When I first read of the “Chef’s Table” concept on the Caribbean Princess, I knew this was an event I had to experience. You might be asking, “What is the Chef’s Table?”
Once or twice a cruise, the Caribbean Princess sponsors a program where guests can take a tour of the ship’s galley and then be treated to a wonderful gourmet meal. Usually ten passengers are included at each of the two dinners. And this is not just a quick walk-through-the galley-cruise-tour followed by a brief dinner. No, our galley tour was supervised by Executive Chef Antonio Cereda and, combined with our dinner experience, this was a three-hour event!
At the start of the night, our group assembled at the Vines Bar, donned white laboratory coats, and headed into the kitchen. After everyone washed hands, we were greeted by Chef Cereda. Smiling, he gave us a brief introduction to the challenge of feeding 3,000+ guests daily.
Chef Cereda is responsible for ALL the food on the ship and that includes the main dining rooms, the buffets, the specialty restaurants, and even the smaller venues. One question asked was, “Who decides what’s on the menu – do you have that freedom?” The Chef explained that the menus for all Princess Cruises are prepared by a team of chefs at the Princess headquarters in California. Yet, each chef interprets the recipes and adds something of their own!
The gallery was… spotless. I’ve worked in restaurants for twenty-five years and I was very impressed. I found myself opening ovens and refrigerators and looking inside – SPOTLESS! There was no noise, no shouting, no chaos! It was like a well-run machine, humming along. Different sections of the gallery were used to prepare different foods: meat, fish, desserts, pasta, vegetables, etc. all had unique preparation areas. Even the dishroom was spotless! As a former restaurateur, I was impressed by the cleanliness and organization.
Chef Cereda described the day-to-day activities in the gallery. It operates 24 hours a day, preparing and serving food. Overnight a team works to make sure you have that fresh pastry ready in the morning. Although busy, many of the staff waved or smiled as we traipsed through the galley. Their professionalism was quite apparent.
Part of the reason for this is that everyone working in the galley is over 21 years of age. They’ve also had extensive training BEFORE boarding the ship.. and then of course continuous training as they master their positions. Their skills, combined with the organization and leadership team, allow them to consistently prepare 15-17 tons of food a day!
After an extensive tasting experience in the galley, our “Chef’s Table” group was taken into the dining room to a waiting table. We slipped out of our Laboratory coats, as many other diners wondered, “Who are those people?”
- Broiled Spring Lamb Chop flavored with Balsamic Reduction
- Ahi Red Tuna Tartar with Wasabi and Daikon Sprouts
- Cold Water Maine Lobster Margarita with Avocado
- Black Tiger Shrimp Panko Bread Coated
- Roasted New Potatoes with Sour Cream and Caviar
- Gnocchi Grattinati alla Parigina with Black Truffle
- Florida Citrus Sorbet with Mango Slow
- Roast Veal Shank
- Black Angus Beef Tenderloin
- Vegetables of the Day (five different vegetables)
- Mushroom Roast Potatoes
- Baked Brie De Meaux with Pine Nuts, Port Wine Reduction
- Walnut Bread and Brioche
- Chocolate Dome Mousse with Soft Strawberry Center
- Florentine Tulie Apple Caviar
- Coffe, Tea, and Hommade Patisserie Biscotti & Amaretti
Before each dish was brought out, Chef Cereda or one of his team, would come to the table and tell us about the next course. They would describe what we would be eating and answer any questions. And of course, there would be another selected white, red, or sparkling wine…
It’s hard to pick a favorite course… As a chocolate lover, I wanted another Chocolate Dome Mousse with Soft Strawberry Center (although I doubt I could have eaten another bite). Everything was … perfect!
Chef Cereda posed for pictures with the group, and then individually. He was quite gregarious and we compared our experiences living in Italy. At the end of the meal each party received a coffee-table size book of recipes developed by Princess Cruises…. and signed by the Chef. The ladies at our table all received a single rose. The Chef’s Table was the highlight of our cruise experience.
The Chef’s Table is by reservation only and as you can imagine, space is quite limited. I would recommend contacting the Maitre d’ or call the Dinner Reservations Line as soon as you board your ship. This dining experience cannot be booked in advance – believe me, I tried! We were quite fortunate to get an opportunity to enjoy the Chef’s Table. There is an additional charge and it ranges from $85-95 depending on your selections and the ship.
Photos by Ron Phillips Travel and Dawn Easley
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