Guest Sharon Johnson and her husband cruised again with HAL, this time on Zaandam’s 21-Day Collectors’ Voyage to Mexico and Hawaii. Sharon chronicled their cruising experience for us on the blog.
February 28, 2013
One of the benefits of becoming a 5-Star Mariner is receiving an invitation for “The Pinnacle Grill Hands-on Cooking Class and Lunch.” The class was to be held in the Culinary Arts Center at 10:00 a.m. and we would be cooking “Grilled Prawn Bruschetta with a Primavera Salsa,” “Crab and Lobster Cake” and “Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake.” We weren’t so sure about participating in the cooking class, but we couldn’t pass up a wonderful meal in the Pinnacle Grill.
When we arrived in the Culinary Arts Center, there were other 5-Star Mariners already waiting for the class to begin. Shannon, the Zaandam’s Culinary Arts Hostess, was arranging aprons and menus in sets for the ten 5-Star Mariners that were going to participate in the class. The aprons were a gift to each of us. Mani, the Zaandam Show Chef, had already arranged five stations with the ingredients and utensils that we would need. We were told to select a station for one of the three items we would be cooking today. By default, Al and I got to prepare the “Grilled Pawn Bruschetta.” I wasn’t so sure that we would be able to make them after reading the recipe.
Mani demonstrated how to chop the vegetables into very tiny pieces without slicing my fingers. He told me that this is one of the first things he learned at cooking school. He held on to the the julienned pieces with his fingers & thumb curved inward so there was no way for the knife to cut them. He also told me to keep the tip of the knife on the cutting board as that would also prevent the knife from cutting fingers. So I chopped lots of vegetables so that I would be comfortable with this way of chopping.
Then Mani instructed Al to coat the slices of bread with garlic herb oil. Al overdid the coating, but Mani wasn’t too concerned. He said they would turn out fine and the idea was to have fun with the cooking. Al then cooked the slices of garlic herb coated bread and prawns on the stovetop.
Mani then sliced the prawns in half and I placed the cooked Primavera Salsa on the slightly browned pieces of bread. The two grilled prawn pieces were placed on top of the Primavera Salsa. After I placed shaved Parmesan cheese on top of the prawns, Mani placed the completed “Grilled Prawn Bruschettas with Primavera Salsa” on a pan and heated them in the oven to slightly melt the cheese.
We all were enjoying a glass of wine while the Pinnacle Grill Crab & Lobster cakes were being cooked on the stovetop and the Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake was being baked in the oven.
Culinary Arts Center Hostess Shannon and Culinary Arts Center Show Chef Mani talked about working together and how they came to be working on cruise ships. Mani spoke about going to cooking school in India and how his first job was with the Taj Chain of Hotels. Shannon mentioned that she tries to add interesting cooking facts in the class. Otherwise, Mani would be done with the cooking demonstration in ten minutes—he is that quick.
Due to US Health Regulations, we weren’t able to eat the creations we had made in the Culinary Arts Center. So that we wouldn’t be too disappointed, we were invited to enjoy a fabulous meal prepared by the chefs of the Pinnacle Grill. We were escorted to a table for ten which was beautifully set with Bvlgari china, Riedel stemware, Frette napkins, bread baskets and orchids. The menu that was prepared for us was rolled up with red ribbon and stood before each place setting. Our individual copies would make a wonderful remembrance of not only our class, but the exquisite meal we would be served.
We had a choice of Filet Mignon or Grilled Alaskan Salmon for our main course. We were also served the rest of the wine that Shannon had provided for us to drink during the cooking class. This is one benefit of being a HAL 5-Star Mariner that I am looking forward to repeating on upcoming cruises. We enjoyed the cooking class as Mani and Shannon had made the experience fun for all of us. And the Pinnacle Grill 5-Star Lunch was mouthwatering, delicious and delightful!! The service was impeccable and attentive!! Well done Zaandam Pinnacle Grill staff. And a special thanks to Shannon and Mani who made it fun!!!