The Chef with the best views

As the Real Journeys chef on board an overnight cruise vessel in Fiordland’s beautiful Doubtful Sound, Joss Wilson has a galley with a view to die for.

But she also has to worry about much more than what food to order or dishes to cook for up to seventy-two passengers.

“For one thing we have to be really flexible about the timing of dinner, because if the dolphins turn up – or even whales; they’re the priority and dinner goes on hold. 

But when we’re in the fiord, I’m one of the crew and we all have other things to do besides our normal jobs“ says Joss.

This kiwi chef suddenly has to race out of the kitchen to do the mooring lines when the Fiordland Navigator leaves and returns to the wharf, and she’s trained to be a fire-fighter, first-aider, kayak instructor and stabi-craft driver. 

Joss takes it all in her stride, she’s been a chef on cruise ships around the world from the Arctic to the Antarctic as well as owning her own restaurant in Te Anau, New Zealand.

Fresh fruit, vegetables and other food supplies for the Fiordland Navigator are delivered twice a week and have to be ordered days ahead. 

Like the passengers on the Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise, the carefully packed food is brought across Lake Manapouri, then up and over the steep Wilmot Pass, before being finally placed on board. 

Joss has to be super-organised; in the heart of Fiordland National Park there is nowhere to pick up anything you forget. 

Her day is carefully mapped out, with only a crew member assigned as a galley hand, Joss has to bake the bread and prepares breakfast, afternoon tea and a three-course dinner for the guests.

“People are always amazed to find that we cook everything from scratch in the middle of nowhere.  And passengers often comment -  do you make all this on board?  I love surprising people – when I know they have dietary requirements."

"Just going that extra mile and making them a special gluten free desert or something, few people expect you to go to the trouble, but we interact so much with our passengers we get to know a bit about them, which is lovely.”

Joss likes the fact that she can talk to the passengers while she carves the meat on the buffet. 

People like to know about the food they’re eating and enjoy the fact that it is mostly locally produced.  

Talking points tend to be the New Zealand green-lipped mussels, smoked salmon and the flavoursome lamb and beef from Southland.   Joss tends to use her creative flair on the vegetarian dish, coming up with all sorts of concoctions. 

And there’s often applause for the desserts – with a huge display that often gets photographed!  

On board it is mainly New Zealand beer and wine that’s served, with Joss and other crew trained in wine tasting to help people choose well.

“What we do here is not just a floating hotel with dinner and breakfast included, it’s a whole package with activities, like kayaking, that many people have never had the chance to experience before.   It’s a really good feeling that you pull this thing off every day”.

Joss starts work at 5.30 in the morning and doesn’t finish until around 10.30 at night.   She works one week on and one week off and says she has the best of both worlds.
“I love it, I love the team environment and there aren’t many galleys that can boast such good scenery.”

For more information about Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruises with Real Journeys visit:

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