Rudi Sodamin with fresh Spanish mackerel | Holland America Line

Delicate Features – Face Plates as Fine Art

The Monthly Mantra

An Unusual Setting … An Unusual Setting … An Unusual Setting

Well now. This is different.

A cruise-ship press event … at a china shop? Okay, not just any china shop but New York’s chi-chi Bernardaud, masters of the art of French porcelain who, to this day, carry Marie Antoinette’s china pattern. So, no, we’re not talking the bargain bin at K-Mart.

Food Face Plate by Judi Cuervo

Food Face Plate | Photo by Judi Cuervo

Holland America Lines chose the New York City boutique to introduce Food Faces, exquisite French porcelain dinner plates that sport the whimsical designs of award-winning Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. These exclusive works of art — each adorned with vibrant, smile-inducing images created from only fruits, vegetables, meat, fish or sweets — will grace the tables at Rudi’s Sel de Mer, the elegant seafood brasserie that debuts on December 1 aboard Holland America’s Koningsdam and the line’s newest ship, Nieuw Statendam, and will appear fleetwide as a pop-up restaurant one evening each cruise. (Just wait until you see the vast menu: a luscious celebration of seafood, while still offering plenty of choices for non-seafood lovers!)

RELATED: Food Meets Art: Holland America’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin Releases Photo Book

Chef Rudi Sodamin with Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford

Chef Rudi Sodamin with Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford | Photo by Judi Cuervo

Attired in bow tie and grape velvet blazer, Chef Rudi looked as though he’d just finished a show in Vegas as he held court beside Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford, cheerfully greeting everyone and signing copies of his Rizzoli book, Food Faces, a fascinating photographic collection of 150 of his designs. “I intend my stylized faces to summon visceral and organic sensibilities that reflect the culinary diversity of human experience,” says Rudi. “Through simple portraits created from ingredients found around the globe, I emphasize the universality of both food and art.”

Which sounds like a rather dramatic way to describe faces with spaghetti hair, pepper mouths, and olive eyeballs, but you know how artists can be.

An elegant table set with the captivating china occupied center stage at Bernardaud, while a Champagne station stayed busy all night, the bubbly quenching attendees’ thirst and making me wonder if getting tipsy might not be the best thing to do in a shop with extravagant displays filled with beautiful and fragile porcelain.

It was probably that thought that encouraged me to sample the hot and cold hors d’oeuvres on offer — delicate salmon, tiny cups of tartar and, finally, bite-size squares of the most delicious bacon that has ever passed my lips. Arranged on skewers atop a wooden frame that held a curious display of clothes-pinned slabs of the stuff, this bacon bore no resemblance to the fatty little shriveled strips that accompany your scrambled eggs at the diner. Think ¼” thick, savory, meaty, sweet and salty — with a kick of wood smoke.

Holland America Line VP Frits Van Der Werff... Photo by Judi Cuervo

Frits Van Der Werff with bacon | Photo by Judi Cuervo

It was only through chance that Holland America Line’s Vice President/Food & Beverage Frits Van Der Werff observed my bacon-induced euphoria firsthand and revealed that a similar bacon station (complete with clothes pins, I assume) will be offered at the steakhouse aboard Nieuw Statendam. Sign me up.

There’s a lot of exciting things on the menu at Holland America Lines these days. Who would have imagined I’d discover them in a china shop?

— Judi Cuervo


Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.