By Mimi Kmet
He’s the swami of sweets. The master of meringue. The guru of ganache. He is Hans Kiendl, pastry chef of Crystal Symphony. And his delectable creations are served at every meal, daring even the staunchest dieter to have just one bite.
The Germany-born chef, who has been with Crystal almost since the luxury cruise line launched its first ship 25 years ago, is serious about his work. And it shows in his beautifully presented desserts, using the freshest, purest ingredients. “It only tastes good when you use good ingredients,” he says, adding that he doesn’t use alternatives, like corn syrup. And everything is made from scratch.
That’s quite a feat for Kiendl and his staff, who start preparing early in the morning for the day’s meals, which start with the Early Risers Continental Buffet in the Lido Café at 6:30 a.m. Pastries and other baked goods are also served at the full buffet breakfast, as well as in the Crystal Dining Room and The Bistro. After breakfast, his staff supplies sweets for lunch, afternoon tea in the Palm Court, dinner, and late-night snacks in The Bistro. And then, there’s 24-hour room service. “The food operation is the biggest entertainer on board,” he says.
Among the dessert offerings on a recent cruise were Crystal Modern Cuisine choices like La Pergola (chocolate coffee mousse cake, milk ice cream, and whiskey espuma); chocolate hazelnut trifle (chocolate pudding, Spanish vanilla cake, vanilla ice cream, and Frangelico foam); dulce de leche cheesecake with cinnamon ice cream; Singapore Sling sherbet; and Deconstructed Black Forest Cake (dark sponge cake, chocolate mousse, sour cherry compote, and kirschwasser mousse). There were also equally mouthwatering classic options, like ice cream, cookies, pecan pie, and vanilla crème brulee.
For guests who are counting calories or avoiding processed sugar, there’s also fresh, seasonal fruit. And it is very fresh, with local produce often gathered while the ship is in select ports. Also, guests can special-order desserts in advance of their cruises. If they special-order while on board, their dessert will be available the next day. So, if someone is gluten- or lactose-sensitive or has a food allergy, Kiendl is ready to accommodate.
How does he come up with his dessert creations? He develops the recipes with the help of Peter Degner, the ship’s executive chef, and Toni Neumeister, Crystal’s vice president of food and beverage operation and hotel procurement. He finds inspiration by reading books and observing what he sees in hotel dining rooms to keep up with the trends.
In fact, he says, his biggest challenge is “to keep aligned with trends from outside, because we are living on an island.” Among the current trends? “Now, everybody’s making chocolate,” he says. “Awhile ago, it was cupcakes.”
But he goes a step further, offering a wider array of desserts than some hotels or standalone restaurants might offer. “The menu must be bigger than a hotel’s dining menu, because guests have no other options,” he says. For example, the dinner menu offers seven dessert options each night.
Yet the challenge of staying abreast of dessert trends is also what he likes best about his job: “It’s so diverse. There’s always something new.”
Featured image: Hans Kiendl, Crystal Symphony’s Pastry Chef, with a Deconstructed Black Forest Cake (Photo by Mimi Kmet)