Less Than Six Degrees to Holland's Chef Rudi Sodamin

Categories: Chef Interviews
Rudi2.jpg
Photo by Riki Altman
Did you miss the first part of our chat with Rudi Sodamin, Holland America's consulting master chef? Read it here to discover the celebrity circles this guy travels with.

Who is the most famous chef you've ever worked with?

Twenty years ago, when I was with the QE2, I worked with the top 50 chefs, including Jacques Pepin, Julia Child. I formed the first culinary chef summit.

Have you ever had a restaurants on land?

I opened two restaurants in Greenwich, Connecticut. We did very well. But food became a hobby. Then Royal Caribbean announced it was building the biggest ships in the world. They hired me in 1998. I started from scratch, building a new culinary infrastructure. I built the first culinary test kitchens. I was 6 years with Royal. Then Holland contacted me to be consulting master chef for their brand in 2004.

When did you arrive in Florida?

I moved from New York to Miami in 1997 and by this time I had written six books. I started one on aphrodisiac food. I was ahead of my time. Twenty years ago I thought food, love, and our relationship with sex is one issue. I was researching it.

In depth?

In depth. [laughs] Whatever I do, I'm always first. I said I want to write the first book on aphrodisiac food.

Isn't that when Tantra came about?

Before Tantra. Michelle Bernstein was at Tantra. I asked her to help launch the book with that restaurant. It took three, four years in the making. Three years later the book was launched with six other cookbooks of the same [theme]. Every publisher jumped on the bandwagon. I never should've mentioned it. But I did the most beautiful book. Beautiful photographs. I had models use their bodies as plates. They said, are you going to publish this? You'll lose your job!

Too sexy?

It was too on the borderline. Europeans think differently.

Speaking of which, what are the particular challenges of creating menus for cruises that carry passengers from all over?

Our ships travel globally. Holland America's premium market is those in their forties and fifties. The world cruises, fifty years to eighty... and those go for three months. It's a big profile. You have to have a big variety.

Any total menu no-nos?

Crocodile. I put kangaroo soup on an Australian cruise. I had a big guy harassing me. I made one mistake. I brought a chef--I was 22, 23--during Easter, a French chef made rabbit with lobster sauce. The French people and Italians loved it. The Americans protested. We had 500 complaints.

Since you mentioned complaints, what would you have served if you were in charge of that dreadful Carnival cruise with the Spam, Pop-Tart and crabmeat stash?

It can happen. Hopefully it never happens to me. I can not really comment. I don't know their situation, why they didn't have enough food. It's important, forecasting, planning. There was a learning curve out of this.

On the QE2 I was floating one and a half days in the middle of the ocean without electricity. We'd served goose liver sandwiches, plenty of caviar, champagne. We used sternos to make scrambled eggs...

What's your favorite restaurant to hit when you get back on home soil?

Chef Rudi's in Coral Gables.

Somehow I assumed you'd say that.

I think I've eaten in every restaurant in Miami. I don't have a favorite.

Where do you take chefs when they want to eat on the town then?

Chef Norman's [180], Houston's [now Hillstone], Schwartz's [Michael's Genuine]

Houston's? You go to chain restaurants?

When chefs go out, they want to have fun.

What would be your last meal if you croaked tomorrow?

A nice bottle of wine. A nice steak, cote de boeuf, prime cut. A chocolate soufflé with ice cream. I'd go with culinary grace.

Check back on Monday for his wiener schnitzel recipe. (Hey, he's an Austrian chef. We couldn't resist!)

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