Tag Archives: holland america explore program

Maasdam’s Guest Chef Joseph F. Caputo

This is part 1 of 2

Today I’m attending a cooking demonstration with the Maasdam’s guest Chef Joseph F. Caputo who will prepare Coconut Chicken Soup. I’m eager to learn how.  Chef Caputo is part of Holland America’s regular program of bringing aboard chefs who not only are outstanding in their kitchens but also in their teaching skills.  

When I arrive at the Culinary Arts Center, I find all the ingredients for the soup are divided and ready.  The chicken stock is even in the pot, ready awaiting the ingredients. 

                 Maasdam Cruise       Maasdam Cruise
                              Ready to start                                      Tomatoes fresh and ripe

The first thing Chef Joseph explains is how important the stock is to any soup. He says you must cook it 4 or 5 hours but never let it come to a boil. In this case, after the chicken is removed, the stock must be strained several times. Or, to skip this entire first step you can use organic pre-packaged stock. Like me.

The recipe for this soup calls for a quart of stock, a 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes, unsweetened coconut milk, a rib of celery cut into 2 pieces and an onion studded with cloves. Um, I find that very interesting. Cloves.

To my surprise, Chef Joseph says the onions, celery and tomatoes are added to the finished stock, boiled for 20 minutes, then remove the onion and celery. He suggests using an immersion blender or a counter top blender to puree the tomatoes but to leave some flecks for color.

Joseph tells us he owns and operates Zuppa del Giorno, il restorante del pranzo which means “soup of the day” and Catering by Joseph LTD in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Explaining how he was inspired by the cooking of his mother and grandmother and that culinary success started early in his life, Joseph uses the kitchen as a stage while preparing the soup. 

              ‘    LindaOKeefe_457      Maasdam Cruise
                       Chef Joseph preparing soup                           Telling us about his career

No wonder he did so well. Graduating with a degree in Communications and later earning a Master’s degree in Theatre, Joseph spent time in New York City pursuing a professional acting career while working at restaurants there.

His expertise gained from the theatre, combined with an easy going nature, make watching him cook a pleasure. Where I would be clunking around,  he seems to glide through the recipe like a dancer.

He says that one time during his acting days while catering a private party, he suddenly realized cooking was his true passion.  He changed direction first by becoming a personal chef. To enhance his skills, he attended the Culinary Institute of America. Before turning 50, he was the owner of two successful businesses: Both a catering operation and a restaurant.

In watching Chef Joseph teach our class, he switches gears as smoothly as a Rolls Royce. As he adds the chicken to the recipe,  he says the best way to prepare the chicken is to roast it for 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 425 so the chicken will remain moist and not shred up. After placing everything in the stock pot, he emphasizes how the mixture should be heated thoroughly but never boiled. 

My mouth is watering when tiny cups of the finished soup are handed out. My taste buds are not disappointed. The velvety texture of the soup is filled with hints of curry, clove and coconut, all in a rich creamy tomato base. YUM!

                               Maasdam Cruise         Maasdam Cruise Maasdam Cruise
                                        Soup’s on!                        Caribbean comfort food

As we sip the soup with the little spoons, Joe tells a story about one of his experiences, which also is quite revealing about how a true chef thinks differently than the rest of us.

“One day I was in a restaurant where they were serving grilled cheese sandwiches. That started me thinking how I could use grilled cheese in a soup. So I made a tomato cream soup, then grilled the cheese sandwiches and cut them into small pieces. Using the grilled cheese tidbits as croutons, I called it “Childhood in a Bowl.”  He says people love it!

Watching Chef Joseph’s enthusiasm and listening to his stories, I wonder if Chef Joseph isn’t reliving fond childhood memories of his family every time he prepares soup. Both here in this small quantity and back home (as much as 120 gallons a day).

Whatever the reason, he certainly loves every minute doing it.

In part 2, I cook with Chef Joseph.

   By Linda O’Keefe

A Maasdam Day-At-Sea

Maasdam underway at sea

From acupuncture to a casino slots tournament

Today was exciting and informative. Holland America offers everyone the chance to turn their cruise into a learning experience by offering demonstrations, classes, and seminars in four diverse areas.

The subjects are Explore Our World (travel talks), Food & Entertainment, Technology (digital workshops) and Wellbeing. Our daily newsletter, called Explorer, lists each day’s topics. Fortunately, the same 60-minute sessions are repeated several times during a cruise since many classes are held simultaneously.

Since I went the culinary route last time, I make my way downstairs for a Wellbeing seminar on “How to Lose Weight Through Acupuncture.” The burning question in my mind is why acupuncture on a cruise ship? That question along with many others is answered by MacPherson Jaegerson, the Maasdam’s MSTOM Certified Acupuncture and Chinese Herbalist NCCAOM.

Maasdam Cruise
MacPherson Jaegerson

Acupuncture: No Points for Me
Jaegerson explains that traditional Chinese medicine, which has been around for thousands of years, has helped millions of people when more modern methods fail. Her treatment program begins with a free consultation to determine each person’s needs and goals. Then she decides which approach to take: whether to use acupuncture needle or herbal medicines or a combination of the two.

It is an interesting talk. Ironically, most people are here seeking relief from seasickness and little interest in weight loss. I decide to book a consultation. Hey, it’s free after all!

Our meeting is not what I expect and I am totally unprepared for what she tells me after I explain my goals and answer her questions about my often hectic lifestyle. She says she will not take me on as a patient unless I give up a full week of the cruise and spend it sleeping. Sleeping!

HA! Who would write my blogs or take my pictures? And I would miss so much I’ve never seen, which is the point of being here. I politely respond I need to think about it. But she already knows my answer.

Her theory, probably accurate, is that I need to completely recharge in order for my body to function better. So afterwards I will make a better effort to sleep as much as I can but still go as much as I want.

Maasdam Cruise

A Poor Sales Pitch
I still have another class to attend today, a seminar in the fitness center about “Secrets to a Flatter Stomach.” What a disappointment! Ruurd Halverhout, one of the Maasdam’s two personal trainers, starts by explaining the importance of exercising three to four times a week (nothing new here) and good nutrition, which he cites as being more important than exercise. He advocates eating all you want for breakfast followed by a smaller lunch and even smaller dinner, basically the opposite of the way most of eat today.

Then he begins to stress the importance of detoxification, of cleaning the body from the inside out. Ruurd says detox is necessary because the liver can be overworked and water may infuse the fat around our lymph glands, which makes us jiggle when we walk or raise our arms.

Only detox, not exercise, will cure all our evils. And he has the magic pills to sell us that will accomplish that. Just take two pills each morning, with a month’s supply costing $100.

This whole thing is nothing but a sales pitch. And since the trainer is not completely forthcoming, he is setting people up for failure: He never mentions that a genuine detox regimen requires giving up things like caffeine, red meat, dairy, alcohol and gluten. Detox isn’t easy at any age but especially not for cruisers between the ages of 40 to 80. I know, because I’ve done a real detox program under medical supervision. I wish it was as easy as taking two pills a day.

slots tournament sign   slots linda playing
The promise of wealth                                                                     Linda losing her $20 entry

The Slots Tournament
I decide to push health and well being off the front burner for now and head to the Casino to compete in my first-ever slots tournament. The rules are simple: pay $20 and wait for one of the tournament machines to be free. Then I work the one-arm bandit for 200 spins. The person who ends up with the most points at the end of the tournament wins.

I score almost 3,000 points, which may sound good, but many others are far ahead of me. The current leader has more than 10,000 points. Just think what kind of jackpot they might have won if they were playing normally. The tournament’s top prize is $500.

The Casino hostess offers me the chance to buy 400 spins for the price of 200, a two-for-one. It was fun but I pass. Surprising how what a short time it takes for 200 spins, lasting just long enough for Tim and me to share a free glass of wine.

The Maasdam’s program for our days-at-sea can make them full of learning and experiencing new challenges, or we can just relax by the pool reading a book. I love the fact that we have that kind of choice.

By Linda O’Keefe