In maritime catering, multiculturalism is not just a buzzword. Onboard IFS vessels, we cater to a crew of diverse nationalities and cultures, often with unique traditions, tastes, and food preferences. Therefore, Chief Cooks must ensure that the menu reflects the crews' needs to keep everyone well-fed and happy with the choice of food when at sea. This article provides insight into the step-by-step process Chief Cooks take for a multicultural approach to maritime catering.

Cultural diversity

Chief Cooks agree that the crucial first step is to recognize the diverse cultural backgrounds of the crew. Dishes common in one region may be unfamiliar or even unpalatable in others.  For example, a Filipino crew might favor rice-based dishes, while an Indian crew might prefer curries and lentils. Similarly, a European crew member might expect familiar bread and dairy products, while these could be less common in the diets of other nationalities.  IFS supports Chief Cooks with training and access to the IFS Cooking App, which has thousands of recipes that can cater to a multicultural crew. “When we meet onboard I normally find out from which country the crews come from and then I talk to them in person about the kind of food they like and their traditional dishes. With this information, I can tailor my menu planning. For example, if it’s an Indian crew, I will seek to make Indian meals three times a week,” says Franklin Jimena, a Chief Cook working on an IFS-catered vessel. Dietary restrictions mean that a person cannot eat certain types of foods and. Chief Cooks need to be aware of any special diets needed onboard.  Religious beliefs and personal choices dictate specific dietary restrictions. For example, halal meals are essential for Muslim crews, while those who are vegetarians will need plant-based options for protein intake.  Chief Cooks can access IFS training modules and guides that cover dietary restrictions to provide suitable alternatives onboard.

Celebrating Global Flavors

Having a multicultural crew can also be an opportunity for Chief Cooks to innovate in galleys and bring different dishes to different crews.    “A multicultural menu reflects inclusivity and adds an element of excitement to mealtimes. Chief cooks can introduce crew members to the flavors of different cuisines through special themed meals or weekly "international days," says Mark, one of the IFS Chief Cook trainers.  “This gives everyone a chance to learn about different cultures. We serve universal dishes to different nationalities, all we have to do is infuse the taste based on their mother cuisine or native flavor,” says Mark.

Versatile ingredients

Chief cooks use ingredients that can be used in different dishes -for example, in a Latvian or Filipino meal-  to minimize waste and simplify meal planning. Ingredients such as rice, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and garlic are staples and can be used in both Latvian and Filipino dishes.  Instead of serving separate dishes for each meal, creating fusion dishes that incorporate elements from both Filipino and Latvian cuisine is more efficient, in the opinion of the IFS trainers.

Clear Communication

Finally, having open communication is critical to understanding the needs of the crew onboard.Ingredients and preparation methods should be clearly labeled, especially for dishes that may contain common allergens or ingredients that might be unfamiliar to some.This way, crew members can make informed choices.It is always important to remember that successful maritime catering hinges on a commitment to inclusivity and a comprehensive understanding of diverse food cultures. A well-nourished and healthy crew translates into better morale and better well-being onboard.

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