A one to one with Oliver Neuburger - F&B Director Princess Cruises
Updated: May 4, 2020
I think anyone would agree, cruise ships produce a tonne of food! So how do they do it? As the cruise industry grows an expands cruise lines need better and better offers to entice and retain customers. Last year (November) I was lucky enough to cruise the Caribbean aboard Crown Princess, here I caught up with Oliver Neuburger the Food and Beverage Director on the Crown who told me about his role and offered some insight into his career, his favourite ship, favourite food and more.
Caroline: Oliver, where do you call home?
Oliver: Las Vegas is my home now but in earlier years I lived near the Lake of Constance, the three bodies of water on the Rhine in Germany, it’s at the northern foot of the Alps.
Caroline: You are F&B Director now but where did it all begin?
Oliver: In 1990 I completed my Hotel Management Degree and I worked in hotel restaurants around Dusseldorf, a colleague mentioned to be that if you want to be the best then he recommended working on ships, so that’s what I did. In 1996 I joined Seabourn Goddess from Capri. In 1997 I joined the famous QE2 as a Silver Service Waiter and worked my way up to Food and Beverage Director which is where I am now with Princess.
Caroline: Do you have a favourite ship?
Oliver: I really love all of the Princess fleet, but my favourite has to be Royal Princess, built in 2013 it's a Royal-class ship which means all outside cabins here feature a balcony. In addition it has an expanded 'Piazza' (the central atrium). That ship just had a really nice feel to it.
Caroline: What does a typical day look like for you?
Oliver: Usually AM I’m checking my emails from head office and from other Officers on the ship, we do a lot of work around public health compliance so that takes up a lot of time with inspections and ensuring we exceed the standard expected. 70% of my time is focused on the present cruise then around 30% is focused on planning for future cruises, needless to say there is a lot to keep me busy…
Caroline: You must have tried some great food over the years, what is your favourite?
Oliver: I have tried some great food in this job, but my actual favourite thing is the mashed potato they serve in Vegas, my favourite restaurant near my home is Le Atelier within the Hotel MGM Grand. It’s run by French super chef Joël Robuchon, a legend in the food industry. I ate mashed potato growing up, but this mash is sheer luxury, the amount of butter they use and the processes that makes it so silky smooth, it’s divine albeit not particularly healthy…
Caroline: I’m impressed how all the food I’ve eaten has come out perfect each time, how many dishes do you serve in the restaurant each evening? how do you make this happen?
Oliver: That makes me very pleased to hear you loved our food. The way we do it firstly we make sure we have the right people in the Galley and all the cooking is cooked in batches. We don’t mass cook food so that means if you order a steak it’s cooked for you right then as you want it. Some dishes are prepared days in advance like the speciality chocolate desserts that have multiple complex processes.
Caroline: So how many chefs do you have in the Galley? The staff motivation is fabulous, how do you maintain it over long contracts?
Oliver: We have 30-40 at any one time. Our Galley staff work between 6 and 10 months on contract at a time to it’s imperative we treat them well and support them when they are away from their families like all of us.
Caroline: Who designs the menu?
Oliver: This is done at head office, obviously they have food and beverage experts that do this there. We also partner with guest chefs like Michelin star awarded Curtis Stone, you’ll see some his dishes on the menu, so we work with him to re-create his dishes for our passengers and give them something from an award-winning chef to try. Of course, in our speciality restaurants such as the Salty Dog Gastro Pub Princess collaborated with Ernesto Uchimura, inaugural chef of the original Umami Burger restaurant. The ‘Ernesto’ burger has been voted the ‘best burger at sea’ by Cruise Critic so we are always thinking about how we can wow our guests with our food.
Caroline: Are you able to source food locally?
Oliver: As much as I'd like use local produce unfortunately we can’t. This is because of strict food safety rules and our high standards, we need to make sure all the supplies we source adhere to our standards. We source the highest quality produce for our guests such as premium aged beef for our steakhouse. USA Today actually names the Crown Grill speciality dining ‘the best steakhouse at sea’. Of course, when I’m ashore I’m naturally inquisitive to find local specialities.
Caroline: Do you have any ‘foodie’ tips for your passengers?
Oliver: Don’t be afraid to try different things, our cruises are not only an adventure for exploring new places but an adventure for the taste buds. But my personal passion is around minimising food waste, it’s so important we don’t waste food.
Caroline: What does the future hold?
Oliver: I’m very happy here but my love for food and beverage will never change and who knows where that might take me in later life.
Caroline: Thank you Oliver for this interview, great to meet you and please thank your team of people for me, it's been very memorable!
A selection of images from the interview, tour of the Galley and the food we sampled aboard Crown Princess.