Q&A: Can't Cook, Won't Cook chef Kevin Woodford previews his masterclasses with Saga
By Katie McGonagle | 28 Oct 2022
TV chef, presenter and all-round entertainer Kevin Woodford speaks exclusively to Cruise International as he gets ready to return to Saga ships
The chef-turned-presenter of Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook, Kevin Woodford, is set to reprise his culinary masterclasses and Q&A sessions with Saga guests this autumn.
After training in top-notch restaurants and working as a lecturer, he was selected by the BBC to appear on the popular cooking show, along with Ready Steady Cook, BBC Holiday and The Reluctant Cook, earning him a National Television Award for Best Daytime Presenter. He speaks exclusively to Cruise International about his career highlights and what he enjoys most on board.
Q. How did you get into cooking on TV – and now on board a ship?
A. It’s been an interesting career – I started life as a chef then moved into education, and later became a vice-principal of a college in Sheffield. Then I left education and stayed with the BBC for 20-odd years. I did various food programmes, presented Holiday with Jill Dando, a one-hour magazine show called Heaven and Earth, then moved into drama with Hollyoaks and Doctors.
Q. When did you start applying your talents on a cruise ship?
A. I did a series called Fasten Your Seatbelt for the BBC, and one of the tasks was to be an entertainer on P&O Cruises’ ship Oriana. That was my first introduction to sailing. I got on very well with all the people at P&O Cruises, doing live cookery shows with them for several years and enjoyed that enormously, then Saga came along and I’ve worked with them for the past five years. They are extremely different brands and different products. I adore Saga and the two beautiful new ships – although I love the older ships as well! I think cruising has ability to offer something unique. Where else would you get the opportunity of waking up in Barcelona or somewhere new every day?
Q. Tell us what guests can expect from your appearance with Saga.
A. I do three shows of Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook with masterclasses and a Question of Food Q&A. Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook involves two people on stage with me – sometimes it’s the captain or the cruise director and a guest – and they each have a set of ingredients identical to mine. There’s lots of comedy in it. It gives me the opportunity of taking the mickey out of the captain, which no one else is allowed to do! It’s very light-hearted, and a wonderful opportunity for guests on board the ship to see a senior member of Saga’s organisation in a different light.
Q. Do you plan what you’re going to cook in advance?
A. I don’t know what I’m going to do until I get on stage with them, and at the end, the audience gets to say which one gave the most entertainment. It’s great fun. It always gets a fantastic audience and a great response. Then I give the passengers a chance to see some serious cookery, with a masterclass of six to eight dishes in the hour. It’s still fun, and there are a lot of stories and inspiration attached to what I’m doing.
Q. Do you take inspiration from the areas you’re travelling in when coming up with your dishes?
A. I’m a great believer in seasonal ingredients so I will be looking very closely at which destinations and ports we will be going to. A lot of the time, I will wait until we’re in port before I determine what we’re going to do, depending on what’s in the market that day. I want to put modern influences on classic dishes so we use some of the same processes from chefs in those countries, but find a way of modernising that.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you offer in your masterclasses?
A. I believe in using ingredients and techniques in such a way to keep it reasonably healthy. The easiest thing to do is to bang cream and butter into everything, but there are other ingredients you can use that give the same result. You want to come off the ship feeling good. When you’re cooking at home, put the music on and have a glass of wine and enjoy the experience of cooking something everyone is going to love.
Q. What do you enjoy most about being on a cruise ship?
A. I like to walk around the ship. During sea days, I would probably do at least six or seven miles a day on the decks. I adore the fresh sea air. What amazes me when I’m on board is going into the Grand Dining Room when people have had a really good day, they’re ready to eat and they all head in at around the same time. You hear them ordering their food and in no time at all, the waiters are coming out with an array of beautifully presented, perfectly cooked dishes. I would challenge any major hotel or restaurant to do that as well as a ship kitchen. It’s perfection!
Book a cruise with Saga
Kevin Woodford will be appearing on a Flavours of the Western Mediterranean cruise departing October 31, 2022. He will also join cruises through Venice and the Adriatic in April, Greenland and Iceland in June and Spain and the Balearics in September 2023. Find out more from Saga.