By Louise Liebenberg
The 251-metre Sinfonia left for Cape Town harbour on Wednesday night and is already hitting the home stretch on its northbound journey back to Europe as the season draws to a close.
Salvelio and I were lucky enough to land an invitation to step on board for lunch on Wednesday, meet MSC Cruises’ marketing manager Allan Foggitt and PRO Ingrid Roding-Tudor and also chat to the ship’s cool, calm and collected food and beverage manager, Hinesh Nensee.
Being an “F&B manager” as they call themselves in the trade was daunting enough on land, but the responsibility was so much greater at sea, he said.
For instance, food safety standards of the highest order are critical and the ship’s kitchens must be “surgically clean” to avoid the risk of people falling ill in the middle of the ocean, so far away from hospitals.
Provisioning is another of Hinesh’s key roles. Some food-stuffs like olive oil and certain cheeses are brought in from Italy but the rest have to be sourced in their “home port”, which this time was Durban.
“We can’t buy too much or too little. Space on the ship is very limited but because our menus are pre-determined we may not run out. Planning must be spot on,” he says.
The ship’s second restaurant is Il Covo while the buffet area on the pool deck also has a pizzeria and a grill flanking it. Then there are the six bars and four cafe areas to service, not forgetting guests also may call for room service 24 hours a day. No wonder you need to more patient and organised than most to do this job, as Hinesh suggests!
Cruising is said to be the world’s fastest-growing tourist industry. MSC Cruises, whose 12th liner, Divina, is being christened in May while the 13th, Preziosa, will take to the seas next year, is the fourth largest cruise company in the world. It also boasts the world’s most modern fleet – these ships are so modern they don’t even have rudders anymore, which means they are “manoeuvred” rather than “steered” in the old-fashioned sense.
Cruises heading our way
Good news for cruising fans is that the uber-elegant MSC Opera, Sinfonia’s slightly larger sister ship, is heading to South Africa in mid-November, including for a six-night cruise that will also visit Mozambique’s Portuguese Island and new destination Anakao in Madagascar, while its new year cruise will visit Reunion and Mauritius. There are several other options to come, including the quirkily named “cruises to nowhere” which sound idyllic on any day!
Sinfonia will also be back towards the end of this year including for a six-night new year cruise that will call at Madascar and other destinations as well as an 11-day cruise including Walvis Bay and the island of St Helena (where Napoleon was exiled) in January 2013. For details about these and other cruises visit msccruises.co.za
Sinfonia’s splendid chef
Chef Scarpati has travelled extensively on all the itineraries of MSC Cruises and he got to know South Africa well from being on board both the Sinfonia and the Rhapsody for two contacts each.
He is married and has two sons, one of who has also started a career as a naval officer with MSC.
Recipe: Seafood risotto with prawns and tomato
2 teaspoons olive oil; 12g chopped onion (about half a a smallish onion); 5g chopped fresh garlic (about 1 medium-sized clove); 50g ‘Roma’ rice (you can just use short-grained arborio rice); just under 2 cups of good seafood stock (I used an Ina Paarman fish stock sachet from her new range with just under 2 cups of boiling water); 20ml white wine; 20g mussel meat (about 2 heaped Tablespoons); 30g cooked shrimp meat (about half a cup); 20g prawn meat (I used 2 nice big prawns, blanched and shelled and which I then gave a quick fry in a bit of garlic butter right before adding to the risotto at the end of the cooking time); salt and white pepper to taste (watch out for too much salt if the stock is quite salty); 20g unsalted butter; another teaspoon of olive oil for; a few fresh rocket or basil leaves for garnishing
Follow the preparation of a basic risotto: Heat the 2 teaspoons of oil, fry the onion and garlic for about two minutes, then add the rice and mix through for about a minute so it is coated with the oil. In the meantime you will have added the wine to the stock and heated it all together to make about two cups of liquids in total. Make sure it boils for a bit too so the obvious alcohol taste can be tempered. Now start adding ladle-fulls of the stock to the rice bits at a time, stirring all the while and only adding more as it gets properly absorbed. In total from the time you start adding stock to the time the risotto is done it should take about 20 minutes – you can set a kitchen timer when you start to make sure you stay on track. Once you are almost at the end of the 20 minutes’ cooking time, add the mussel and shrimp meat and the prawns to heat through; ditto the tomato. By the time you’re done the rice must be creamy but still a little al dente. Check the seasoning and stir through the butter (I forgot to weigh it but only used about a teaspoon) and the extra teaspoon of olive oil to make it even creamier. Garnish with the rocket or basil and serve right away.