July 22, 2010
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Elizabeth
Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 81 days
As Queen Victoria begins her Maiden round Britain voyage today and Queen Mary 2 heads back to Southampton, this week we turn our attention back to Italy and a key team member who will be joining the inaugural team on Queen Elizabeth. We’ll come to that after this week in Cunard’s history from 23 to 29 July:
July 24 1990
An estimated 1 million spectators greet QE2′s maiden arrival in Liverpool, marking Cunard’s 150th Anniversary
July 25 1921
Mauretania is severely damaged by fire at Southampton. The opportunity was taken to take her in hand for a major overhaul and conversion to oil fuel
July 25 1943
Queen Mary carries 16,683 troops from New York to Gourock in Scotland, the greatest number of people to be ever conveyed on a single voyage – a record that remains to this day
July 25 1951
Caronia makes her maiden call to Leith, Scotland
July 27 1990
Her Majesty the Queen visits QE2 as part of Cunard’s 150th celebrations and becomes the first reigning monarch to sail on a commercial liner with passengers
July 28 1938
Mauretania is launched at the Camel Laird Shipyard in Birkenhead
A few weeks ago we highlighted the new culinary concepts that will be offered on Queen Elizabeth, and with all those exciting new ideas it will take a very special team to make those concepts a reality. With Executive Chef Nicholas Oldroyd at the helm, and James Abilash as his Executive Sous Chef, Queen Elizabeth will have an exceptionally talented and very experienced culinary team to ensure our new Queen delivers the very best cuisine.
Born in the seaside town of Bridlington East Yorkshire, Nicholas was educated in Norton in North Yorkshire. He attended Scarborough Yorkshire Coast College, earning a Diploma in Catering and Hospitality. During his four years at college he also received Chef of the Year and the St. Emillion Award for outstanding food service. He also won many regional Salon Culinary events such as Bookers Cash and Carry Cook Competition as well as being a regional finalist in the British Gas Caterbilty Competition.
In 1998 Nicholas started work in France at two, one Star Michelin Restaurants, Les Cedres in Darome and La Table De Frere Ibarboure in Biarritz. Returning to Yorkshire, Nicholas was appointed Head Chef of the Cornucopia and Copper Horse Restaurants in Norton & Scarborough. After a year he joined forces with his twin brother Mark, and they were offered positions at the prestigious North Yorkshire Golf Club in Strensell, for 3 years.
In 1999 Nicholas and Mark decided to go to sea after a former employer told them about his time working on Franconia and Queen Mary. They joined QE2 in 1999, with Nicholas starting as Demi Chef De Partie rising through the ranks to Sous Chef and then Chef de Cuisine. Over seven years on QE2, Nicholas managed all six galleys, before joining Queen Mary 2 in preparation for the set up of Queen Victoria. Nicholas served as Chef de Cuisine of the Britannia Restaurant Galley during the maiden season of Queen Victoria, before being promoted to Executive Sous Chef. He was promoted again to Executive Chef on Queen Victoria where he was reunited with his twin brother Mark, as Executive Sous Chef. During that time they were interviewed by Sir Terry Wogan on the TOGs Voyage, and then invited Coronation Street Star Liz Dawn and her husband to enjoy their work on stage:
Whilst not on board, both Nicholas and Mark love to spend time in Kissimmee Florida were they share a house together, relax in the pool and enjoy the Florida Sunshine State. They also have a love for cars, travel, and most of all eating and dining out discovering new innovations and concepts.
Recently I caught up with Nicholas Oldroyd who was kind enough to spend some time with me to chat about his career and future on Queen Elizabeth.
Congratulations. It must be quite an honour to be chosen to be Queen Elizabeth’s first Executive Chef.
After being with Cunard for ten exciting years working with amazing colleagues on board Queen Elizabeth 2, Queen Mary 2 and also Queen Victoria, it has all been beneficial for my Cunard culinary adventure. To be part of such a iconic company is an honour and I’m truly proud that I have been selected to lead the culinary team on Queen Elizabeth and continue Cunard’s heritage of fine cuisine and ultimate luxury dinning.
Going back to when you first started with Cunard, what were your first impressions of being a Chef at sea?
I still remember my first day in New York with Mark when we joined QE2 as Demi Chef de Parties. We both looked at each other and said; “What have we got our self’s into?” The first week was a challenge adjusting to life at sea and the movement of the ship as well as the clock changes on the transatlantic crossings. However working with outstanding colleagues made it all feel worthwhile because of the valuable experience we gained. The sheer size of the galleys and the amount of Chef’s was also an eye opener, but despite some moments of uncertainty, I soon loved the sheer buzz of QE2 and the life on board as well as the different culinary opportunities. The Cunard family feeling is amazing and it’s true that all of us are very close and it’s a something that’s unique to Cunard.
Your brother Mark is also a Chef with Cunard, what’s it like working together and are you competitive?
Mark and I worked together for 7 ½ years on QE2 and although I have always had promotion before him, we have never been jealous of each other because it’s an achievement for both of us. Mark always followed me closely when it came to promotion as we complement each other. This is because we work so well together sharing the work load which is important when cooking 12,000 meals a day and organizing the dinning outlets on board. We like to call it “Twin Power”. We don’t need to be competitive because we are a team and actually we share everything anyway – well within reason!!
How involved have you been in the exciting new dining concepts on Queen Elizabeth?
I was recently on Queen Victoria, working on Queen Elizabeth’s new alternative dinning concepts which will be served in the Lido, so you can imagine the amount of brainstorming that was required. It has been a lot of work but again teamwork has been the key as well as the vast knowledge of our Culinary Ambassador, “Jean Marie Zimmermann“. I have just completed the first voyage menu for Queen Elizabeth and have been heavily involved in the new Grills A La Carte Dinning concept, which has just been implemented on Queen Victoria. This month I am working on The Verandah with Chef Jean Marie on Queen Mary 2, which I think will offer the finest French cuisine at sea.
When will you be going out to the ship and what will be the first tasks you have to undertake when you get there?
I will be joining on 24 August and my first task will be making sure everything is been fitted in the right places in the galleys. I will then ensure the crew galley is operational, ready for the crew when they arrive in September.
What are the challenges with setting up a galley operation on a new ship?
Basically making sure that everything you have ordered to do the job arrives and works. Queen Victoria went very smoothly, and the layout of Queen Elizabeth’s galleys is very similar; so with careful planning and using our team to its full potential, I’m confident everything will go well.
It must be quite a decision to select the team you’ll be working with on Queen Elizabeth
We have taken experience from each ship in the planning for Queen Elizabeth making sure we trained Chef’s in all key departments so it would not affect the operations on Queen Victoria or Queen Mary 2. I am fortunate to be joined by James Abilash as my Executive Sous Chef who brings a tremendous amount of experience to the team. There will also be two Chef de Cuisines from Queen Victoria who were part of the Queen Victoria inaugural team. We will also have some chefs who are new to Cunard and they will bring their experience and talents to the team, and following training with the White Star Academy, we will nurture and train them further as they start their Cunard culinary careers.
What are you most looking forward to with Queen Elizabeth?
Seeing the ship for the first time and getting Queen Elizabeth’s culinary team together. The Naming Ceremony and the inaugural culinary events will be first test of our team work and organization, but it’s a challenge I am looking forward to. The most exciting part will be the opening of Queen Elizabeth’s dining experiences and restaurants which will make her a talking point in the industry.
What is the most frequent question you get asked – and what the answer?
It’s always: “How is your brother, and where is he now?” Also: “Will you be working together again because we loved the cooking show when you were both together it’s so funny you should be on TV?” When they ask me if I miss him; I tell them “Sometimes!”
If you opened your own restaurant what would it be called and what would the signature dish be?
Naturally I would open it with Mark and think I would name it
Grilled Prime Fillet of Castle Howard Beef, Ribblesdale Goats Cheese Onion Tart,
Truffled Rosti Quenelle, Forest Mushroom Confit, Green Peppercorn Burgundy Jus
Yorkshire Curd Tart, Lemon Curd Panna Cotta
With Yorkshire Lavender Honey Ice Cream
And finally; what is your favourite quote and who said it?
“Life is like a box of chocolate; you never know what you are going to get” Forest Gump “Tom Hanks”
Thank you so much Nicholas for a great interview, and I look forward to seeing you in Monfalcone in about two months. Meanwhile I’ll be back next week with some news from Queen Victoria’s Maiden Round Britain Voyage. Cheers Alastair