An interview with the Head Chef of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
Christian Bodiguel, Executive Head Chef of the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, is celebrating 30 years onboard. Serving up to 180 guests on each journey from a galley kitchen the size of a small corridor, we find out how he creates his incredible cuisine and how the journey inspires his dishes.
How did you become Executive Head Chef on board the Venice Simplon-Orient -Express?
I joined the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express team (VSOE) in January 1984. I met the train’s General Manager, Mr Claude Ginella, and couldn’t pass on the exceptional opportunity to join the world’s most famous train.
Tell us about the route of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and your favourite landscapes.
The VSOE travels across Europe throughout the season to some of the continent’s most alluring cities, including Venice, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Istanbul and, most recently, Stockholm and Copenhagen. The scenery on each journey is definitely not to be missed; however, the sector between Brenner to Innsbruck is particularly stunning as the train climbs up into the Alps. A sprinkling of snow can often be seen even in the spring and summer months as the train meanders through the mountains on the journey from Venice to London or vice versa.
How do the destinations you pass through influence your dishes?
Over the years, I’ve curated many dishes using seasonal ingredients and am inspired by the destinations the train travels through over the season. For example, certain spices are often incorporated into my cuisine served on the journey to Istanbul each year such as sumac seeds, cumin and sultanas. During the new route that launched from Venice to Stockholm via Copenhagen in 2013; myself and the team used many Scandinavian berries and flavours in each dish served aboard the train.
Where do you source your ingredients and are meals adapted for life onboard the train?
We work with many suppliers in the various locations the train travels to throughout the season. We receive a delivery of fresh produce in Paris whenever the train is on the platform, which includes fresh lobster, fish and vegetables.
How do you create such incredible dishes working in cramped quarters?
The key to success is to be incredibly organised and make sure the kitchen staff are well prepared before each departure. Space is tight but we all love working on the world's most famous train and creating new menus and dishes during each season for guests to enjoy.
"We receive a delivery of fresh produce in Paris whenever the train is on the platform, which includes fresh lobster, fish and vegetables."
Make our mouths water, what are your favourite dishes to serve onboard?
My favourite and signature dishes include charolais beef with truffle caviar served in autumn or roast salt marsh lamb served with sage-flavoured polenta throughout the summer months.
What tips can you share with guests onboard?
Relax, enjoy the scenery and head to the Bar Car to taste signature cocktails from our Head Barman, Walter Nisi, as our resident pianist plays some famous tunes.