red meat set sail when MLA’s Corporate Chef Sam Burke and Retail Training Facilitator Kelly Payne boarded a P&O cruise to help chefs put more beef and lamb on ship menus.

P&O Australia’s three ships are floating food destinations, serving around 37,000 meals a day in casual dining outlets and premium restaurants, including celebrity chef Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill.

“Operators like P&O influence consumers’ meal decisions, so MLA aims to increase their knowledge and use of quality red meat,” Sam said.

Sam and Kelly joined forces with cruise chefs onboard the Pacific Explorer to present 12 innovative recipes using Australian red meat.

They served up 2.5 tonnes of beef and lamb to 2,500 passengers during the four-day cruise.

The workshop gave culinary and restaurant staff basic butchery skills to build their awareness of Meat Standards Australia (MSA) and carcase utilisation, as well as the chance to try new recipes using secondary red meat cuts.

“We usually deliver workshops for chefs who then take the menu inspirations back to their own kitchens, but on this cruise, we worked alongside the culinary team,” Sam said.

“It was the ultimate pressure test, as cruise ships are huge floating hotels which face unique challenges when it comes to keeping thousands of passengers well-fed.”

Dining out to sea

Here are some insights into what it takes to feed cruise passengers:

  • The three ships in P&O's fleet (Pacific ExplorerPacific Aria and Pacific Dawn), serve on average 37,000 meals a day to guests.
  • In 2019, 350 tonnes of beef and 80 tonnes of lamb were consumed on P&O Australia’s three ships.
  • Daily consumption of red meat on the Pacific Explorer alone is around 400kg of beef and 80kg of lamb, depending on the menu.
  • Australian red meat makes up 25–30% of cruise menus, and according to MLA insights, ‘red meat and veg’ remains to be domestic consumers’ favourite meal.
  • The Pacific Explorer serves 15,000 meals a day, in 20 restaurants and food outlets, for up to 2,400 guests and 960 crew, staff and officers.
  • There are 120 chefs, including bakers, butchers and pastry chefs and 50 kitchen hands, plus 150 restaurant staff.

P&O Australia’s Corporate Executive Chef Uwe Stiefel said factors such as cut and cooking method are an important part of menu development on cruises.

“Purchases for cruise ships take months to plan and include a food tender process, product sourcing and testing as well menu development,” he said.

“For example, the grocery list for the Explorer has up to 1,400 different food items, so thorough planning is vital to make sure that by the time the ship sets sail, nothing is forgotten and the products are of the right quantity and quality.”

He said the new red meat dishes needed to be easily replicated across thousands of meals, using economic cuts such as beef brisket, beef cheeks, beef blade, lamb leg and lamb shoulder and using cooking methods such as slow braising to maximise yield.

“Having had Sam and Kelly onboard the cruise was an exceptional experience for the culinary and restaurant teams – they learned a lot, including tips and cooking techniques and useful insights about Australian red meat especially the selected cuts we focused on during the voyage,” Uwe said.

What’s for dinner?

As a result of the MLA culinary immersion, the menu on the Pacific Explorer’s on-board restaurant, The Pantry, now features:

  • slow-cooked Texan BBQ beef brisket
  • Adobo-style beef cheeks
  • Philly steak cheese sandwich
  • Korean Bao beef buns
  • Beef cheeks Bourguignon
  • Sichuan-style lamb leg
  • Harissa lamb shoulder
  • Vietnamese beef and herb salad with tamarind.

Uwe said the red meat dishes introduced as a result of the cruise had a great response and feedback from the guests. For example, passengers devoured 800 Korean beef bao buns and around 1,000 Philly steak sandwiches during lunch across two days.