"Pike made jambalaya": How "Strange New Worlds" Captain Pike expresses care and diplomacy with food

Food stylist Tanya Osmond explains why jambalaya fits & how Pike follows the tradition of great Starfleet captains

By Melanie McFarland

Senior Critic

Published August 18, 2023 12:00PM (EDT)

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)

As if "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" doesn't provide us with enough reasons for Anson Mount's Enterprise Captain Christopher Pike to make us weak in the knees, it's constantly reminding us that he loves to cook.

This is plain from the second episode of the show, "Children of the Comet," which is the first time we see him mopping barbecue sauce over a rack of ribs, part of a heaping feast for his senior staff and other crewmembers.

Cooking for loved ones is Pike's specialty. But in the eighth episode of the recently completed second season, "Under the Cloak of War," Pike uses food to bring former enemies together. He invites Federation-Klingon war veterans among his crew to  the same table as a former Klingon general believed to be responsible for numerous war crimes.

One of those veterans, Lieutenant Erica Ortegas (Melissa Navia) almost backs out, suspecting she doesn't have the stomach for this Starfleet-ordered diplomatic act until Dr. Joseph M'Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) reminds her of the real reason to set her anger aside: "Pike made jambalaya. With Deltan parsley."

Cut to: a close-up of the classic Creole dish, heaping with jumbo shrimp, sausage and bits of that parsley.  Flanking it on one side is a platter of corn on the cob. A bowl of emerald vegetables sits the other. All of it the work of the show's food stylist Tanya Osmond.

Star Trek: Strange New WorldsStar Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)Osmond, who joined "Strange New Worlds" midway through Season 2, added there were other dishes viewers may not have spotted that tie to the jambalaya dinner's Southern theme – pickled watermelon rinds, cornbread and even a fun jelly salad, she explained, "because they're shiny and they light really well."

These toothsome visuals serve a higher narrative purpose too. "Jambalaya is a community dish," Osmond explained in a recent interview with Salon. "It's something that is served out of a big pot in southern tradition, a food that you gather people around. Everybody gets together and shares.

"Particularly in that episode, we have a new ambassador coming in, somebody who's trying to bridge those gaps between what were very recently warring communities," she continued. "And so it's a very appropriate dish to serve."

Pike's penchant for cooking in "Strange New Worlds" expands a franchise tradition associating Starfleet captains and significant senior crew members with favorite foods or, more typically, signature beverages. Indeed, Osmond confirms that choosing to have Pike cook jambalaya for this occasion is a small homage to Avery Brooks' "Deep Space Nine" Commander Benjamin Sisko, the son of a New Orleans' chef for whom the dish holds tremendous family significance. (The version prepared for "Strange New Worlds," was inspired by Leah Chase's classic recipe in "The Dooky Chase Cookbook.")

Star Trek: Strange New WorldsStar Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)

. . . But the jokes about replicated food's shortcomings serve a function, to anchor the characters in this fantastical universe in their humanity. They may be flying through space, surrounded by impossibly sophisticated technology, but the characters on Star Trek still long for Mom's sweet potato casserole.

Osmond affirms this. "Something that is really important throughout different 'Star Trek' series is that even though we find ourselves in the future, we still have a connection to the past. And cooking, eating, is something we can all relate to and that we have deep connections with — our own personal cultural upbringing, things that remind us of home. And so I feel like in the future, it's nice to have that place to anchor yourself, that place to sort of relate to."

Mount's captain stands apart in this way. He's a Montana man who longs for his ranch, so it follows that he'd be partial to home-cooked meals prepared with natural-as-possible ingredients. His produce, proteins and the rest are probably delivered via replicator but he keeps a selection of fresh herbs in his cabin and hand-chops his vegetables. His kitchen is impeccable and, as a recent Food & Wine magazine feature points out, his tools are top-notch.

These are all hallmarks of someone living on borrowed time. A leitmotif in "Strange New Worlds" relates to Pike foreknowledge that a life-changing accident lurks in his future. Therefore, his gastronomic inclinations are one way for him to live in the present.  

Star Trek: Strange New WorldsStar Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+)

But he reserves his homiest meals for those cares most about, lovingly slow-cooking Julia Child's bœuf bourguignon to win back Captain Marie Batel (Melanie Scrofano) in "Subspace Rhapsody" or, as he does in the first season's finale, transforming a previous night's extra spaghetti into pasta mama, describing it as a simple way to take leftovers and make them into something new.

A happy crew is a well-fed crew that will comply with almost any request made of them, whether that means flying into an asteroid field or breaking cornbread with an adversary that would have killed them without a thought only a few years prior. And Pike makes creating it as good-looking as everything else he does. Early in the series, Ortegas advises Celia Rose Gooding's then-cadet Nyota Uhura, "You do not want to be late to the Captain's table." By the end of Season 2, we couldn't imagine why anyone would be.

Pike's Creole Jambalaya (recipe by Leah Chase)
6-8 servings
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour


1 lb. smoked ham (cubed)

1/2 lb. chaurice* (hot sausage cut in pieces)

1/2 lb. smoked sausage (cut in 1/2-inch slices)

1 cup chopped onions

3 cups uncooked rice

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 tbsp. chopped parsley

1 tsp. ground thyme

1 tsp. chopped garlic

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1 tsp. salt

1 bay leaf

1 lb. shrimp (peeled and deveined)

4 cups boiling water



  1. Place ham, sausages, and onions in 3-quart saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat until onions are soft. No need to add any oil as the meat will provide enough fat for cooking. 
  2. Add rice and stir well.
  3. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes, then lower heat. 
  4. Cover pot tightly and let cook slowly for 35 minutes or until rice is tender.
  5. With a fork, fluff rice up, mixing sausages well.



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Cook's Note from Tanya Osmond:

Whatever jambalaya recipe you use, take your time and let the meat brown to a nice deep golden color — in batches if the pan is too crowded. Don't worry if the pan looks a little too dark. Scrape up the browned bits when you add your liquid. All the caramelized bits will add a ton of flavor to your final dish.

By Melanie McFarland

Melanie McFarland is Salon's award-winning senior culture critic. Follow her on Twitter: @McTelevision

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Creole Jambalaya Leah Chase Pike Reporting Star Trek Star Trek Strange New Worlds