Removed from the prepackaged sandwiches and luggage of potato chips you possibly can look forward to finding on most trains, luxurious trains serve decadent multicourse meals with high-quality wines. In reality, a giant a part of the expertise aboard these sorts of trains is dressing up for dinner within the eating automotive, the place the tables are adorned with white linens and servers current connoisseur dishes on high-quality china.
However as you possibly can think about, cooking and serving a connoisseur meal on a transferring prepare presents its fair proportion of challenges. We spoke with Maryke Reuvers, the chef who designed the menus for Rovos Rail (a luxurious prepare that runs multiday journeys in southern Africa) to get the inside track on what it’s actually like.
Designing the menus
The Vos household, which runs Rovos Rail, reached out to Cape City-based chef Maryke Reuvers in 2018 to replace the menus, prepare their cooks and implement new techniques within the prepare’s meals division.
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After graduating from culinary college in 2002, Reuvers cooked at inns, eating places, wedding ceremony venues, on a cruise ship, on film units and on the non-public villas and penthouses of rich shoppers. She has executed meals styling for commercials, TV collection and films, and has helped handle massive occasions catering to 1000’s of individuals. Her work has introduced her all around the world, from Argentina to the wilderness of Russia above the Arctic Circle.
“I don’t get uninterested in the number of issues I’m concerned with and love all of the challenges every venture brings,” Reuvers instructed TPG.
When designing the menus for Rovos Rail, Reuvers tries to discover a steadiness between genuine South African delicacies and extra worldwide dishes.
“Many alternative nationalities are touring aboard Rovos Rail, and we do wish to give the friends a bit little bit of a style of South Africa with sure journeys by incorporating dishes with venison or the normal ‘bobotie’ or ‘milk tart,’” she stated. “However we additionally can’t follow South African delicacies the entire time, as we do get a whole lot of South Africans on the prepare, they usually need one thing a bit extra unique as they’re already very acquainted with the South African favorites.”
She additionally wants to ensure friends’ dietary wants are thought of. On the Durban safari journey, for instance, the usual menu would possibly characteristic fragrant prawns in coconut cream with basmati rice, whereas the vegetarian model of that dish is a chickpea and coconut curry with quinoa and toasted coconut shavings.
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Sourcing and storing substances
Every of Rovos Rail’s trains can accommodate as much as 72 passengers in a single seating, so the cooks want to have the ability to put together four-course meals for dozens of friends.
“The kitchen carriage is generally in the midst of the prepare so friends don’t must stroll your entire size of the prepare to get to the eating room,” Reuvers defined. “It’s undoubtedly not a big area, and the assistants and the cooks all want to have the ability to work collectively on this slender space.”
The kitchen is supplied with undercounter fridges on one facet and a range and counter area on the opposite. Moreover, there are a big sink, a walk-in fridge and cabinets all alongside the partitions for storing pots and pans plus dry items.
Earlier than every journey, Reuvers and the workforce create a packing checklist based mostly on the variety of friends who booked the journey and the menus. All substances then get delivered to the primary kitchens in Pretoria, South Africa — the departure metropolis for the trains.
“They don’t have time to supply substances whereas on a journey, so we be sure that they’ve all the pieces they want on the prepare to finish an outbound in addition to the return leg of the journey,” Reuvers stated. “In the event that they do find yourself needing one thing — it is perhaps some recent salad leaves or recent berries — then somebody will shortly exit to get what is required. In the primary cities or cities, we’ve got established suppliers after which we are able to prepare with them in time if we all know of sure gadgets that want topping as much as be delivered because the prepare passes by way of.”
The challenges of cooking on a prepare
Ever discover that on luxurious trains, the presentation is sweet however not too difficult? That’s as a result of a sudden motion can damage the way in which the dish appears to be like.
“Plating dishes is difficult, and you can not construct towers or have runny sauces because the plates have to be carried by somebody whereas the prepare is transferring to the tables and must look good once you put them down in entrance of the friends. Towers can fall, and runny sauces can look dangerous,” Reuvers stated.
Practice cooks additionally keep away from conserving pots of boiling water or vats of sizzling oil on the range for lengthy intervals of time to keep away from accidents. And if one thing within the kitchen breaks and the upkeep workforce can’t repair it, the cooks simply must improvise and do their greatest till the prepare returns to the station.
One of many greatest variations between cooking on a prepare moderately than in a lodge is that all the pieces must be rather more streamlined to account for the dearth of area.
“On the prepare, you aren’t capable of put together your mise en place as you’ll in a lodge,” Reuvers stated. “The one time you’ve gotten for prep is the few hours earlier than the subsequent meal, as they don’t have the area in that prepare kitchen to organize forward. So every meal is ready from scratch simply after the final meal is completed.”
You might not notice it, however that decadent meal you’re having fun with aboard Rovos Rail or another luxurious prepare took an entire lot of planning and group forward of time. Odds are there was some improvising by the cooks, too.
The groups engaged on these trains must take care of tight areas, the movement of the prepare and an absence of recent substances available whereas touring. They must plan forward for friends’ dietary wants and might need to suppose on their toes if a few of their tools breaks alongside the way in which. But regardless of all these challenges, the rewards are nice.
For Reuvers, working aboard Rovos Rail is the possibility to journey to stunning locations in South Africa, in addition to as much as Victoria Falls, Tanzania and even throughout the continent to Angola.
“It feels good having the ability to make one thing occur in the midst of nowhere, particularly when one thing has not gone in line with plan,” she stated.