Bringing a fine-dining twist to meals onboard

Interview from September 2018
Bringing a fine-dining twist to meals onboard
Bradley Harradine, Chief Cook onboard the giant accommodation vessel POSH Arcadia, often uses his years of fine-dining experience to make sure the menus onboard have a little bit of a special twist so the crew has something to look forward to at mealtimes.

Living in Adelaide, Bradley started his career with a four-year chef’s apprenticeship in the Barossa Valley wine region of Australia, before moving to Cairns and working for a range of top hotels. After several years he took a different turn and moved into catering in the mining industry in the Cooper Basin, South West Queensland.

“After an early career involved in high-end cookery, the mining industry was quite a culture change and a different mentality.” But at the time a head chef stressed the importance of being imaginative, even though we were catering for large numbers, he says. Bradley says this advice has stayed with him. “He told me to imagine the plate is your masterpiece. So I always try to present the food with a little bit of flare - some colour - something special.”

At the age of 27 Bradley went to his first job offshore on an oil rig and he later joined Atlas in 2008. “When people are offshore for months on end, food is really important, it is what they look forward to, so I think it is nice to give them something different.”

In the last 10 years Bradley has worked on the pipelaying vessel Audacia, the construction vessel the North Sea Atlantic in 2015, and he has been on the POSH Arcadia since the beginning of the Shell Prelude FLNG project in Western Australia.

Because of the reputation of Atlas Professionals, he adds, he could choose really good people to have in his team on the POSH Arcadia. “Everyone takes pride in their work and this takes a load off my mind. I know that they are doing things correctly and with finesse. This in turn, makes sure our reputation remains strong in the industry. The POSH Arcadia is really a flagship for the quality of our service.”

Bradley says before joining the POSH Arcadia he had cooked for around 280 people but nothing like the scale of this vessel. “Joining the ship was pretty daunting. I think at one stage we had some 650 people onboard - a lot of mouths to feed!

7 menus every 12 hours

“And this is not once a day, we have 12-hour shifts, which means seven different menus every 12 hours.  We had to make sure we had extra staff in the servery for example.”

To highlight the scale, he explains that there are two chefs on main courses, a salad chef, breakfast chef, one for cold platters and two chefs on vegetables and sauces, plus a night baker and a pastry chef. Additionally, there are also food runners who take the food from the galley to the serving area. “It is essentially like running a big hotel.” Bradley adds that working on such a large vessel also means the logistics are more complicated. “But we have a very well organised system in place.”
 

Special monthly events

Bradley and his catering team also host special menu nights once a month. These have included Seafood Night, Mexican Night, Fathers’ Day, Australia Day and just recently the team presented a Native Australian food theme. “This was really a popular event with kangaroo and crocodile on the menu, everyone really enjoyed it.”

For Bradley personally, curries from all over the world are his favourite meals to prepare. “Curries are more involved, you have to use the correct balance of spices. I also like manipulating ‘traditional dishes’, perhaps taking a piece of fish and rather than frying it, I mince it with fresh herbs and spices, then turn it into steamed dumplings with some fragrant couscous and spiced yoghurt.

“That is the beauty of being offshore, you don’t have to prepare the same meals every night like you do in a restaurant. You can invent things and modern Australian cooking is really a licence to create what you want. On the vessel I also work with so many diverse cultures and I pick everyone’s brains about their national dishes and ask them to show me how to make them.” Bradley has written every single recipe down in a special book going back for the last 10 years.  

Bradley says he definitely enjoys being offshore and working for Atlas but laughs that getting to work can be quite a logistics challenge. His journey to work can take a couple of days in fact. First it is two hours on a helicopter from the POSH Arcadia to Broome, on the tip of western Australia. This is followed by a flight to Perth, where he usually has to be overnight and then he takes another three-hour flight from Perth to Adelaide the following morning. 

Bradley is undeterred by the journey. “I am very grateful I have such a great job. There is always the challenge when you get onboard a new vessel and have to settle in. It is hard work but you do the best that you can, and lead by example.

“I hope to stay in this role. I have good people around me, a good boss and a good company. I appreciate I am pretty lucky!”