A Legend in the Kitchen: Chef Eddy Barretto on board Star Legend

Chef Eddy Barretto, Star Legend

Chef Eddy Barretto has moved from supervising 9,000 meals a day on the biggest cruise ships in the world to catering for just 160 passengers on one of Windstar’s luxury motor yachts. By Robin Maclear

Chef Eddy Barretto, Star Legend

Star Legend was built in 1990 and designed by Peter Yran and Bjorn Storbraataen, whose prolific Oslo-based design group has produced 30 headline cruise ships. Originally operated by Seabourn, the vessel has all the signatures of the small, luxury cruise vessel. Just seven decks, 100 cabins, and a mere 440 feet of diesel-powered steel and teak, this is an intimate and elegant ship. One can circumnavigate the vessel at a leisurely stroll in a few minutes and, standing on deck seven, see from bow to stern. Rolling through the night in the Straits of Gibraltar, the ship sways comfortably with the swell, carpentry creaking quietly and reassuringly. Star Legend, refitted in May 2015, increased the Windstar fleet to six vessels, including the company’s three original sailing yachts.

A standard deck four stateroom is a generous 277 square feet and is creatively arranged to make the most of the space. Tied curtains lend the living and sleeping areas the aura of being separate zones. A big picture window provides a focal point for the room, amplifying light and space. Balcony suites have French verandas, which open to admit fresh air but offer no outside access. A full-size sofa and two armchairs complete the living area, along with flat screen TV and Bose speakers. The bathroom is large and well lit, with every corner used for mirrored storage space. All have generous tubs as well as shower, towelling robes and L’Occitane amenities.

Chef Eddy Barretto, Star Legend, FoodLighting throughout the room is subtle and discreet, and a large walk-in closet adds the mood of a small apartment. With 24-hour room service you might be tempted never to leave. The ship has two principal restaurants: Amphora, with open seating on deck three, and Veranda, situated at the aft of the ship on deck seven. At night this becomes Candles and provides an inside/outside grill and skewers venue, by reservation. A robust breakfast buffet is presented here. On the top deck is the Yacht Club, another inside/outside venue providing coffee, drinks and creative sandwiches throughout the day. Non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary throughout the ship, wines and spirits are charged to your account. Wines tend to be California orientated but there’s a limited selection from French and Italian vineyards. The heart of any cruise ship is its kitchen and at the heart of the kitchen is its executive chef.  After two years with Royal Caribbean’s Allure of The Seas, preceded by six months on Oasis of the Seas, Executive Chef Eddy Barretto had all but turned his back on the high octane world of industrial cruise catering.  Michael Sabourin, corporate executive chef for Windstar, and an old friend of Mr Barretto, seduced him aboard Windstar´s newly reformed Star Legend.  Here he remains. Mr Barretto’s career has taken him from his native Goa, where he underwent his apprenticeship, to the Taj Group of luxury hotels, to his Royal Caribbean experiences.  Both his father and grandfather were cooks and Eddy considered no other profession. Surveying Malaga´s market on a late autumn Saturday morning, he is scouting ingredients for the 160 guests aboard.   Followed by a dozen or so Windstar guests, Eddy and his executive sous chef, Nilesh

The heart of any cruise ship is its kitchen and at the heart of the kitchen is its executive chef.  After two years with Royal Caribbean’s Allure of The Seas, preceded by six months on Oasis of the Seas, Executive Chef Eddy Barretto had all but turned his back on the high octane world of industrial cruise catering.  Michael Sabourin, corporate executive chef for Windstar, and an old friend of Mr Barretto, seduced him aboard Windstar´s newly reformed Star Legend.  Here he remains. Mr Barretto’s career has taken him from his native Goa, where he underwent his apprenticeship, to the Taj Group of luxury hotels, to his Royal Caribbean experiences.  Both his father and grandfather were cooks and Eddy considered no other profession.

Chef Eddy Barretto, Star Legend, Food

Surveying Malaga´s market on a late autumn Saturday morning, he is scouting ingredients for the 160 guests aboard.   Followed by a dozen or so Windstar guests, Eddy and his executive sous chef, Nilesh Kavinde, scrupulously examine fresh fish at several vendors before negotiating with one supplier. Barretto buys squid, mussels, fresh hake and dorado.  Scouring deeper into the market the expedition enlarges to embrace boxes of fresh herbs, olives, local cheeses, black truffles, chorizo and dried fruit. All these items were loaded onto a rickety supermarket trolley, property of Windstar, and rolled back to the ship.

In Windstar´s relatively intimate kitchen Mr Barretto has 15 chefs under his command, including patisserie chef Jerome Bancho who, with one assistant, quietly produces all manner of puddings and pastries in a corner of the galley. The brigade at the hot side respond with a loud and affirmative ¨yes¨ as Barretto announces the incoming orders.  Brisk and efficient floor staff enter and depart, moving deftly around the kitchen activity.  The largely American audience on  Windstar Legend dine early, so peak time is around eight to eight-thirty.  Aware that presentation is crucial, Barretto supervises each dish as it leaves the pass for the dining table.

We asked Eddy Barretto to produce a few dishes for photography. During what would have been his rest period, he presented as first courses a smoked bison salad, a Vietnamese beef roll and a baked buffalo mozarella.  Main courses were marinated lamb cutlets with turmeric mashed potato, and a chicken breast stuffed with ricotta cream cheese, and a gnocchi salad. The strawberry panacotta, produced by Jerome Bancho’s patisserie section, was photographed in situ, as he made them.

Chef Eddy Barretto, Star Legend, Food

At six o’clock each evening all chefs and senior floor staff are present in the main kitchen.  Dishes and sauces are tested for taste and balance to ensure the menus are on target.  Daily amendments are checked and re-checked, Mr Barretto leading the brigade through the procedure, armed with a fistful of plastic spoons.  Any deviations from fleet executive chef Michael Sabourin’s concept and Chef Barretto’s instructions are corrected. As the evening progresses, the choreographed rhythm of the kitchen tells its own story.  There is no pressure or tension here, merely careful attention to the work at hand.

Any chef, landside or ocean-going, will tell you it’s hard work; that it starts early and ends late. At seven thirty in the morning Eddy Barretto can be seen casting his eye over the breakfast buffet on The Veranda. Throughout the day he is shuttling around the vessel, delivering cooking classes and checking matters with Star Legend’s Hotel Manager.  By six in the evening he is back in the main galley – ready for evening service. In his Royal Caribbean days Eddy Barretto might have been responsible for 9,000 meals a day. Here his hands-on involvement might involve just several hundred.  Clearly he is at ease with his small brigade and hands-on cooking style. Eddy Barretto smiles.  “Yes, I can feel what I am doing here,” he says.