Imagine you found yourself on a cruise in the middle of the great blue Atlantic with several leisurely days at sea stretching out before you. How would you spend your days? Would you brush up on your bridge and trivia skills? Would you curl up with that book you’ve been wanting to read? Or would you don a chef hat and apron, and learn how to cook like a pro?
During Riviera’s recent transatlantic crossing to Europe, about a dozen of our guests opted for a true culinary immersion – taking part in our first-ever Culinary Boot Camp at Sea program.
Our Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Enrichment, Kathryn Kelly, crafted this new intensive program based on her experience teaching boot camps at the Culinary Institute of America, which were always one of her favorite courses. The goals of the new Culinary Boot Camp at Sea center on in-depth and personalized instruction in fundamental culinary areas such as knife skills, protein cookery, vegetable cookery, baking basics and mise en place (kitchen organization and food preparation).
“I also wanted guests to have some fun, so we created a market basket exercise at the end of the boot camp where guests make a dish judged by the Executive Chef and General Manager,” Chef Kelly added.
During the course of four cooking class sessions spread throughout two days, Chef Noelle Barille & Chef Kellie Evans provided hands-on classes on essentials within the fundamental areas of cooking. They also drilled down on the techniques for a number of cooking methods such as sautéing, grilling, roasting, shallow poaching and deep poaching.
One of the participating guests, Barbara Fox, appreciated how effectively the boot camp tied techniques and methods together for her. “It is like an exam – the light bulb kept going off. It brought everything together from the other classes,” she said.
The culinary immersion culminated with a Pro Chef practical exam on the second day, evaluated by Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti and General Manager Damien Lacroix. The afternoon of the second day was dedicated to the preparation, execution and evaluation which focused on two dishes. One dish was required to include a protein that the guests had selected out of a hat – to make things even more exciting!
Chef Quaretti shared that they sampled a variety of dishes prepared by the guests such as fresh spring rolls, chicken with grilled vegetables, poached salmon with rice, grilled prawns and many others.
“Damien and I judged the different flavors of the dishes, the presentation and the originality,” Chef Quaretti said. “Some guests receive the highest score – three stars for a master chef – we were quite impressed with some of the recipes!”
Damien remarked on what a wonderful experience it was to see what guests were able to do with their market basket of ingredients after two days of intensive cooking classes – which isn’t to say he was easy judge.
“My first comment to the guests was: ‘Do not think that because you are my guests, I will be any more tolerant or any less critical of your work,’…with a big smile on my face, of course!” he said, laughing.
Though the program was rigorous – a true cooking immersion program – the days certainly were filled with laughter and fun. One guest, Hank Semmelhack, remarked that he knew they would continue enjoying all that they had learned beyond the cruise. “My wife and I love it!! We will take the lessons and skills home to have more fun and amaze our family and friends,” he said.
This fall, Riviera’s Atlantic Horizons, along with Marina’s Passage of the Explorers and Southern Seas voyages will all be featuring our new and exciting Culinary Boot Camp at Sea program. Chef Kelly and The Culinary Center faculty invite you to join them during one of these upcoming transoceanic voyages for an unforgettable culinary experience!