Tulip Time Part 2 picks up with the brief interview I had with AmaWaterways Executive Chef Gino Guadagni while on board the AmaSerena during our fabulous river cruise vacation this Easter. I closed Part 1 with visions of the delectable chocolate bar and a teaser about the excellent food we experienced during the weeklong cruise.
Always with culinary intent, I prearranged an interview with one of the chefs on board and was excited when the cruise director had me talk with Chef Gino Guadagni, who is the Executive Chef of AmaWaterways newest ship, the AmaFiorina. Chef Guadagni is from Italy and his worldwide experience includes 10 years with Silver Seas and restaurant positions in Hong Kong and Singapore.
The pho bar that Chef Guadagni served to the curious passengers was something I’d expect to see in Southern California, not onboard a ship in The Netherlands on a European river cruise! Living in Orange County where Little Saigon is home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam, we are quite familiar with Pho (pronounced ‘fuh‘) and how it is served with an abundance of fresh vegetables in and alongside the soup. Maybe that’s why, I considered this my favorite meal during the cruise – because it was a delightful departure from the gourmet European cuisine at each meal service.
Chef’s Table Tasting Dinner: Grilled Pike Perch, Spinach-Nettle and Crayfish; Japanese Glazed Short Ribs, Cauliflower Mash, Quinoa, Broccoli; Porcini Ravioli, Chive Butter, Vegetable Pearls
Like all good French-style broths, pho starts with a long, slow simmered beef bone broth, yielding a clear, deeply flavored broth with a subtle, seductive aroma of star anise. Combine with al dente noodles, fresh herbs, cabbage, jalapeño, Asian greens, and an assortment of sauces like hoisin, sriracha and fish sauce for dipping the vegetables – or spiking the soup, although I’ve read that doing this is like insulting the broth…
Although Chef Guadagni hails from Italy, our interview revealed that he favors multicultural cuisine, especially those of Asian cultures as a result of his worldwide experience with Silver Seas and AmaWaterways cruise lines and the years he spent in Singapore and Hong Kong.
More insights from my interview with Chef Guadagni:
PW: Do you source produce and meats from local suppliers along the route?
CG: Yes, mainly fresh fish and meat, fruit and vegetables, and Dutch cheese in Nijmegan. There are also two pastry chefs on board who make all the desserts and most of the bread served onboard.
PW: What is the best part of serving as Executive Chef on a cruise ship?
CG: Seeing the smiles of the passengers and the music and camaraderie of working alongside his kitchen staff.
PW: Would you share a culinary tip for the home cook?
CG: When preparing a meal for guests, do something that you know will be successful. Cook a day in advance to make sure it works. Also, for those who aspire to become a chef – it takes training and more training and real training happens on the job.
Huge compliments to the entire service staff of the AmaSerena, too. Ever patient and always smiling Peter, the cruise manager; our sweet room attendant Orshi; Victor, the funny waiter we had at almost every meal (we laid claim to a table in a back corner); and our charming cocktail and wine server, Marina, who we acquainted ourselves with immediately 🙂
Marina serves the complimentary wine pairings at lunch and dinner.
Thanks again to Chef Guadagni for taking the time to meet with me and for this fabulous Pho!
The AmaWaterways Tulip Time river cruise was seven nights, which was perfect for us because we tend to get a little antsy staying and eating in one place for too long! The cruise begins and ends in Amsterdam with a trip to Keukenhof Gardens as the final day’s excursion. Keukenhof is the epitome of spring in bloom. Open only during tulip season, usually near the end of March to the beginning of May depending on the weather that winter. Behold the beauty of millions of tulips of every color and variety: fringed, single, double, drooping – over 7 million bulbs bloom to herald spring, with a total of 800 varieties of tulips. A unique, unforgettable experience!
Unique outdoor art and surprising inspirational gardens delight as you meander among the 32 hectares of gorgeous tulips. Do not miss the Tulip mania exhibition at the Juliana Pavilion and enjoy the spectacular flower shows, special events, and windmills as well. Keukenhof Gardens is designed for families and children will have a blast with the treasure hunt, petting farm, maze and the playground.
Catch up with our adventures in The Netherlands and Belgium by reading Part 1.