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A GRAND CELEBRATION AT SEA

When Vice Chairman Bob Binder was on Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary sailing onboard Marina
last month, he shared some photos from the gala anniversary brunch. After seeing the spectacular celebration created by Oceania Cruises’ talented chefs, I was especially looking forward to this event when I embarked the anniversary sailing onboard Riviera. As always, our brilliant chefs did not disappoint.

2 comments on “ANNIVERSARY SAILING CELEBRATES 10 YEARS OF SPECTACULAR DESTINATIONS AND FINE CUISINE”

ANNIVERSARY SAILING CELEBRATES 10 YEARS OF SPECTACULAR DESTINATIONS AND FINE CUISINE

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Greetings from the Italian Escapade sailing onboard Riviera and the ongoing celebration of
Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary. It has been a wonderful cruise so far, and
I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to meet many of our past and first time guests. I
couldn’t be more proud of the officers and crew who continue to make everyone
onboard a part of the Oceania Cruises family.


6a0120a92e343a970b0192abe9139a970d-320wiOceania Cruises
was founded on the vision of
a group of people with a passion for spectacular destinations and fine cuisine,
and we are enjoying both as part of this anniversary sailing. In celebration of
10 years of culinary delights, Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti and Bon
Appétit Culinary Center
Executive Chef Kathryn Kelly hosted a culinary
demonstration. I welcomed guests to the event and shared a bit about the
culinary history of Oceania Cruises before turning it over to the experts to
share some of the secrets behind our exquisite cuisine.

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As we were celebrating 10 years at sea, it
seemed appropriate that the chefs would prepare dishes from the sea. They
demonstrated three guest favorites: Salmon Gravlax with Cucumber Salad, Poached
Halibut with Lemon Cream Cuisson on a Quinoa Cake, and the ever-popular Red
Ginger
specialty – Miso-Glazed Chilean Sea Bass. It was both educational and heartwarming
to see Chef Quaretti and Chef Kelly, two special members of the Oceania Cruises
family, working together to share their knowledge with our guests and
illustrating one of the reasons that our guests have continued to return to us
for the past 10 years: the finest cuisine at sea prepared by some of the most
talented – and entertaining – chefs in the culinary world.

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Soon after the
demonstration, Riviera dropped anchor in Sorrento with the impressive Mount Vesuvius looming in the background. Situated
on a terrace overlooking the splendid Amalfi coastline, Sorrento is imbued with
charm and echoes of the ancient past.

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There are a number of
appealing ways to spend a day in Sorrento, from going to see the ruins of
ancient Pompeii to visiting the Blue Grotto in Capri to simply walking around
the rustic, sun-drenched town of Sorrento. The Blue Grotto was on the bucket
list of many guests, so a group of us boarded a ferry and headed to Capri for
the afternoon.

The grotto is a uniquely
beautiful sea cave on the coast of the island of Capri. A small opening in the
cave at the surface of the water and a larger opening beneath the surface provide
the only light sources. We entered the grotto through the small opening, just
large enough for a rowboat to pass through. Inside the cavern itself was dark,
but the water was illuminated with a brilliant blue glow. The effect was
absolutely dazzling. It’s difficult to fully capture the beauty of the
experience in a photograph, so if you haven’t visited the Blue Grotto, I highly
recommend you add it to your own bucket list.

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After a spectacular day in
Sorrento, we returned to the ship and enjoyed an excellent dinner at Jacques.
Then everyone gathered on the pool deck for a sail away party.

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Cruise Director Leslie Jon was emcee of the event, and General Manager Thierry Tholon led the entire crew in a parade around the decks. This was truly an emotional evening as the officers and crew of Riviera celebrated Oceania Cruises’ 10th anniversary with our cherished guests.
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I look forward to more celebrations with our guests, officers and
crew, and I’ll share further stories here on the blog as our Italian Escapade continues.

1 comment on “THE SECRETS BEHIND THE FINEST CUISINE AT SEA”

THE SECRETS BEHIND THE FINEST CUISINE AT SEA

For the past eight months, Fleet
Corporate Chef Franck Garanger and the rest of the Oceania Cruises culinary
team have been designing and testing new menus for the fleet’s flagship
restaurant, the Grand Dining Room. The menus in the Grand Dining Room change
daily, and in total, Garanger has created 85 new recipes for 14 different
menus.

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One of Garanger’s latest creations: Zucchini-Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp with Parmesan Cheese and Angel Hair Pasta al Limone

“If you just copied other recipes or
used a cookbook, you could do this rollout in two months,” Garanger says. “But
we try to be unique in every single recipe we create, and that is a lengthy
process requiring the dedicated efforts of the entire team.”

6a0120a92e343a970b017d40c9e939970c-200wiSo what is Garanger’s creative process
for conceiving all of these unique recipes? “I start to think about the recipe
and then I start to make notes. Then I prepare it once. If I’m lucky, I only
have to prepare the dish three or four times before it’s finalized. But often I
have to try it eight or ten times before it’s perfect. And sometimes I give
up!” Garanger chuckles. “Sometimes I say, okay, this one is never going to work
– and then maybe it works a few years later. It happens sometimes.”

Garanger’s conception of the recipes is
only the first step in a launch of this scale. Once the recipes are designed, a
great deal of product research must be done to secure all of the new
ingredients. This is one of the challenges facing restaurants operating onboard
a ship versus restaurants ashore.

“Fresh products are purchased in every
port, and the availability changes depending on whether you’re in South America
or Europe or Asia, so the executive chefs have to plan ahead and make
adjustments,” Garanger explains. “Meanwhile, dry goods and frozen items are
delivered via shipping containers, which can take a long time to reach the
ship. If a container is traveling from Miami to Europe, it may take three
weeks. To ensure we have all the necessary ingredients for these new recipes,
we had to begin scheduling these shipments months in advance.”

Onboard restaurants are open seven days
a week, 365 days a year, another aspect of shipboard operations requiring
ingenuity in management. Galleys operate around the clock, and shifts must be
staffed accordingly. Training and oversight must be constant and diligent.

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As an example of the team’s commitment
to the ingredients, design and process of recipes from start to finish,
consider the dinner baguette in the Grand Dining Room. Only the finest (and most
expensive) French flour is used – Viron flour harvested in the Beauce region –
because it has a lower gluten content and thus more flavor. The flour is
shipped direct from France, and each batch of dough goes through a two-stage
proofing process to release the full aromas of the flour. The dough is
refrigerated to proof overnight and then worked, formed into baguettes and
proofed again before baking. And this is just to create the dinner baguette,
one of thousands of items prepared onboard each day.

Here Garanger and Senior Executive
Chef Alexis Quaretti discuss the finer points of the baguette wafer that will
accompany the new Grand Dining Room dish: Cauliflower Panna Cotta with
Artichoke Salpicon, Tomato Coulis and Poblano Chili Aioli
.

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Considering the complex methods required
to make an exceptional baguette, you can imagine how involved the process is
when launching entirely new menus for the Grand Dining Room. The rollout will
take nearly four months to complete across the entire fleet, with each ship
requiring a full cruise for initial implementation and another full cruise for
follow-up training.

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The new dishes are a feast for the
senses. The flavor profiles are rich and diverse, and the presentation is
spectacular.

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Beef Carpaccio with Fried Shallots, Parmesan and Lemon Vinaigrette

 

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Baby Shrimp and Avocado Cocktail with Marie-Louise Sauce

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Warm Duck Pâté in Puff Pastry with Port Wine Sauce

 

The new
menus also include an assortment of Canyon Ranch® Healthy Living
Choices that meet the Canyon Ranch standards for balanced nutrition from a wide
variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and lean
proteins. The calories, fat grams and fiber grams for each Canyon Ranch
selection are included on the menu. If healthy living means eating dishes like
this, then I’m becoming a health nut!

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Canyon Ranch Vegetable Caponata on Roasted Red Pepper Dressing with Crispy Sardinian Bread

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Canyon Ranch Wild Salmon Tartare with Sushi Rice and Avocado

 

Having created so many exquisite dishes,
does Garanger have a personal favorite?

“My signature dish is my mashed
potatoes,” Garanger says. With the new rollout, Franck’s Mashed Potatoes will
always be available as a side in the Grand Dining Room, and you really must try
them. Absolute heaven!

“The pâté en croute on the new menu is
also very close to my heart,” Garanger continues. “This is a recipe from my
childhood for the classic dish that the French enjoy around the family table.” Here Franck prepares his Childhood Paté en Croute: French Family-Style Encrusted Paté with Smoked Ham
and Pheasant
.

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Until
you’ve visited the Grand Dining Room, you can only imagine the amazing
selection of delectable new dishes to be tasted. And the Grand Dining Room is
only one of four gourmet restaurants on Regatta
and Nautica and six restaurants on Marina and Riviera! When you reserve your next voyage with Oceania Cruises, I
suggest you make it a lengthy one, so you have plenty of time to sample all of
the spectacular cuisine!

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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH OCEANIA CRUISES’ FLEET CORPORATE CHEF FRANCK GARANGER

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.

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MEET THE TEAM BEHIND THE FINEST CUISINE AT SEA

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Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin

While most cruise lines employ a single corporate
chef that oversees the creation, organization and implementation of menus,
Oceania Cruises has an entire team at the helm of its culinary program. Of
course, renowned master chef Jacques Pépin has been the
inspiration for the program since he became executive culinary director when
the line was founded 10 years ago. But consistently delivering the finest
cuisine at sea requires a large group of dedicated chefs committed to this
vision.

“No one person can be in charge of all the food
and beverage for a cruise line and do it well,” says Senior Vice President of
Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro. “It’s  creativity, it’s administration,
it’s logistics and human resources; it’s sourcing and tracking and training and
quality control. And then there’s bread and pastry. From a culinary point of
view, that’s like another planet! How could one person do all that?”

As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I’ve
enjoyed the privilege of meeting several members of the culinary team, including
Semeraro, who led the team in one of its most ambitious projects to date: the
launch of entirely new menus for the Grand Dining Room. Semeraro has been a key
player in the creation of Oceania Cruises’ renowned cuisine since the line’s
founding in 2003. In fact, most of the culinary team has been onboard since the
company began with a handful of employees a decade ago, which accounts for the
family atmosphere amongst the entire team and translates to a warm camaraderie amidst
the crew and guests onboard the ships. It truly is a family affair, as several
of the original recipes served in the Italian restaurants have come from Semeraro
and his wife, Packy, and their mothers.

Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger has certainly
found his niche within the team. His sole responsibility is creating innovative
new menus that keep Oceania Cruises at the forefront of culinary excellence.
Meanwhile, Culinary Director Eric Barale handles the logistics of implementing
Garanger’s creations, from purchasing fresh ingredients and acquiring new
equipment to assembling the necessary staff and designing menus. Interestingly,
Barale used to be Garanger’s teacher at culinary school, and when Garanger was
invited to come onboard with Oceania Cruises when the line was founded in 2003,
Barale was the first person he called to join him.

“Eric does all the work I don’t like to do,” Garanger
says, chuckling. “I am the right brain and he is the left, so it makes a great
partnership. When you don’t have to take care of all the logistics and you’re
free to just create the recipes, it’s fantastic. It allows me to keep a clear
head and to simply create. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be enough hours in the
day.”

Of course, the right brain and left brain wouldn’t
function without a lot of neurons flashing in synchronicity. Several other team
members help execute this culinary vision, not to mention the hundreds of chefs
and sous chefs working onboard the ships. Assistant Culinary Director Pascal Lesueur
and Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti were both heavily involved in the new menu rollout in the Grand Dining Room.
Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin oversaw implementation on Riviera,
while Senior Executive Chef Laurent Trias will oversee Marina, and
Executive Chef Renald Macouin will oversee Regatta and Nautica.

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Senior Executive Chef Christophe Belin, Blogger-at-Large Lisa Pancake Fossland and Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger

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Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti

 

If you saw yesterday’s blog, your mouth is
probably still watering over the photos I shared that revealed the fruits of
the team’s labors. There are so many delicious dishes on the new Grand Dining
Room menus that I wanted to share a few more with you today.


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Grilled Vegetable Terrine with Creamy Pesto and Crispy Focaccia Bread

 

 

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Prosciutto-Wrapped Monkfish Fillet with Saffron Mussel Sauce


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Herb-Crusted Cornish Hen alla Diavolo with Bacon and Shoestring Potatoes

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Dorado and Tuna Ceviche with Cilantro and Heirloom Tomatoes

In my next blog post, read
my behind-the-scenes interview with Fleet Corporate Chef Franck Garanger and
learn where he gets his inspiration to create the finest cuisine at sea.