Michelle Rider, Culinary Trainer, Lindblad Expeditions

Sara Henstam, Head Chef, National Geographic Explorer


One is thinking about her next meal while she’s eating. The other is happy eating so wants to make others happy through food.



michelle_rider and sara henstam

We like to say our ships have an appetite for dining excellence as well as for adventure. What curious traveler doesn’t thrill at the chance to savor the local flavors of a new destination. That said, our list wouldn’t be complete without a nod to two of the powerhouse women who are keeping our guests’ expeditionary spirits—and their bodies—well-fed.


During her nine years with Lindblad, Michelle Rider (photo at left) worked her way through every position in the galley, from pantry chef to head chef. Her passion, dedication, and talent did not go unnoticed; she was chosen for the start-up team for our new sister ships, National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture. Michelle was instrumental in the success of both ships’ culinary programs, and as reward for her achievements, she was just promoted to Culinary Trainer for our U.S.-flagged ships. The move takes her off ship into our Seattle office, but we have no doubt her extensive experience and knowledge will continue to influence our vessels as she helps hire, train, and develop our culinary team.

Traveling with Lindblad opened up a world beyond cooking to Michelle—the underwater world! She’s been hooked ever since her first scuba dive, and her ocean explorations have made her acutely aware of responsible seafood choices. With her amazing grasp of food production and efficient techniques, Michelle has cracked the code to incredible local, sustainable and fresh menus that keep our guests coming back for more. Any chance she gets, Michelle is looking for her next dive site, and of course, for culinary inspiration: “I always say I’m thinking of my next meal as I’m eating something.”   


On National Geographic Explorer, Head Chef Sara Henstam (photo at right) is happily cooking up a storm.  Born and raised in the rural part of southern Sweden on her family’s farm, Sara learned early on how organic, fresh and from the source ingredients are key to creating unforgettable meals. To this day she still finds that simple and fresh is always best, and believes in letting her ingredients speak for themselves. With a holistic approach to cooking, Sara enjoys every single step of the process—from planning, sourcing, and harvesting ingredients to preparing, plating, and serving.


Those who meet Sara are quickly drawn to her authentic smile and her positive, high-energy personality. And fellow staffers speak to Sara’s ability to touch the heart of our guests with her professionalism, kindness, and delightfully delicious food. Like Michelle, Sara also finds inspiration and creativity while exploring and she revels in opportunities to get off ship, whether in the wild and wind-swept parklands of Patagonia or the icy, rugged landscapes of Antarctica and the Arctic. Whenever possible she’ll try to pick edible items while she’s out and about and incorporate them into dishes back on board. “I become happy eating good food, and my aim with my cooking is to make people happy too.”


We celebrate this dynamic duo for their bold “take-a-big-bite-out-of-life” attitudes and for making our menus come to life—from the first Welcome appetizers to the Captain’s Farewell Dinner.


> We asked Michelle Rider & Sara Henstam:


Why do you explore?


MR: To immerse myself in other cultures and capture the natural beauty that surrounds me. 


SH:  Exploring is so important in life in many ways. By exploring you will learn new things and become a “bigger” person. I love exploring around the world in many ways, not only by being out in the nature. I’m a chef so of course I also want to explore with food. Often, I talk to our naturalists and ask them to keep their eyes open for me for new edible things I can pick while ashore and put on the menu. For me, to explore is to live.


What is your favorite Lindblad destination?

MR: From a cooking and galley aspect it would have to be the Pacific Northwest. It is such a diverse area that allows us to be fortunate enough to get beautiful products in close proximity.  

SH: A favorite place on the National Geographic Explorer is when we are in South Georgia and do the early morning landing at Gold Harbor to watch the sunrise. The wildlife is so incredible and so many things are going on around you. But at the same time, it’s the best place to sit on the beach and just be. There is nowhere else where you can be so relaxed yet also so very alive at the same time.


What is the dream exploration you haven’t done…yet?

MR: I would love to go dive the Seychelles. 


SH: Dreams change all the time. But right now, I’m investigating doing the hike to the first base camp on Mount Everest. Jamling Tenzing Norgay was recently on board as a guest speaker, and his talks have made me want to visit this place.


Name a female hero and why.

MR: I don't have one in particular, but I’m inspired by the women who have paved the way for other women to succeed in male-dominated fields.  

SH: My mom is a hero and such a strong woman. She has worked hard her entire life and done everything for her kids.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

MR: My favorite dinner at home is popcorn. ​

SH: I’m not telling you it’s a surprise…..  😊


Michelle Rider

sara henstam

Michelle Rider Sara Henstam


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