Capitalizing On The Likeness Of Today’s Top Chefs
Celebrity chefs. We all know them. Their faces are plastered all over TV screens, their brands have hit grocery store shelves, their book deals flood bookstores nationwide and their namesake restaurants are found in cities across the country. These prominent culinary masters are hard to miss thanks to their huge consumer following and well-cultivated brands. What’s next for them? Making a splash onboard cruise ships around the world by transforming cruise cuisine is one growing option.
It’s no secret that cruise lines have a unique advantage over hotels, resorts and the like by offering a luxurious vacation to multiple destinations at an affordable price tag. And with cuisine continuously evolving onboard, their level of glitz and glamour is on the upswing. Cruise ship dining isn’t what it used to be – the standard buffet known for quantity over quality has been replaced by gourmet at-sea fare. When wondering how cruise lines have pulled off this new face of shipboard dining, we turn to celebrity chefs.
A Glimpse at the Current Fleet of Celebrity Chefs
Whether they are opening restaurants, consulting on menus or making guest appearances, celebrity chefs are creating an experience to behold onboard cruise ships around the world. Take a look at what some cruise lines are already doing:
Carnival Cruise Lines: Food Network personality Guy Fieri has expanded his restaurants from land to sea with six ships in Carnival’s fleet. Guy’s Burger Joint features delicious burgers and hand-cut fries, offering a tasty temptation for guests and bringing them one burger closer to the well-known celebrity.
Celebrity Cruises: Taking the celebrity chef trend one step further is Celebrity Cruises, which sent “Top Chef: The Cruise” on its maiden voyage in April. Chefs from past seasons were onboard, participating in the show’s infamous Quickfire challenges, cooking demonstrations, private cooking lessons and more.
Crystal Cruises: Master chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa expands his restaurant empire by headlining luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises. Matsuhisa is more commonly known as Nobu, and lends his moniker to the trendy restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles, Milan and more. His seaside restaurants are available on two ships and feature Nobu’s popular, high-end Japanese cuisine.
Cunard Line: Cunard was way ahead of the celebrity chef trend, as it partnered with Food Network star and restaurateur Todd English almost ten years ago. The Todd English Restaurant aboard the Queen Mary 2 has been open since 2004 and offers trademark dishes that are elegant and dazzling.
Holland America Line: Holland America has a different approach to celebrity chefs through their Culinary Arts Center program which offers sampling and hands-on cooking classes, as well as demonstrations taught by guest chefs. Notable on its schedule this summer is Food Network star and well-known chef Cat Cora. Cora shared her culinary skills and expertise on board a 12-day Mediterranean cruise.
Norwegian Cruise Line: Just recently, Norwegian unveiled three new restaurants created by Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian. The restaurants will open on the Norwegian Breakaway and include an elegant restaurant, a raw bar and a more casual dining option, all which cater to varying types of cruisegoers. All three venues showcase Zakarian’s eye for details, including a customized playlist created by renowned DJs and Zakarian himself, creating a unique experience for guests. Also opening on board the Breakaway is Carlo’s Bake Shop, an extension of the family business seen on TLC’s “Cake Boss.”
Why Celebrity Chefs?
The value-add for guests is being able to experience celebrity chef cuisine that they might be unable to experience at home – for example, guests from small towns most likely won’t have the opportunity to experience a celebrity chef’s meal in their hometown.
Why Set Sail with Celebrity Chefs? Cruise lines have always been good at catering to every type of traveler, so appealing to foodies, restaurateurs and aspiring chefs is a natural progression. The advantage to onboard guests is they are able to sample the cuisine of celebrity chefs at an affordable price. Not to mention that getting a table at a celebrity chef’s on-land restaurant is usually out of the question. On board, it only requires a simple reservation and a potential surcharge.
Credibility is also awarded to cruise line dining programs because acclaimed chefs are publicly giving their stamp of approval. “I think the tactic is successful, as many people are attracted by celebrity chefs and their involvement creates excitement around the dining experience,” says Oivind Mathisen, editor of Cruise Industry News. Celebrity chefs are simultaneously turning the reputation of cruise cuisine around and creating a buzz in the industry.
Having Reservations about the Celebrity Trend?
Bringing a celebrity chef shipboard seems like a nobrainer, but all great ideas have potential drawbacks. For starters, celebrities will often expect to be treated as such. We can’t assume that all celebrity chefs will have demands, but there is potential for a “diva” among the group which could cause trouble with cruise staff. Additionally, the cost of hiring a celebrity chef doesn’t come cheap. Mathisen shares “having a celebrity chef in addition to the corporate chef will add to a cruise line’s food and beverage costs.” To appease these costs, many cruise lines are developing new dining packages, giving guests the option to upgrade from the traditional buffet to swanky eateries. In most cases, the dining packages are relatively inexpensive for the experience you are getting. As an example, Kimberly Towery, key accounts specialist, PreGel AMERICA, recently sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and decided to purchase the fine dining package. For $230, which included 20 percent gratuity, she and her husband enjoyed three meals each at the finest restaurants on the ship, including celebrity chef Michael Schwartz’s 150 Central Park. When you break it down, Towery and her husband enjoyed three upscale dining experiences for $38 per person per meal – an experience that would typically cost around $100 per person per meal at a local ritzy eatery on land. When looking at it from that angle, it is a reasonable price to pay.
Bringing up another valid point, Mathisen also notes that “there is also the risk that a celebrity chef today may be a has-been tomorrow.” There are certainly no guarantees when it comes to how long a celebrity chef will actually stay a celebrity and/or when bad public relations can befall a celebrity chef, so be wary when signing contracts. Be sure to add various clauses to protect the cruise line and continuously track their success to determine if resigning their contract is a smart decision.
There are many directions this trend can take and we are at the cusp of celebrity chefs making a splash on cruise ships. While there are some disadvantages, there are also many pros to the concept, including the countless roles celebrity chefs can take on, including menu consulting and their namesake restaurants. Mathisen believes cruise lines will continue to offer more dining alternatives and more options to purchase dining packages, as it ensures that cruise ships are hitting every type of traveler from frugal to lavish guests.