Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman
ABOARD THE SOUTHWEST CHIEF — A month after Amtrak revamped dining-car menus on the five long-distance trains that serve the West Coast — replacing pre-packaged meals in a bowl with freshly-prepared breakfasts, lunches, and dinners — it’s clear the company is aiming for a higher standard than what it previously offered.
“I was really surprised,” observes Chef Frank Villasenor, who, with Food Specialist Brian Garrigues, is manning the Southwest Chief’s kitchen, on the lower level of the Superliner dining car, out of Chicago on July 22. “This is a step above where I thought we would go, especially with the direction we were going.”
...But he did see how airline-accustomed management’s cost cutting took its toll on the Coast Starlight when the train lost its “Pacific Parlour Car” for sleeping-car passengers. Several years ago, there was also a directive removing all but the most basic spices from dining car kitchens, further tamping down chef creativity in favor of standardization.
Now he leads one of dozens of crews working the Chief, Starlight, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, and Sunset Limited, implementing a menu that brings back restaurant-style meals and service after a year’s absence resulting from COVID-19 health concerns.