When Bjoern Wassmuth came on as the new culinary director for Windstar Cruises at the end of 2022, he knew there would be a lot to learn.
With more than 25 years of culinary expertise, including five years managing culinary operations at a luxury cruise line, Wassmuth has been around long enough to know there is always something new to learn.
“Right now, I’m learning more about alternative eating and fulfilling different dietary restrictions. We want to have something for vegetarians, vegans, flexitarians, and those who restrict sugar, have no oil or salt, or are gluten-free. I’m ‘digesting’ it all, and we’re learning how to respond to that demand at Windstar with thoughtful and tasty choices,” Wassmuth said.
The good news for Wassmuth is he has a lot of familiar faces around. He had worked with Windstar president Chris Prelog while at Seabourn, and knew a lot of Windstar’s F&B staff from previous jobs as well, he said.
“The way Chris is, he tends to get your attention, and of course Windstar has a stellar product. The team is great, and I’ve worked with so many of them in the past. Really, they all convinced me to join,” he said in praise of the shoreside team and the crew at sea. “What the culinary team onboard produces on a day-to-day basis is impressive.”
As culinary director, Wassmuth is responsible for menu and recipe development and overall supervision to maintain Windstar’s high-quality dining program.
The challenges of the job, potential changes, even the choices to make are still too new to comment on, Wassmuth said.
His philosophy about training involves being hands-on.
“You have to depend on yourself but still work closely in a team,” Wassmuth said. “I put my chef’s coat on and show and teach them on the job through hands-on training. It’s all about getting in the kitchen. I view it as knowledge you can give them. Get them engaged. If you don’t live it, then you will never have success. Hospitality can become boring if you don’t bring an attitude of growth and exploration to the process.”
Wassmuth spent the first part of 2023 on back-to-back Windstar cruises, soaking it all in.
“I’ll be taking apart all the menus and evaluating what’s working and what isn’t; it’s a long process. I’ll be looking at adding local ingredients and dishes in our sailing regions, for example, in the Middle East, where we will begin sailing this fall,” he said. “I’ll also be further implementing more plant-based dishes across the fleet. Much to do and much to taste.”
Wassmuth said cultural exchanges between international team members was one of his favorite parts of the job. He praised both the crew and the cruise line’s top-tier culinary talent, chefs Anthony Sasso and Steven Raichlen, and Peter Tobler, Windstar’s director of hotel operations.
Excerpt from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine Spring 2023