Bon Appetit Bob
President Bob Binder just completed his first class at Marina’s Bon Appétit Culinary Center, the first culinary studio at sea where participants have individual work stations for hands-on learning. “I’ve been closely involved with Oceania Cruises’ culinary program for years,” he said, “but I still learned so much in this class. And it was great fun too.”

BA-Getting Ready
As Blogger at Large, I recently enjoyed my first experience at the Bon Appétit Culinary Center as well. It features nine fully equipped cooking stations, each of which accommodates two guests. Our class was taught by Chef Kathryn Kelly, who was hand-selected by Bon Appétit magazine. The cuisine we would learn to prepare would have a Mediterranean flair with a strong Greek influence plus a touch of Spain.

Olive Oil Lesson

Chef Kelly began with a lesson on olive oil. “We cook with olive oil,” Chef said, referring to regular refined olive oil. “Ten percent of the olive oil in the world that’s manufactured is extra virgin olive Olive OIl Cans oil…If we cook with extra virgin olive oil, it’s a waste of money. After the smoke point is hit at about 350, the flavors are dispersed in extra virgin olive oil.”

Because of the lower smoke point of extra virgin olive oil, any benefits of its fuller flavors are lost when cooking with it, so it does no more to enhance the food than a regular olive oil. We save our extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on salads or eating with bread.

Chef Kelly also shared that olive oil, like wine, takes on the flavors of its terroir. So Sicilian olive oils will be more saline due to the salty air, while olive oils from northern California may have more bay flavor due to the abundance of bay leaves.

This was only the first of so many interesting things we would learn today, and we hadn’t even started to cook! Before beginning, we ensured our mise en place was prepared, meaning all of our ingredients and cooking tools were laid out and organized. You may think that only television chefs use mise en place for the purposes of filming, but Chef Kelly noted that cooking is always more enjoyable if you have everything properly set up and arranged before you start. No searching for ingredients or measuring spoons while your perfectly timed reduction overcooks. Everything is right at hand.

Our Station

Knife technique is of course of the utmost importance in the kitchen, so Chef Kelly demonstrated the proper way to hold a knife, gripping it at the bolster for best control, similar to the concept of a ship’s ballast – an apt comparison. We could observe everything she was preparing on two large flatscreen monitors.

Chopping Video

For our first dish we would make Gazpacho Andaluz, a recipe from Franck Garanger, who is one of the creative minds behind Oceania Cruises’ culinary program.

Our Gazpacaho  Gazpacho Demo   Stirring Gazpacho

The gazpacho needed to sit for a bit, so we moved on to the tzatziki, a Greek sauce made with yogurt, cucumber, mint and garlic. This would accompany our entrée of lamb and feta burgers. Chef Kelly began by demonstrating how to create the mint chiffonade, stacking the mint leaves, then rolling them, and then slicing them into very thin ribbons.


“Mint is a very popular ingredient in Mediterranean cooking,” said Chef. “We make couscous, we make pasta…and mint will grow wild in your garden.”

We stirred the mint into our tzatziki and also used it as a garnish. The rule of thumb for garnishes is that they should be edible, and they should be an ingredient in the actual dish, so that the garnish is a complement to both the presentation and the flavors.

When our tzatziki was ready, one member of each team began blending the gazpacho, while the other prepared the Greek salad. Kalamata olives, bell peppers, fresh feta, all of the essential ingredients were included, but most importantly, we prepared Jacques Pépin’s own vinaigrette recipe for our dressing. Chef Kelly let us know that a vinaigrette should always be two parts oil and one part vinegar, then demonstrated the proper way to slowly whisk the oil into the vinegar to create an emulsion.

Vinaigrette Demo

Now it was time to fire up the grill. To season our lamb, we mixed in a special blend of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, freshly grated nutmeg and sugar. Chef Kelly noted that 75% of our salt intake is from processed foods in which we don’t even taste the salt. Therefore if we eat only whole foods, most of us can salt them as much as we like without consuming excessive amounts of salt .

We also added fresh feta to the lamb. Chef Kelly recommended that we taste the fresh feta first, and I was so glad she did. I hadn’t tasted fresh feta in a long time, and I’d forgotten how it melts in your mouth and then fills it with flavor.

Lou and Pancake

My partner in crime was the delightful Lou Hammond of Lou Hammond & Associates. She and I finished making our burgers and tossed them on our grill along with the pita bread that would sandwich them. Chef Kelly gave last minute instructions.

Chef Kelly

She mentioned something about ensuring the grill was hot enough, but I thought her tip about sipping wine while cooking was far more important. It’s interesting to see how a good bottle of wine complements the various flavors of your meal, both individually and as they come together. Sipping Wine with Cooking-2 wine throughout the cooking process can be very helpful when determining the perfect wine to pair with your carefully conceived entrée. Chef Kelly shared with us a splendid Chianti from the Badia a Passignano estate, so I took her at her word and tasted it with the lamb alone, then the tzatziki alone, then the lamb and the tzatziki together, then the…

Et voilà! I think we get a C on presentation, but we were so eager to try the finished product, we didn’t spend much time making it pretty. For the record, Chef Kelly did say that we “eat with our eyes,” and presentation is certainly not something you would find neglected anywhere else on Marina. Nevertheless, we made quick work of devouring our results, and everything was absolutely delicious. We feel Chef Kelly was probably more responsible for our success at this point than we were, but we can’t wait to hone our skills on these recipes by practicing at home!

Finished Product
You can try these recipes yourself, as well as many others taken from the talented chefs of Oceania Cruises. Taste the World: The Food and Flavors of Oceania Cruises will soon be available on amazon.com. While it contains many delicious recipes, it is so much more than a cookbook. There are stunning photos, anecdotes from the chefs, a foreword by Jacques Pépin, and more. It’s a beautiful book, and I can’t wait to try every recipe. Thanks to the brilliant instruction of Chef Kelly, my efforts in the kitchen will hopefully come to success!







0 comments on “THE PRESIDENT’S COUNTDOWN: 6 Days to Marina’s Maiden Voyage!”

THE PRESIDENT’S COUNTDOWN: 6 Days to Marina’s Maiden Voyage!


Culinary Center Pepper Mill
The excitement is mounting as we are now only 6 days away from Marina’s Maiden Voyage. I have promised to provide a daily sneak peek to our loyal fans of the blog as we count down the final days preceding Marina’s debut. Today I wanted to share a preview of one of the many industry-firsts onboard Marina – the Bon Appétit Culinary Center. This will be the world’s first hands-on culinary studio at sea and it features 24 professionally designed work stations.

Culinary Center Work Stations
There will be à la carte classes such as Modern Greek, Perfect Paella, and Simple Dinner Party, and there will also be multiple-session packages you can purchase such as The Best of Italy, or French & Fabulous. You can learn to master one specific technique or several classic dishes from a variety of cultures. I fancy myself a decent cook, but I can’t wait to see what secrets and tips of the trade I can learn from the Bon Appétit chefs at the Culinary Center.

And I have one more sneak peek for you today. Most of you are probably aware by now that I’m a big fan of food. And needless to say, I’m an especially big fan of Oceania Cruises’ cuisine. (Thank goodness I’m also a big fan of jogging.) Considering my fondness for fine cuisine and the fact that our Executive Culinary Director is Master Chef Jacques Pépin, it may come as no surprise that Oceania Cruises will be offering our own culinary lifestyle book. Taste the World is filled with chronicles of our cuisine and service, personal anecdotes, and many of your favorite recipes from onboard our ships. We will also be teaching several of these recipes at the Bon Appétit Culinary Center. After a few classes, you will not only be able to enjoy Oceania Cruises’ cuisine onboard, but you can prepare it yourself at home. The book will be available onboard and will also soon be available at Amazon.com.

Taste the World Cookbook
That’s it for today’s preview. I hope you all check back tomorrow as we continue the exciting countdown to Marina’s Maiden Voyage. If you haven’t already, note that in the column to the right under Follow Us, you can select the link to Subscribe to this Blog’s Feed. Then under Actions you can subscribe to have posts delivered right to your email via RSS feed, and you’ll never miss an update.  More photos coming soon!


3 comments on “Shopping the Marche des Capucins with Executive Chef Mickael Tocchetto”

Shopping the Marche des Capucins with Executive Chef Mickael Tocchetto


Bordeaux View
A view of Bordeaux along the waterfront of the Garonne River

Chef Group Gangplank

Oceania Cruises’ President Bob Binder (third from left) and Executive Chef Mickael Tocchetto (third from right) gather with guests ready to explore the Marche des Capucins in Bordeaux.

While Master Chef Jacques Pepin is responsible for the design of Oceania Cruises’ fine cuisine, the execution of his vision is ultimately the result of the combined efforts of a host of talented chefs, sous chefs and culinary directors.  Just as Pepin enjoyed shopping at the Marche des Capucins in Bordeaux a few weeks ago, Executive Chef Mickael Tocchetto explored that same market yesterday, seeking the freshest products to showcase his culinary skills to President Bob Binder.

Marche Sign The entrance to the market. Some of the beautiful produce selection

Chef Tocchetto grew up in Bordeaux, the son of Italian farmers who were naturalized as French citizens. He says that as a child, he wasn’t even allowed in the kitchen.  His Italian mother was quite proud of her kitchen, and food was always an important part of their lives. Chef Tocchetto left Bordeaux after finishing culinary school at the age of 17, but he says Bordeaux still feels like coming home. He has many friends here, several who own local restaurants and a few that he ran into during this trip to the market.

Chef Looks at Potatoes
Bob Tastes Kumato
Chef Tocchetto examines the produce and offers Bob a taste of kumato, a delicious hybrid that tastes like a sweet green tomato.

It would be hard to say which Chef Tocchetto enjoyed more – seeing old friends or shopping at the Marche des Capucins. Chef was like a kid in a candy store as he wandered amongst the stands, selecting the freshest produce, most flavorful cheeses, and finest cuts of meat. The choices were so abundant, Chef decided to create a degustation of several small courses, enabling his guests to sample the best of everything the market has to offer and experience the full range of his culinary talents.


Fish Teeth


From escargot to langoustines, one could find every type of seafood imaginable.  (Note the fruitless escape attempt being made by the snail in the upper left corner.)

Chef Tochetto has lived all over the globe, from London to Melbourne to Nigeria to his current residence in Toronto. But no matter where his home base may be, his love of travel has kept him
working with the cruise lines for the past twelve years. Six years ago a friend of his asked him to help open a restaurant in Melbourne.  Chef Tocchetto agreed, but only lasted six months on land before the urge to sail called him back to the ships. Even when on sabbatical, Chef continues to travel and spent two months in Vietnam during his last vacation.

Buying Skate
Chef chooses skate, which meets with Bob’s enthusiastic approval.

This is Chef Tocchetto’s first contract with Regatta, and after trying a stint on a larger ship, Chef says he much prefers the mid-sized ships and the operations of Oceania Cruises. He also speaks fondly of the amazing crew with whom he works, saying they are passionate people of the highest caliber of commitment, dedication, and talent. With twelve years of cruising experience behind him, Chef Tocchetto is looking forward to his next twelve years onboard.