Jane Jeffries settles in to chew the fat with Seabourn Sojourn’s executive chef.

I have been on the ship for only a couple of days but I am already sold on cruising.

I had heard all sorts of good things about the Seabourn Cruise Line and, with multiple awards, including the World's Best Small Ship Cruise Line for five consecutive years, my expectations were high.

We are cruising in the Mediterranean for 10 days and have just had a day enjoying the opulence of St Tropez. It is hard to believe this international seaside resort, littered with super yachts was once an unassuming fishing village.

I am now back in the luxury of my cabin, lying in bed salivating and obsessing about my next meal, scouring tomorrow's menus. The food is delicious and the choice of restaurants includes two casual outdoor/indoor eateries, a plush and sophisticated fine-dining restaurant and the ship's large and gracious formal dining room.

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I am a foodie at heart so the cuisine is always an important part of my holiday. Keen to keep refining my own culinary skills, I grab the opportunity to go shopping with Jes Paskins, the ship's executive chef. He is taking a small group to the market in Marseille to get ingredients for a fish bouillabaisse he has on tomorrow night's menu.

Up early, I head for the ship's impressive gym, with the latest equipment. There's nothing like giving myself permission to eat and drink as much as I like, after just a 10-minute run.

I have been warned to go easy on breakfast so I can enjoy sampling the food at the market, but being a first-timer on a Seaborn cruise I am way too excited to listen to such sensible advice. I start with a plate of tasty rock melon with prosciutto, followed shortly by an egg-white omelette with spinach and goats cheese. To finish: a little pain au chocolat. It would be a shame not to since we're in France.

Paskins he tells me, on the way to the market, that the Seabourn Cruise Line has recently partnered with American chef, Thomas Keller, owner and chef of three famous Michelin-starred restaurants, The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon. Under his guidance, Seabourn's three ships, Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest are in the process of taking their cuisine to a new level.

"Chefs from Seabourn's ships are already being trained in Keller's restaurants - learning his way of cooking and bringing new ideas, flavours and dishes to the Seabourn fleet," says Paskins.

Keller has added his own dishes to the menus, as well as opening restaurants aboard the Quest and the Encore in 2016. The Ovation follows in 2018.

Arriving at the market, Paskins' personality and presence exudes. Decked out in his white chef attire with Grinder, one of his kitchen hands, Paskins starts chatting to a cheese maker, like a local, although he swears he has not been to this market before.

Soon we are sampling truffle cheeses as Paskins buys up large quantities for the "Officers on Deck Epicurean", signature event, on board Sojourn in a couple of nights.

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Ruler of the kitchens Jes Paskins has been at sea for 15 years and says he is married to the job.
Ruler of the kitchens Jes Paskins has been at sea for 15 years and says he is married to the job.

At the far end of the market, we find the fishmonger. Paskins is particular about the freshness of the fish, scrutinising their eyes. As Grinder loads sardines, shrimp, mussels and mullet on to his trolley, the fishmonger beams.

Working four months on (without a day off), then two months off, Paskins has just returned to Sojourn after his break.

It is difficult to know if this is the rejuvenated Paskins after his break, or this is everyday Paskins, but it's all high energy and enthusiasm and he offers to take me on a tour of the kitchen in the morning.

Entering his domain at 9am, I am greeted by Paskins and two colleagues, Arnold Konrath and Roland Nema, the restaurant and bar managers.

With a glass of Veuve Clicquot and a little caviar on a fine wafer from the ship's patisserie, it seemed rude not to have a tipple as I learned about the food and beverage services on the ship, catering for 420 passengers.

The two enormous kitchens are immaculate and look as sterile as operating theatres with stainless steel surfaces as far as the eye can see. There are separate preparation areas for salads, soups, bread and pastries, meat and sauces, fish, pasta and a la minute (food prepared to order, not in advance).

As we walk around the kitchen, Paskins explains that the food prep has started for lunch in the two outdoor restaurants.

With more than 40 chefs to manage, he is a busy man, overseeing and tweaking the menus and ensuring the freshness of the produce.

Paskins has work to do, so the kitchen tour is over but not before he invites me to the pre-dinner "check-in".

With a completely different menu in each restaurant every evening, there is a high level of quality control.

At 6pm sharp, Paskins walks through the galley and is greeted by his staff. Every meal on the evening menu has been plated for his inspection.

We move through into the main dining room, where the waiting staff have assembled. Again each meal on the evening menus has been plated and Paskins takes the staff through each one, explaining the ingredients and method of cooking, so the staff can talk knowledgeably to the guests. Finally, the sommelier discusses the wine matches.

And so another spectacular night aboard Seabourn's Sojourn begins.

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Seabourn Encore will be sailing over to our shores in February as part of a 16-day Australia and New Zealand voyage, calling at Milford Sound on february 9 and making her way up the east coast of both islands, reaching Auckland on February 18.

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seabourn.com