Travel Weekly cruise editor Tom Stieghorst is sailing the Star Pride's maiden cruise from Barcelona to Rome. Read his dispatch.
It's 10:30 on a Wednesday morning and what must be half of Sanary-Sur-Mer, a small village on the French Mediterranean, is at the weekly market along the waterfront.
Among them are two chefs and about 40 guests from the Star Pride who are there to find some ingredients for tonight's dinner.
Executive chef Rohit Dimri is on the hunt for tuna, which will be served in Candles, the al fresco dinner venue that is created each evening on the outdoor portion of the Verandah restaurant.
But before he can settle on the tuna, Dimri spots some dorado, a smaller fish that will also find its way onto the Candles menu. He pokes open the gills of the fish. Moist means fresh, while dry means the fish is more than a day old. Satisfied, he piles 10 or 12 onto a metal dish to be weighed.
Meanwhile, corporate executive chef Michael Sabourin has found some tuna he likes and buys 85 pounds. No one else in the market is going to buy that much at once. It is basically the entire catch for the day. But Sabourin pays the going rate of 28 euros per kilo.
"I could negotiate when I come like this, but these people work very hard, so for me to save a dollar or two isn't worth it," he says.
Speaking with the vendors in French, Sabourin ascertains that the fish was caught late the previous evening, 15 or 20 miles offshore. "We are serving it tonight until we are out of it," he says.
Sabourin also gets the head of the fish as a gift from the vendor, which will be used to make a meal for the galley crew.
Seeing the chefs in action is a treat for the guests, who will be able to say at dinner that they saw the fish being bought. Sabourin tells them to be sure to ask for a market tour on their cruise if one isn't on the official list of excursions. He also urges them to seek out the chefs in the evening if they have any special requests for the next day's meal.
"We prefer sitting down with you for a few minutes to understand your needs," he says.
Dimri said fish is one item that can be bought in the market fresher than from the cruise line's standard suppliers. We pass by a stand full of cured meats, pates and sausages. Dimri said although they are more expensive than those the ship can get through regular channels, the ones in the market have a homemade flavor that can't be duplicated.
The tour ends with a cheese vendor, who provides samples of a creamy, pungent salty blue cheese that will go into an au gratin preparation at tonight's dinner. I can't wait to see how it turns out.
Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.
Photo of Sanary-Sur-Mer, France, courtesy of Shutterstock.