While you’re cruising with the Viking you are likely to catch the sight of a cheerful but focused Frenchman in a white jacket running up and down the stairs – that’s culinary director Anthony Mauboussin overseeing the food services in Viking cruises, says an article published in Telegraph.co.uk.
This chef is as passionate about long-distance mountain running as he is about cooking. Today, we are chronicling his story through the excerpts taken from the Telegraph.co.uk article.
The Chef that Races?
Last year he completed the famous UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) race in Chamonix, where 2,500 competitors face 10,000 thigh-burning metres of ascent over 171km. Mauboussin finished in 26 hours and came an impressive 36th out of 2,500. Nearly 800 competitors didn’t finish at all in the required time.
“If you are a mountain runner then this is the race to run,” he smiles. “So, the only thing you think of, apart from your job, is where you’re going to train.”
A Racing Champion with a chef’s day job
Inspired by his mother, the French cyclo-cross champion for three consecutive years, Mauboussin grew up around competitive sports. As a teenager he was ice-skating 14 hours a week. And he hasn’t let his day job interfere with his training. From Viking’s ships he has pre-planned hilly routes from most ports, so it is sea days (when the ship doesn’t dock) when you are most likely to catch him racing the staircases.
Racing the Way Upto the Ship Culinary World
Having started his career on cruise ships in 2005, for Michel Roux’s Olympic restaurant on board Celebrity Cruises’ Millennium, he worked his way up to head chef on the World – an exclusive residential ship with 165 “homes” on board. He joined Viking in 2014.
When the ocean fleet launched in 2015, there used to be 49 destination-based menus. As itineraries have expanded and ship numbers increased (Viking’s fleet now consists of 72 river ships and six ocean ships) he now engineers menus across 242 destinations. It took him a year to complete this project, no mean feat when every restaurant dish on each identical ship has to be consistent with the last, no matter where it is in the world. No wonder he describes himself as a culinary architect.
‘Quality is the truest Ingredient’
“On a cruise vessel, itineraries change for the whole season; first you’re in Europe, a few months later you’re in the US, or you go to Australia. So logistics is the most challenging part, as is maintaining a top-quality product when things like weather come into play.”
The quality of ingredients is a crucial part of the passenger experience, he says. “We’re usually working with the same suppliers and we also work with the seasons.”
How does he source the ingredients?
Key ingredients are sourced from specific locations. The flour is from a specialist in France. “When you want a baguette, you don’t go to Germany or China. If you want the best flour you have to go to France,” he says
The seafood and salmon are sourced from Norway; bacon from the US. “We spend money on good applewood-smoked bacon,” he says so that American passengers can experience what they are used to eating at an upscale breakfast.”
As a Norwegian company there are some unusual items to source, such as reindeer. “Another one is lutefisk – dried and salted cod. It is dipped in water for two to three days (changing the water every 12 hours) to extract the salt and served with boiled potatoes.”
Eating Everything, Except One
Mauboussin says he pretty much eats everything, but there is one dish he draws the line at: rakfisk. It is made from trout that has been fermented from anywhere between a few months and a year. “I tried it on a potato galette with red onion and crème fraiche, but it is just so strong and not pleasant… you almost get sick with this,” he laughs.
A Rural Life With an Aunt Who Cooked
Mauboussin lived a rural life with his aunt in the Loire Valley, near Sancerre, until he was eight and was raised on traditional foods. Everything the family ate they produced themselves. “My grandmother was doing the cheese, milk and cream. We had cows, turkeys, ducks and horses, and I was outside all the time.”
“My aunt cooked and used to take care of children from difficult families as well as my three cousins,” he says. “Chicken, rabbit and pork terrine were made by my uncle. I’m glad I had this start. It has influenced me a lot in the way I make food today.”
Thanking the Ship Staircases
Today Mauboussin’s passion for mountain running is taking him to new heights. This summer he is running his own DIY ultra marathon in Andorra that covers 235km over 66,500ft of elevation.
He is also hoping to be one of 40 participants selected for the famous Barkley Marathons. This 100-mile race, held in Tennessee each year, is one of the most mysterious and gruelling in the world. Participants must tear pages from hidden books at checkpoints. The elevations match those Mauboussin is challenging himself with in the summer.
Thank heavens then, for those ship staircases.
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