IT'S TIME TO INDULGE IN YOUR SWEET TOOTH - MEET ANDREAS EICHLER, THE EXECUTIVE PASTRY CHEF ON MSC VIRTUOSA
How did your passion for pastry start? After baking cakes for your family, when did you start feeling that it could become your profession? Were you inspired by any real person or fictional character (a movie, a book or even a painting)? What studies did you carry out and what was your career in MSC Cruises? What is your current position?
"My passion for baking started when I was a young boy on the Amrum Island, a North Frisian Island on the German North Sea coast, where I grew up and where I took my first job in a typical bakery. An early and decisive memory is standing in the bakery when the day was done and thoroughly enjoying the lingering fragrances of the products which had been produced during the day. This is where the passion began and when it became clear which profession I wanted to pursue. My career brought me to far-away places such as Australia and Florida. More recently, I pursued my career with various cruise lines and joined MSC in 2019 directly in the position of Executive Pastry Chef."
How is the work organized on board (shifts and dedicated personnel)? Is everything freshly prepared? How do you check on the quality of the raw ingredients and on the correct execution of the recipes when there are so many portions to be prepared every day? Do you taste all the desserts you prepare?
"The onboard production is organized in two shifts, one nightshift and one dayshift, and we work and bake all day long, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We have ten people working on the dayshift and six on the nightshift on MSC Virtuosa – but of course, the teams take breaks during their shifts! At MSC, we do not use any ready-made product, every pastry and every base product is made on board following our vast range of recipes. We perform daily checks of the raw goods and ingredients, including fruit, and the Pastry Chef and I as Executive Pastry Chef are responsible to supervise the correct execution of the recipes. And yes - we are the lucky ones who perform the sampling of the final products."
From breakfast to buffets, from main meals to gala evenings. How is the pastry menu organized on a daily and then weekly basis? Are the desserts available always the same or do they vary from day to day?
"For the current itinerary on the MSC Virtuosa, we have a 7-day cycle, corresponding with the length of our cruise. We do offer to all our guests a daily choice of desserts, only in the Yacht Club you can find some favourites which are available every day."
Whether it ends a meal or it’s a tasty snack, a dessert is not just any dish. It must be always pitch perfect and leave a happy memory. How do you achieve this amazing effect?
"The processing of quality raw products, attractively presented and executed in harmonious teamwork, is what works the magic."
In the dessert selection proposed, are there also delicacies for children, vegan guests and guests with special food requirements?
"During all cruises, we feature a special menu for kids and especially in high season we always have at least one product per day in our pastry range for our guests with specific diet requirements, such as vegan, no-sugar-added or lactose-free. Gluten-free products, on the other hand, are treated in a separate environment to avoid contamination."
A cruise is a voyage of discovery of the world under all aspects. Desserts represent a great summary of the culture and tradition of every population. Can your guests enjoy this aspect of the voyage through typical pastries and desserts of each destination? Do you offer both international desserts and typical pastries of the countries included in your itinerary?
"Here on the MSC Virtuosa and during our current itinerary, we often propose thematic evenings and of course we do offer corresponding pastry, even if it is not necessarily typical of the countries we are visiting. This would certainly be different on a World Cruise, during which the guests always have the opportunity to taste dishes and pastries of the countries called during the sailing."
Will you tell us a secret? How can we eat our favourite desserts and maybe try new ones without putting on weight during the cruise?
"If you want to stay slim, I’m afraid you should leave it at smelling. It may not be the same, but sometimes an enticing aroma can already ignite passion and create powerful emotions."