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Meet the team: Haydn Davis


P&O Cruises Culinary Development Manager Haydn Davis on the ins and outs of sourcing P&O Cruises top-notch food

P&O Cruises Culinary Development Manager Haydn Davis at a food development day

P&O Cruises Culinary Development Manager Haydn Davis at a food development day

What does your role as Culinary Development Manager involve?

I run a team of six development chefs, both pastry and savoury, operating from Southampton. We have a development kitchen where we create briefs for each new dining concept across the P&O Cruises fleet, starting with a skeleton menu and then going on to food and plate presentations. We scope out new global food concepts, innovations and trends, and use these to help us develop the menus.


The innovation stage of projects and seeing a concept come to life successfully is a very exciting part of my job. But I am also involved in food procurement as well as helping to plan how we work with our Food Heroes and celebrity chefs. So I’m involved in pretty much every aspect of food for P&O Cruises.


Is your background in food?

Yes. I initially trained as a chef, and throughout my career have worked in both chef and management roles within hotels, restaurants and contract catering. I’ve been with Carnival UK for 26 years now, having started my career on board Canberra as a third cook. I went on to spend 18 years at sea.


Food has always interested me – it has versatility that is second to none, and life in food is never boring. Someone once said to me: ‘You are in the business of generating happiness and pleasure’ – this has always stuck with me.


Food has a big role to play on a P&O Cruises holiday. How do you ensure you’re always providing guests with the best of the best?

We place a lot of emphasis on quality, that’s the most important aspect of anything we do. It’s also important for us to look at and assess the menu ideas through the eyes of the guests and what they’re looking for on a cruise – what’s important to someone with regards to food on a cruise holiday can be quite different to a weekend away or a meal at a restaurant.


Do you work with the on-board chefs to develop the menus?

 Yes, it’s absolutely critical for us to work alongside the on-board teams – we need their buy-in and feedback on what we’re suggesting. There are always many challenges to overcome to ensure that menus are replicated effectively across the fleet, so all new menu projects need to be planned well in advance.


P&O Cruises is proud to champion British produce. Why is it important to serve British food on board?

We have a fantastic array of British foods in the UK and we want to showcase them in as many of our on-board menus as we can. From delicious seafood including Morecambe Bay brown shrimps, Scottish langoustines and Hampshire Chalk Stream trout to fine meats such as Gloucester Old Spot pork, Gressingham duck and Onley Grounds farmed beef, and tasty seasonal vegetables such as Hampshire watercress and Evesham green asparagus, we’re passionate about sourcing local, high-quality, British foods. We even grow our own Micro Cress on certain ships.


Regional foods are popular with our guests. They are often both surprised and delighted to see such produce on the menu, and it certainly helps to reinforce the Britishness of the brand.


We use a certain amount of British produce within the main restaurants across our fleet – turkey from Norfolk, for example. But as British regional foods are produced in limited volumes, we have to be realistic about where we can offer them. So we focus on promoting these regional foods in our smaller, alternative dining outlets on board.

The Epicurean on Azura

The Epicurean fuses classic dining with the best of modern British dining for a unique experience

Why is it important to take time and effort to source from the right producers?

 We place an enormous emphasis on sourcing quality ingredients so that our chefs have what they need to create great dishes. We spend a long time selecting producers who meet our requirements, and we have to ensure that our suppliers work closely with our designated food consolidators and that they are able to meet the volumes and delivery schedules for the ships. We want to achieve consistency with our food across the fleet, and one of our key challenges is obtaining products in sufficient quantities to cover the whole fleet.


In what ways does the use of quality produce enhance the P&O Cruises guest experience?

With so many fantastic places to eat on board across our whole fleet, the challenge we have is to clearly differentiate so that everywhere offers something different. By focusing on using quality British products in the Fine Dining restaurants we can offer something new and exciting to our guests.


Our waiters on board are knowledgeable about the provenance of the food we serve, so guests always know what they’re eating. We find that guests are interested in where their food comes from – we receive lots of letters requesting information on where they can buy the things that they have tasted on board. Guest feedback is very important to us, be it good or bad, so we can learn and do better.


For you, what's the most unusual or interesting product that you have sourced and why?

Obulato, definitely. It’s the latest must-have in the foodie world. As used by Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, which was probably the most inventive and imaginative restaurant in the world while it was open, these edible sheets are made from potato starch, soy lecithin and sunflower oil. Obulato sheets don’t contain salt, sugar or gluten, which makes them suitable for coeliacs, and they’re ultra fine and transparent with neutral taste and smell.


Obulato can be used to make clever dishes such as ravioli containing a liquid olive centre. Brushing the sheets with a stock syrup and sandwiching dried flowers between two sheets can also be used as a decorative element for desserts. We use obulato in The Epicurean as a decorative herbed and spiced tuile wafer for one of the desserts.


We’re always looking to try new and interesting things in the culinary world. Also in The Epicurean, we use an interesting piece of equipment called an Anti-Griddle. This is a flat stainless steel plate that can flash freeze products, such as creams or sauces. We make things like mini savoury lollipops served as an amuse-bouche at the start of the meal.


What's your favourite product to eat on board?

Iberico Pata Negra Cinco Jotas is probably one of the finest Spanish dry cured hams. I love it, and we’re pleased to be able to serve it on board in The Epicurean – carved in front of the guests.


It arrives in its own special case and has been cured and aged for at least two years. Our staff are trained by a Spanish ham master in the skilled art of carving this delicacy.


Find out more about dining on board >