June 23, 2010
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Victoria
Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 111 days
As many of you will know, a key part of Cunard’s White Star Service Programme, is when each month Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria recognize a “Star of the Month”. A regular feature on this Blog is to interview our new stars and this month we go to Queen Victoria and June’s winner, Noel Aquino, who is the ship’s Pizza Chef.
Noel received numerous nominations from guests and fellow crewmembers, who felt he was a true example of White Star Service, with his tireless work preparing fresh Pizzas in the Lido. Here he is receiving his award with from (left to right), Captain Chris Wells, Executive Sous Chef, Klaus Kremmer, Noel Aquino, Executive Chef Bernhard Stumpfel and Hotel Manager, David Hamilton.
Noel was born and grew up in Manila in the Philippines, where he attended both school and university. He married Cristina in 1992 and they now live in Dasmarinas, a city 65km South of Manila.
A far cry from Pizzas, Noel originally trained as a helicopter mechanic in the Philippines Air Force. However when his son Gabriel was born, he decided to leave the Air Force, and change his career completely by working in a Chinese Restaurant as well as a part time in a local hotel.
He never particularly liked pizzas but was walking past an Italian Trattoria in Manilla, and curiosity got the better of him. After 5 years of working there and an expanding family he started looking at ways he could earn more to support them. Here are his three children in 2006.
He first came to sea in 1996 as a Galley Helper and progressed through the ranks, before joining Cunard during the start up of Queen Victoria, as a Chef de Partie.
Noel and Cristina’s oldest child, Gabriel, is now seventeen and is currently studying to go in to the hotel business. Here he is with his girlfriend Ara.
Noel and Cristina also have a daughter Camille who is fifteen and hopes to study tourism.
They also have another boy, Tristan, who is five and Noel admits it is hard being away from the family, but he is comforted by the fact that he is able to provide well for them now and in the future. Home time at home is cherished, especially when he is able to be there for special occasions like birthdays, so he was delighted to be home for Tristan’s birthday last Christmas.
As a Pizza Chef he takes pride in ensuring our guests enjoy his freshly made pizzas and giving White Star Service. His day begins at 9:30am when he prepares the ingredients for the day. It’s busier when the ship is at sea, when he regularly makes over 200 pizzas a day. He told me the most popular is the Margarita. Noel has breaks during the day and normally finishes at 10pm and here he is at work showing off his skills!
In his spare time on board, Noel likes to keep fit by visiting the crew gym regularly. Meanwhile at home, he says he dreams of participating in active sports like surfing and paragliding, but actually spends most of his time with his wife and children. He told me that time at home is very precious; when he can enjoy seeing his family build their memories together.
Noel and Cristina also share a love of motorbikes, and he is very proud of his Honda XRM. He and Cristina love to go out on their bikes, sometimes for days, and enjoy the beautiful country side near their home. This is one of their favourite spots just 25km from their house.
Mind you he never really gets away from work, as he even cooks pizzas at home, but of course he has to use a regular oven in his kitchen. He told me the kids love pizzas and keep asking for more!
Noel told me that he feels “We Are Cunard”, means representing his fellow Chefs, the Galley Team and the company, making sure he gives the very best impression to our guests. He added that he would like to thank the Executive Chefs Bernhard Stumpfel and Nicholas Oldroyd, along with his fellow Chefs, for all their support and to the White Star Committee for voting him as Star of the Month.
As for the future, he told me that he would like to develop his career and may be move to another section of the galley whilst spending more time studying culinary arts. Eventually he dreams of running his own pizzeria back home in the Philippines, where he would create his own pizza and call it a Dolce Vita
I’d like to congratulate Noel again for being Queen Victoria’s latest Star of the Month and to thank him for taking the time to chat with me, and share his story, not to mention the fantastic Pizza he prepared for me!
I’ll be back on Thursday with the regular weekly update and the promised Guest Blog featuring the Youth Programme on Queen Mary 2.