6a0120a92e343a970b017ee83922f1970d-300wiAny fan of Oceania Cruises knows that
esteemed master chef Jacques Pépin is our executive culinary director and the
inspiration behind our extraordinary cuisine. But even Chef Pépin knows that it
takes more than one person to create a culinary program for a cruise line that
can successfully rival the cuisine of even the best restaurants ashore. As
Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I recently had the privilege of interviewing
one of the other culinary team members responsible for creating the finest
cuisine at sea
.

Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger
might modestly resist the label of “creative genius.” But after tasting the
exquisite dishes he has conceived for Oceania Cruises’ ships, I can’t think of
a more appropriate moniker.

While many cruise lines employ a single
corporate chef, Oceania Cruises has an entire team of culinary directors and
executive chefs committed to realizing its culinary vision. Thus Garanger is
free to focus his creative genius – there, I said it – on designing recipes
that uphold Oceania Cruises’ reputation for the finest cuisine at sea.

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An example of the finest cuisine at sea: Tamarind-Braised Black Cod with Sweet Ginger Sauce and Vegetable Ragout

While Garanger was born in the Normandy
region of France, his family moved to Angers in the Loire Valley when he was
two years old. His father owned a bakery, and after being exposed to the
culinary world at a very young age, Garanger began working with his father and
learning the pastry trade at age 16. One year later he began studies in
hospitality and hotel management. French universities are very specialized, and
the training involved one week of classes alternating with two weeks of
hands-on restaurant experience, at which time Garanger worked with a French
master chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Angers.

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Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger

After passing his first exams, Garanger
worked at one of the world’s most famous hotels, the Hotel de Paris in Monaco,
followed by the equally renowned Hotel de Cap Eden Roc, a palace on the French
Riviera in Antibes. He then returned to school for two years to complete his
degrees and after exams, at the age of 24, began officially working as a chef.

His first position on a cruise ship was
with Silversea Cruises in 1995. When he was asked to join Oceania Cruises in
2003, he did not hesitate to accept. “I liked the vision they had for the line,”
Garanger says. “And I really liked the passion of all the people involved. They
were so into food that, in everything we were creating, they were not only
behind me but also tasting the food with me. When you have the CEO and the
president coming onboard just to taste the food to see if we can put it on the
menu, it applies a little pressure, but it is also very rewarding because you
can really see how important the food is to the company.”

Much like the passionate commitment of
the executives, many aspects of Garanger’s tenure with Oceania Cruises have
been both challenging and rewarding. “Regatta
was a challenge because we had to start from scratch, and we were working with
a ship we didn’t build, so we had to make adjustments. We built Marina ourselves, but it was also
challenging because we opened eight different restaurants – each a completely
different concept – and had 160 cooks onboard to manage. In both cases, there were
very high expectations, and we had to deliver in a short period of time. Both
debuts were a huge success, and so of course, we’re very happy.”

So what is the secret to continuing to
deliver the finest cuisine at sea? For one thing, most members of the culinary
team, such as Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin, Senior Vice President
of Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro, Culinary Director Eric Barale and
Assistant Culinary Director Pascal Lesueur, have been with Oceania Cruises
since its very beginnings. And the line’s commitment to cuisine has ensured
that the team is provided every tool they need to succeed.

“I’ve always been asked what I needed,
and whatever I asked for, I got,” Garanger says. “Of course, then you have to
make sure you deliver, and so far, I’ve succeeded. That’s why I’m still here!”

Each restaurant onboard provides its own
unique challenges. Jacques is perhaps the most challenging because of the
technical precision required to execute true, authentic French recipes using
traditional, time-honored methods on a daily basis. Toscana is also technically
challenging because of the à la minute preparation of all the fresh pasta and
risotto.

Red Ginger is one of Garanger’s favorite
concepts because it is truly “his baby.” Garanger traveled in Asia for two
years and then spent time in both London and San Francisco researching ideas
before developing the restaurant concept and recipes.

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One of Red Ginger’s signature dishes: Miso-Glazed Sea Bass in Hoba Leaf

While Jacques and Red Ginger are
featured on Oceania Cruises’ newest ships, Marina
and Riviera, guests will be excited
to know that they can soon get a taste of these restaurants onboard Regatta and Nautica as well. These ships will soon feature an entrée from both
Jacques and Red Ginger each night in the Grand Dining Room. The new features
are just one small part of Garanger’s latest large scale project, the rollout
of new menus for the Grand Dining Rooms on the entire fleet.

In my next blog post, I’ll share Garanger’s
insights into the creative process, training and implementation involved in
this extensive menu rollout. Check the blog again soon for more
behind-the-scenes stories.