First course was the most divine zucchini soup I’ve ever tasted; second was perfectly seared salmon and fennel with a mustard cream sauce; and dessert was homemade chocolate cake garnished with strawberries and a passionfruit coulis. After our first delicious dinner, I found a new appreciation for one of the most important ingredients on a cycling cruise: the chef!
The next day I sought out Bas van Os, chef aboard the Magnifique II on our Tulip Premium Tour, to learn a bit about his background, how he plans the menu, and the best ways to keep a bunch of hungry cyclists happy.
Hello Bas, thanks for sitting down for a chat. How long have you been a chef on ships?
I’ve been working as a chef aboard tour ships for close to 10 years. This is my second year working on the Magnifique II. This year I’m doing half the season on the Magnifique II, and the other half on the Magnifique III, including the first tours for Cultural Cruises Europe in the autumn. In the past I worked on other boats in the Boat Bike Tours fleet: the Iris, the Sara, and the Zwaantje.
I worked for a long time in high-end restaurants, but when the opportunity arrived to cook for tours, I was open for change. It’s seasonal work, so you can travel in the winter, and I also wanted a different kind of interaction with diners. In a restaurant, if you mess up, you can sneak out the back door. Here on the ship, if I screw up the first night, I have to look the guests in the eye for the rest of the week!
Did you fall into cooking or was it a calling right from the start?
I’ve been working in horeca for about 25 years. I’m formally trained as a chef, where you’re properly kicked and beaten into doing things the “right way”. I believe in classic training, and it really makes the difference in environments such as on a ship.
Also, I’ve always had a thing for pastry. A few years ago I talked my way into a job as a pastry chef and took classes at the same time. They say cooking is more heart, while pastry is more head. Pastry is cooking by numbers, and you can’t mess with the numbers!
How do you plan the menus on a boat bike tour?
On these cruises I often serve what I like to call “greatest hits”, popular dishes such as roast meats, fish, salads, lasagna or risotto.
I love introducing guests to Dutch specialties, but when you’re catering to lots of different tastes, you can’t make the main dishes too unusual or exiting. As a chef you have to be aware that the things you consider super normal may be very unusual for others. For example, if I want to introduce guests to herring, a classic every Dutch person grows up with, then I offer it as a snack instead of as dinner. Then people can choose to try it or not.
One thing you can bet on: if I can get hold of white asparagus in season then I’ll serve it. It’s one of my specialties. I’m from Brabant in the south of Holland, and that’s where the best white asparagus come from thanks to the region’s mix of sand and clay.
I see your wife and son are traveling with us on this tour. What’s it like having them on board?
It’s fun. Guus is five and it’s the first time he’s come along on a tour. It’s my first week of the season, and the tour is not totally full, so I have a bit more time to be with them. Mid-season it gets really busy, but now it’s easygoing and perfect.
It’s nice for Guus and Ellen to see how I work. At home we talk about it, but they can understand it much better by being here.
You and your family are real travelers, right?
True, we always go somewhere warm during the cold months. I guess you could say we just don’t like winter. We were in India and Egypt most recently. We’ve been to Thailand, France, Poland, the Canary Islands… Guus has been to India three times! Not traveling in winter is really not an option.
Thanks so much for your answers Bas! One last question: what’s on the menu tonight?
Well… if you really want to know: first course is a creamy mushroom cappucino soup, second is guineafowl with a potato gratin pie, and for dessert you’ll enjoy parfait semifreddo with salted caramelized nuts. Eet smakelijk!
Are you a foodie looking for cycling cruises with an elevated dining experience? Check out our Premium boat bike tours.