Our quarterly magazine ‘Into The Blue’ provides informative insight into the world of cruising. One of the hottest topics of conversation from our clients as well as on the Cruise Club Forum, is the subject of dining on board. In the winter edition of ‘Into The Blue’, we took a closer look at cruise dining, in particular three celebrity faces that have changed the face of dining on board. Our blog has recently took a trip down memory lane, looking into the history and traditions of P&O Cruises dining as well as announcing the five ‘Food Heroes’ set to feature on board P&O’s new ship Britannia, so we thought now would be an excellent time to share this article with you.
When taking a cruise, dining should be an event every day. Dining on board has gone from strength to strength over the years to the point where you can now expect to experience world class food in a wide range of exciting restaurant venues.
Cruise lines are also expanding their relationships with world renowned celebrity chefs to develop interesting and varied menus befitting the luxurious surroundings on board. Simply put, cruising would not be the same without the standards of dining that have been set. Cruise operators love food, not just for what it is, but for what it brings with it and the pleasure it provides for their passengers; exquisite surroundings, great company and conversation, the service experience from waiters who become friends and we cannot forget the magnificent array of fine wines from around the world that accompany the spectacular dishes. Dining has become a distinctive method of creating a unique point of difference between competing cruise lines. Our 2013 summer edition of ‘Into The Blue’ magazine introduced many of our Cruise Club members to the fascinating speciality dining venues aboard Oceania Cruises and these remarkable innovations will continue to take centre stage aboard most cruise ships as we progress through 2014. Since this first edition of our quarterly magazine, we have gone on to cover a wide range of dining options you can experience on board.
Many cruise line chefs are also members of highly regarded prestigious societies. P&O Cruises for example induct all their chefs into the esteemed ‘Chaîne des Rôtisseurs’, a society devoted to promoting and developing gastronomic values, and their passion for premium quality is clearly reflected in every mouthful. In order to give our magazine readers the opportunity to gain an insight into the world of fine dining on board, we caught up with high profile celebrity cruise chefs and wine expert, and we thought it was about time we shared this article on our blog.
Jean Marie Zimmerman
Jean-Marie Zimmerman has a longstanding partnership with Cunard Line. Having joined the cruise line as an Executive Chef he has gone on to become a Corporate Executive Chef and a highly regarded consultant. The role put him at the very heart and soul of shore based operations at the cruise lines Southampton headquarters, tasked with the challenge of raising the already superb standards set on board. As Executive Chef, Zimmerman is responsible for the kitchens on the world’s grandest ocean-going liners – the incomparable Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.
It must be quite an honour to be Cunard’s Culinary Ambassador. Could you tell us a bit more about the role and what it involves?
I am responsible for the quality and style of the gastronomy in all Cunard restaurants and work on designing the operational side of all new restaurants. I am responsible for establishing the food specifications for our menus and work very closely with our purchasing department. I am involved in choosing all the suppliers for Cunard and will only work with the freshest and highest quality produce. I introduce menu changes when necessary throughout the year and ensure that we are keeping within our food budgets.
Are there any particular trends in on board cuisine at the moment?
Guests seem to be increasingly enjoying the opportunity to dine in alternative restaurants, as well as new International cuisine in a more familiar setting. Being on board ship guests have greater confidence in the source of the ingredients and know that the kitchens will be spotless and that the chefs are well-trained.
Having started life as a scriptwriter for children’s television show Pingu, Olly Smith has gone on to become one of the leading wine experts winning the contest ‘Wine Idol’ to set him on his way. Now the wine connoisseur and TV presenter is the man behind The Glass House, a wonderfully innovative venue on board P&O Cruises’ Azura and Ventura.
What qualities do you need to become a wine connoisseur?
A good memory to remember not just the flavours and aromas of a wine, but its label, price and which foods to pair it with. Anyone can taste wine – and the more you taste, the better you get!
What’s the secret of pairing wine with food?
If you like it, then it’s the best match in the world! There are helpful guidelines which I’ve written about in my first book, Eat & Drink: Good Food That’s Great to Drink With, and some good principles to follow. For example, salty flavours work with bright, sharp wines – similar to the complementary flavours of salt and vinegar. I love experimenting, too – for example, bubbly Prosecco with creamy mozzarella is a total winner!
What was your vision for The Glass House?
To make wine as informal and enjoyable as possible and to offer wines from off the beaten track to surprise and delight. I passionately believe there’s a wine for every palate and pocket.
You create the wine list and blend house wines for the rest of the fleet. Where do you start?
I try to pick wines that are surprising as well as world-class, such as Gaia’s Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, a Greek white from Santorini that is unique in the world and of superb quality. For the house wines, it’s a combination of listening to passengers’ palates and hunting the very best value
Marco Pierre White
After leaving school without any qualifications, the young Marco set his sights on becoming a chef. Arriving in London at 16, he began his classical training at Le Gavroche, run by Albert Roux and Michel Roux. As well as becoming the first British chef ever to win three Michelin stars and, at 33, the second-youngest chef in history to do so, he trained the next generation, including current three-star holders Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal. Famous for his larger than life character, he revolutionised the reputation of British cooking.
He has been involved with P&O Cruises since 2008, when The White Room was launched on Ventura, while the rebranded Café Jardin opened on Oceana and Café Bordeaux on Aurora. They have since been joined by Ocean Grill on Adonia, Arcadia and Oriana. Marco is just as passionate today about providing a high quality dining experience as he was when he first started out in his career. “I think people’s expectations are far greater today than they were 30 years ago,” he explains. “People are more well-travelled, they’re used to eating in better-quality restaurants, they dine out more often and therefore when they come on to a ship, they are your greatest critic. I’m a great believer that when people go on holiday, food plays a very large part,” Marco continues. “If you eat badly, whether it’s in a resort or on a cruise, it really affects your holiday. You have to give people a sense of occasion.”
Head for Ventura’s The White Room and you’ll find a mouth-watering menu including starters of Velouté of Wild Mushrooms and Madeira Cappuccino with Truffle Foam and Mediterranean Prawns, King Scallops and Tempura Oysters with Vegetable Fritters and Sweet Chilli Sauce. Mains include Lobster Tartufi with Saffron Risotto, Green Asparagus and Black Truffle Butter, and Crusted Rack of Lamb with a Panache of Tuscan Vegetables.