Unsung heroes: A cruise ship pastry chef on his love for gelato, working 12-hour days and long stretches away from family
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Think about the best dessert you’ve ever eaten on vacation. Perhaps it’s easy for you to recall the restaurant’s ambiance, the dish’s brilliant presentation or the first mouthwatering bite you took.
But do you know who actually prepared that masterpiece? Someone had to source the ingredients and combine them in such a way that you were left in awe during the experience.
This edition of Unsung Heroes profiles a cruise ship pastry chef who works behind the scenes to bring passengers everything from unforgettable gelato to specialty birthday cakes.
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Unsung hero: Samuel Dcruz, pastry chef on Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Millennium
TPG: How did you get into being a pastry chef?
Samuel Dcruz: This is from my school days. My first choice was to be a pastry cook. That’s how I started my career, and I’m enjoying it.
Right now, I’m assigned to gelatos and ice creams for the entire ship. I was in [specialty restaurants] for plenty of other ships, but this contract I felt like going back to gelato and ice cream.
I’ve been doing this since 2014. I’ve had five contracts, so I’ve been on [Celebrity] Solstice, Reflection, Equinox, Silhouette and Millennium.
TPG: What does a typical work week look like?
SD: I have the same routine, usually. I get up at like 7 am, take my breakfast, come back to work at 8 am. Then I have to do my pickups for gelatos and Oceanview [Café, the ship’s buffet], and then I go for a short break and come back.
If there are sea days, it’s a large preparation. Then I have to take care of the dinner for Oceanview, the specialties and the main dining room. I finish by 10:30 p.m. and go back to sleep.
TPG: What is your favorite part of the job?
SD: My favorite part is that I’m always passionate about pastries. I’m always into the pastries. It’s like little details, and everything is homemade, including the breads. Firstly, I’m a baker and then a pastry chef.
TPG: What is your least favorite part of the job?
SD: My least favorite part would be staying far away from my family. Seven months we have to stay here, and then we get a short vacation. I get like two and a half months, so that’s not bad.
TPG: What’s the one thing you wish more people understood about your job?
SD: If they could understand how much passion we put into the details for them for their special occasions — their birthdays, their anniversaries — not to see their smiles because I’m not the person who’s serving, but to understand they have a smile on their face. At the end of the day, that’s the best thing I can do.
TPG: What’s something anyone can do to be a better traveler in 2021 and beyond?
SD: Right now, take better precautions. Be safe, stay focused on what you want to do, and understand the value. In the past year, I’ve learned we want to travel, but we have to take care of our health. Understand the value of your health, and live every day.
TPG: Are there any VIP-type treatments a guest could score from you for good behavior?
SD: Put in an order. We just get all these orders that they want to celebrate something — anniversaries. They get excited because they came for vacation, and it’s our duty to make their vacations the best ever. That’s the priority.
When I was working in specialties, at that time I had quite a lot of interaction with the guests. Right now I’m in the galley, so I don’t have that interaction. I try to be kind and generous, and [the guests] do the same for us.
TPG: How does working in the hospitality industry change your idea of travel or going on vacation?
SD: It has changed my vision in a different way because you get to meet so many new people, so many perspectives. You can learn art, heritage and get a very nice view. You gain new knowledge, recipes, values.
[Before] I was trying to travel everywhere to get to bite-sized everything [instead of immersing myself].
TPG: If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be and why?
SD: I have two places. Firstly, my favorite place is Auckland, New Zealand. And my wife’s favorite place is Norway. New Zealand is always going to be quite special to me because I have been there and stayed there, and I miss it. I’ve been to Norway but through the cruise ship. I quite like the cold weather [and] morning hiking.
TPG: Tell us about the best vacation you’ve ever taken or the best place you’ve ever traveled.
SD: The best vacation I would have to say is when my wife and I went to London. She wanted to go there, and we stayed there, so that was good for me.
Featured photo by ruizluquepaz/Getty Images.
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