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Prior to setting out on Holland America Line's Westerdam this week, I honestly knew very little about "America's Test Kitchen," but now that I've experienced the new culinary program onboard, my takeaway is a very positive one.
Despite my lack of awareness for the brand, plenty of other guests clearly know about the television show because the partnership is super popular, filling up the Queen's Lounge every time.
The former Culinary Arts Center Presented by Food & Wine Magazine is not yet entirely gone. That collaboration is running its final course as the ATK one is transitioned in. Even one of the previous venue signs is still installed at a back entrance, and the stage galley will soon be refit to more closely resemble the televised one.
[READMORE]READ MORE: Holland America Line Partnering with America's Test Kitchen[/READMORE]
The main idea of the test kitchen is to provide aspiring home chefs with culinary inspiration, delicious recipes, helpful tips to easily recreate them and advice on specifically recommended dish-ware and equipment, all presented by a personable chef. Abby Koch is currently onboard, a great Holland America employee trained by ATK.
Attendees can pick up high-gloss, heavy-stock recipe postcards, cooking suggestions and other detailed background for every presentation, from Asian Dumplings to New Italian Favorites, for free. Surprisingly, ATK cookbooks nor logo items are not yet sold in the ship's shops.
Each session opens with a video introduction from the television hosts on overhead displays, and from there Abby takes over as her demonstration and techniques are mirrored in the video monitors.
Like a cooking show, some things are preprepared, but much of the actual cooking happens live at a fully-functioning action station supported by a refrigerator and ovens behind, which means the sights, sounds and, most importantly, smells are all enjoyed in person.
[READMORE]READ MORE: TravelPulse Radio Goes Into Cruise Mode With Doug Parker[/READMORE]
Each session wonderfully features more than one dish in order to convey nearly an entire meal that can be made at home. Short interludes include additional video clips from ATK about everything from how to make your own steamer to finding the best sections of a parmesan cheese wheel for different flavor profiles.
The 45-minute shows are quick but jam-packed full of information, and Abby makes them fun and entertaining, joking about wishing the captain could steady the ship so her butter would melt more evenly, etcetera. The experience is also very interactive as she asks how the audience has been enjoying the cruise or taking cooking questions along the way.
The only surprising thing is that there was no opportunity to sample any of her creations after they were plated, but the finished dishes were available for photographs after the presentation at least. It would add to the program if tastings were associated with them too.
Nonetheless, "America's Test Kitchen" is a surefire winner, and I can't wait to see it evolve further into the future. After all, even this non-cook learned a thing or two.
Jason Leppert - Senior Writer, Cruises and Cruise Travel - is a San Diego-based cruising expert with more than 100 sailings...
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