A cruise ship is like a floating island. While it is an oasis of luxury, comfort and fun, it can also be an extremely unsafe place, like a pin on the vast ocean surface. To maintain a certain level of safety for all on board the vessel, crew – including cruise ship chefs – must follow a strict guidelines.
One of these is the HACCP – Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point – system which lists out all the standards of safety required in galleys to reduce the risk of hazards. Cruise ship chefs jobs require a thorough knowledge of HACCP and their implementation.
It can often be a nightmare for cruise ship chefs as volume demands must be met on time without compromising on safety. Unannounced checks by authorities mean they can never let their guard down on duty.
HACCP is a continuous ongoing process that seeks to constantly reduce the occurrence of risk at any point in the chain from food transportation, delivery and storage to service. There are two types of HACCP systems – a prerequisite programme and plans.
The prerequisite programme involves processes that are already in place when the cruise vessel is built and must be followed from its first day of operation. All cruise ship chefs are expected to follow these protocols at all times.
Other HACCP plans are developed during operation, suited to each process or product, and are tailor made to reduce the risk for that specific situation. For example, not all ships might make their cream cheese on board. For the vessel that does, the galley crew must formulate an HACCP system specifically for this, assessing any risks that the ingredients might face from delivery and storage, through preparation and cooking, to storage, service and disposal.
This effectively means there could be dozens of HACCP systems on board for each galley and cruise ship chefs must follow them to the ‘T’. It might seem like a nightmare, but the basis for each lies in the fundamentals learnt at good culinary schools such as the American College of Culinary and Language Arts.
Every HACCP system is based on seven basic principles. The first is going through the entire process to evaluate the various hazards that could affect the process – let’s say a delivery truck that supplies milk for the cream cheese sometimes carries raw vegetables or frozen meat on different occasions.
The next step is to pinpoint exactly when the hazards can be introduced to your produce or system. In this case, it could be when the delivery truck is being cleaned before transporting milk. There will be many different hazards that can be introduced and at many points along the journey. Each of these will need to be identified and assessed.
Once this is done, the team must figure out how to stop the risk from being introduced to the process. It could be the temperature at which the milk is maintained before it is curdled to make the cheese. Or it could be identifying a new supplier who does not use the same delivery vans for different products. It could even be as simple as washing one’s hands before scooping the cheese out of the whey.
The difficult part starts here, because this is where the HACCP requires monitoring of the process to ensure that critical points have been met i.e the risk has been eliminated at the assessed point.
Before setting out on a process, it’s also important that the HACCP system includes a crisis management or corrective action procedure should things not go according to plan. This means listing out any possible issue that could occur – say, the milk boiling over – and noting down what action the cruise ship chef should take if that happens.
Records are another principle of the HACCP system that can bog down a cruise ship chef’s day. They must note down how the system was developed and implemented, whether it is in control and whether or not critical points are being met.
Finally, the system is tested, and continually checked to see if it works, whether equipment is being monitored, records are being kept and if any corrective actions are being put in place.
All of this requires the constant attention cruise ship chefs while they go through the paces of their busy day.