Top chefs keep sailing with cruise partnerships

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Celebrity chefs have found a new landscape to tempt customers’ palates, and it’s not even on land. Cruise lines keep partnering with name-brand chefs to add a signature restaurant to their ships.

The most-recent announcement is a deal Princess Cruises has cooked up with Curtis Stone, who gained fame with the popular TLC show Take Home Chef almost 10 years ago and has since gone on to be one of the most-recognizable chefs on the TV landscape, as well as having opened the successful restaurant Maude in Beverly Hills.

 

As part of the line’s “come back new” marketing pitch, Stone will be opening a new restaurant concept called Share on two ships this year and rolling it out to two more in 2016.

“One thing you do want to do is connect with the people who you’re on vacation with, and there’s no better way than with food,” Stone said of the communal, family-style restaurant.

Other celebrity chefs to venture out to sea include Miami restaurateur Michael Schwartz and Jamie Oliver, who share billing on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships: Schwartz has Michael’s Genuine Pub, and Oliver has Jamie’s Italian.

Schwartz has partnered with Royal Caribbean since 2011, when he put his 150 Central Park restaurants on the line’s Oasis-class ships.

Todd English and Jose Garces also have at-sea restaurants aboard major lines: English has an operation on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, and Garces will bring Latin-style seafood restaurant Bayamo, as well as Pincho Tapas Bar, to the new Norwegian Escape, cruising out of Miami starting next month.

Even Food TV star Guy Fieri has partnered with Carnival to bring Guy’s Burger Joint across many ships in its fleet.

When Norwegian Escape debuts next month at Port Miami, it will feature Miami flavors in the form of Food Republic, a food-hall concept from the Pubbelly Restaurant Group; a version of longtime Miami bar Tobacco Road; and a Brew House bar area featuring beers from Miami’s Wynwood Brewing Co.

The celeb-chef restaurants are among the cruise lines’ extra cost offerings, usually a $20 upcharge per diner, but as high as $75 on some lines. The chefs often make appearances on the ships, partake in Q&As and demonstrations, as well as get their hands dirty in the kitchen.

 

“They have such a strong culinary reputation in that industry. They do an incredible job of getting ingredients where they need to be.”

Curtis Stone

 

“Everyone that knows me knows that I’m a bit of a control freak,” Stone said. “I’ll be jumping on and off ships.”

The design of the restaurant is meant to encourage a pass-the-plate type of meal sharing in a setting where the lighting, seating and adornments all try to make guests feel more at home than eating out at a fancy restaurant.

Example menu items include butter-roasted lobster with caramelized endive and endive foam, twice-cooked duck leg with fennel, bacon jus and parmesan crumb; tagliatelle with roasted Alaskan crab, chile and parsley; and dark chocolate cremeux with toasted hazelnut feuilletine and burnt vanilla bean ice cream.

“You’re creatures of comfort and while we didn’t want people completely out of their comfort zone, to just push that button ever so lightly would be nice,” Stone said.

The new restaurant will debut in December on both the Ruby Princess out of Los Angeles and Emerald Princess out of Port Everglades, and then followed by the Coral Princess on Panama Canal cruises that also sail out of Fort Lauderdale beginning in January. A fourth ship, the Sun Princess, will get the restaurant in April 2016 sailing out of Stone’s home country, Australia.

Fleetwide, Stone also is working on menu items to be offered nightly and served in the main dining room as well as a chef’s table experience. While planning fresh menu items for ships that are seven or more nights is something new for Stone, he has taken advantage of Princess’ knowledge to bring his concept to fruition.

“They have such a strong culinary reputation in that industry. They do an incredible job of getting ingredients where they need to and making the most of what you do take on board. They literally have a tomato room on board that’s kept at a specific temperature and specific humidity,” Stone explained. “That said there’s always challenges. You can see them as opportunities or obstacles.”

It doesn’t always work out though. Norwegian Cruise Line this year ended its relationship with Geoffrey Zakarian, who had set up shop on board both Norwegian Getaway and Breakaway with Ocean Blue and The Raw Bar.

Still, cruise lines give chefs another option for spreading their food gospel to a whole new audience.

“You’re constantly dreaming up ideas of bringing food to people, whether on land or on sea,” Stone said. “I’m really excited to get into this and hopefully bring something quite new to the cruise industry. People ask me, ‘What’s my goal in doing this?’ My goal for the restaurant is for it to be an incredible restaurant.”

 

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