It is hard to believe a year has passed since Marina sailed her maiden voyage and we opened the first ever purpose-built, hands-on culinary center at sea. As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Bon Appétit Culinary Center, I naturally reflect on my many fond memories of the opening, the classes, the guest chefs, the staff and the students. It has been a whirlwind of excitement and fun, made so special by all the wonderful people I met along the way. We are so thankful to our friends at Bon Appétit for making this all possible and to the entire team onboard Marina who worked diligently all year to ensure our success.
Just setting up the first culinary studio at sea was a challenge. There were no examples to follow, no blueprints from previous shipboard culinary centers to consult. This was truly a first, and we all had to trust our instincts as we explored this new territory. We opened, sorted and organized seemingly endless boxes of pots, sauté pans, knives, ramekins, blenders, cutting boards and all the other tools of the trade. Despite the work involved, arranging a new kitchen can be great fun.
Of course, as with any new space, there were obstacles. I never knew how troublesome a power cord could be until I helped with this opening. You’d be amazed at the number of factors you must consider when purchasing appliances for a new culinary center on a cruise ship, not the least of which is the length, voltage and shape of the power cord. You can probably imagine some of the frustrating — and comical — moments we experienced as the center came together, but we always managed to adjust to whatever new kink we found in our plans.
The opening of the Bon Appétit Culinary Center was just the first of many new endeavors we would undertake over the course of the year. Once the center was stocked, it was time to start teaching classes. We introduced 12 new classes every four months, and I can assure you that was a challenge in itself.
As I think back on the past year, some of my fondest memories are of the guest chefs we brought in to teach some of the classes. Each of them brought new personality, new insights and new perspectives to the culinary center, and it was such a treat to have them onboard.
Of course, my favorite part of the Bon Appétit Culinary Center — and the entire reason for its existence — is our guests. What a joy it has been to meet so many wonderful people who share a passion for great food, for learning the secrets of its preparation and for experiencing local cuisines the world over. I am thankful for the privilege of meeting so many interesting, vibrant people and hearing their stories.
It is such a thrill every time I receive an email from a guest sharing their successes at home with the Oceania Cruises recipes. And it’s especially rewarding to see all the guests that return for more classes and tell me how much fun they have each time. I had to chuckle when one guest pulled me aside to share an unexpected benefit of our classes. She said, “Now I know not to waste the flavor of my expensive extra virgin olive oil by using it to sauté. You’ve saved me hundreds of dollars!”
I always tell people I have the best gig in the world. I get to see the world and eat great food and meet wonderful people, not to mention teaching what I love. Thank you so much to everyone for all of the great memories from our first year in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center, and I look forward to making many more in the year ahead!
Executive Chef, Bon Appétit Culinary Center