Chef Rudi Sodamin has spent more than three decades in the cruise and hospitality industry, and he says he has as much passion for food and life as ever. His work in recent years also includes authoring several books on the tastes of the world, as well as a colorful and creative coffee table book showcasing his “Food Faces” art work.
His status as a leading culinary figure on the oceans has been recognized through his role as the chairman of Holland America’s Culinary Council and with the establishment of Rudi’s Sel de Mer on the newest HAL ships Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam, which debuted in late 2018.
Cruise Addicts sat down for a chat with Sodamin during a recent sailing on Nieuw Statendam to learn what drives the chef and to learn about how he views his role in making cruisers well fed and happy.
Cruise Addicts: How special is it to have your name on the Rudi’s Sel de Mer Restaurants? What does that mean to you, personally?
Chef Rudi Sodamin: For any chef, to have your own restaurant with a corporation or a cruise line is an accomplishment. I’m very pleased with the progress of what I have achieved at Holland America Line.
It’s flattering, but it’s also a lot of work. I’m known as a visionary guy and hard-working and a perfectionist. So, I want to make an impact in whatever I do in life.
Cruise Addicts: Cuisine and the dining experience is a huge part of what HAL cruisers look forward to on their trips. Is there any pressure — or do you consider it a pleasure that food has such an important role in defining Holland America cruises?
Sodamin: There is always a pressure, regardless, for any chef out there. But it’s also a pleasure to provide great food and great quality to our guests.
It always starts with quality. There is a lot of hard work behind the entire culinary team, and management understands this. I always assemble the best team available. I have always been spearheading culinary excellence in the last 30 years in the cruise industry, and I have always set new levels.
I always try to assemble the best team available and work to foster them with inspiration and creativity, so we can achieve what we do.
Cruise Addicts: What role does the Culinary Council play in this? (The council is a collection of seven world-renowned chefs who collaborate to curate the restaurants and menus on HAL ships.)
Sodamin: The Culinary Council came to fruition from an idea to use talent from outside to promote our culinary happenings onboard our ships. We meet yearly, and we involve them (in creating specialty items) … and we have occasional times when we feature them (on Food & Beverage Aficionado Cruises). We cooperate with them, we ask them for ideas.
They often are also impressed from our kitchen operations onboard our ships and like to bring ideas back to their establishments on shore.
So, every cruise line likes to say they have food in their DNA. But I think we have a singularly good product.
Sodamin: As a chef, you’re always an artist. And a warrior in many ways. An accountant. An organizer.
Every chef is different. I was always ahead of my time with presentation. It’s work and passion and having fun at the same time.
So, I created as an artist “Food Faces.” I don’t plan every dish. When I see something, I assemble the food. My camera is with me, so I photograph it. It might take about 20 minutes.
It’s really spontaneously put together. I have done almost 400 images.
Wherever I go, in Spain, in France, in England, in my kitchen at home. If I see something, I photograph it.
Some people say “It’s a little bit over-creative.” (Laughs.)
I like to photograph, and I even photograph other food pictures. “Food Faces” is just a new way of thinking.
It ties perfectly into Rudi’s Sel de Mer (and the plates on the tables). Every guest who dines here says “Wow!” and every guest takes a picture.
Cruise Addicts: What do you like to do in your free time away from the kitchen and food?
Sodamin: Away from the kitchen? There is not much time. Food is life; life is food.
I like to play golf. I have a lot of sport interests. I like to ski.
I like to cook in my home. I’m well-balanced. I’m happy.
And if you’re happy with what you’re doing, I think that’s a blessing. Creativity is the intelligence of having fun.
Life is a race without a finish line.
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