What a pleasure it was to host my former boss and mentor, Chef Thomas Tolxdorf, on the Caribbean Pearls cruise earlier this month. As executive chef for the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island (Florida), Chef Tolxdorf leads a team of uber-talented chefs who have put this property on the map as one of the culinary standouts in Ritz Carlton’s portfolio. His restaurant, Salt, overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and serves dishes that rival the haute cuisine of upscale restaurants in Napa and New York City. Amelia Island happens to be my hometown, and before I attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), I worked for Chef Tolxdorf. The preparation and discipline I received there equipped me well for the intensive 21 months of training at the CIA.
Chef conducted two master-level classes in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center during the 12-day cruise. He brought along all kinds of specialty equipment for sous vide cooking as well as a 30-pound pink Himalayan salt block. What fun it is to have guest chefs onboard to share their talents and new cooking techniques!
The classes were a festival of fresh avocados, savory heirloom tomatoes, poached lobster and luscious stuffed chicken breasts. We made a citrus salad of crisp fennel and pomelo segments that I am actually recreating for dinner tonight…yum.
One of the highlights of the class was making crepes, which we do regularly in our French and Fabulous classes in the culinary center. I get such a kick out of our guests as they make, to quote Jacques Pépin, “the first one for the dog.”
As they make more and more crepes, they get more and more skilled and then have to figure out just what to do with the mountain of crepes they have produced! Our star crepe-master was Natalie, Chef Tolxdorf’s enchanting wife.
I am always proud of – and thankful for – my staff in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center, but never more so than when we have guest chefs.
Sehto and Veneesh, both pictured above and whom many guests have met, were the model sous chefs helping not only Chef Tolxdorf but also the many students who attended his classes.
Thanks to all of the guests from Amelia Island who made the classes Chef taught so enjoyable for us. We hope you had a great time and hope to see you all again soon onboard Marina or one of Oceania Cruises’ other ships.
Executive Chef, Bon Appétit Culinary Center