ISLES DES SAINTES, Guadeloupe -- Executive chef William Hall is
on a mission.
He has figured there is just enough time after breakfast has
been served aboard Wind Star to make it to the best bakery in the
Caribbean, place an order for baguettes to be served at dinner,
tender back to get lunch under way and take his post at the fresh,
made-to-order pasta station.
Just off the porch of the open-air clapboard store, French
teenagers in bikinis whiz by on Vespas, past the wafting aroma of
fresh-baked goods mingling with the perfume of bougainvillea and
Hall seems oblivious of the surroundings for the moment,
however, because he is talking about the bread.
Wind Star's staff does all the baking on board throughout the
voyage, but the baguettes here are different, Hall said.
It has to do with the French method of using a yeast, flour and
"It doesn't matter if there are 100 people waiting outside. They
do this to get the quality of the taste. It's just like Paris," he
It is that kind of passion for detail that typifies the dining
experience aboard Wind Star.
"They keep this yeast starter in a covered container in the
refrigerator. When you open it up, the smell is -- wow. But it
makes the loaves really crusty on the outside, and the inside is
soft and full of flavor," the chef said.
The dough is prepared about three hours before baking.
Hall revels in having had the opportunity to develop
relationships with the vendors at the small markets in the ports
where Wind Star calls, so that each day, he can procure entirely
fresh produce for each day's meals.
"There is just an abundance of tropical fish, vegetables and
fruits, dairy products and yogurts that we obtain locally," he
In addition, each week, the ship receives a container of choice
U.S. meat and poultry from Miami.
Apparently, the tiny islands on this itinerary, however, have
proved a virtual Epicurean playground for Hall, presenting
varieties of foods a landlocked chef would never see.
"There are about five to seven varieties of mangos -- long ones,
fat ones. We taste them all and experiment using them in dishes. I
just picked up a passion fruit the other day, and we're working on
using that," Hall said.
Hall, who began his career 12 years ago, acknowledged that he is
living a chef's dream by being in an environment where he can see
the creative process through from start to finish -- from going to
market and preparing the food to serving it to guests and seeing
them enjoy it.
And all this effort is not lost on Wind Star's passengers.
On a recent sailing, guests lingered at the pasta station asking
Hall where he is from (Youngstown, Ohio), where he has worked (Chef
Allen's in Miami, the Stadt Casino in Baden, Switzerland, to name
two), and, perhaps most important, to have him explain his special
touches with the linguini primavera in the skillet before them.
Under Hall's direction, the staff of 15 repeatedly impressed
Wind Star guests. There were dishes such as roasted duck breast and
creamy corn mash with green beans and hamhocks and fresh jerked
flying fish with a spicy remoulade and yam fries.
Perfect versions of standards such as herb- and pepper-seasoned
prime ribs with baked potato and horseradish sauce also were
Even vegetarian dishes, particularly the gateau of auber-gine
with a light tomato and tarragon coulis, had guests stumped trying
to guess how Hall and staff could raise a few simple ingredients to
Furthermore, the "sail light" menu -- including desserts --
designed by the "queen of lean," cookbook author Jeanne Jones,
rivaled the rest of the entrees when it came to flavor.
For example, a typical sail- light selection for one evening
consisted of an appetizer of Moroccan roast-pepper and tomato
salad; an entree of bastilla (puff pastry stuffed with chicken),
and a luscious, crustless pecan custard pie, for a guiltless total
of 611 calories and 16.8 grams of fat.
For Hall, this phase of his career is more than just a line on a
resume and a path to opening his own restaurant. It also has an
"I love the water, the mountains and food in its natural state,"
he said, "and to mix colors with textures and ingredients that
complement each other. And I can have some fun at the same