Disney isn’t the only one making significant culinary upgrades to its cruise ships. (See travel writer Jenny Miller’s report on what it’s like to dine in a fancy cartoon rat-themed restaurant on the high seas.)
The Los Angeles Times reports that SoCal chefs Curtis Stone (Maude) and Ernesto Uchimera (Plan Check) have both recently opened new restaurants aboard Princess Cruises. “How could I do a restaurant on a ship? It doesn’t make sense at all,” says Stone, the Australian celebrity chef and TV star, in an interview with the paper. “But hearing more about their ability to change things around, it started to become more interesting.”
Stone’s new maritime restaurant, located aboard two Princess ships with another in the works, is called Share, and the chef even suggests that local ingredients will help steer the menu: “For the menu, we say where is the ship sailing from. What ingredients does that purveyor have? We reach out, we get samples and start there.”
Meanwhile, Uchimera, inventor of “ketchup leather” and inaugural chef of the original Umami Burger, has launched a more casual restaurant, called the Salty Dog Gastropub, aboard the Ruby Princess and other select ships. The menu includes the chef’s eponymous “Ernesto Burger,” made with “a freshly ground patty of rib-eye and short rib topped with grilled pork belly, Gruyère, caramelized kimchi, a beer-battered jalapeño, charred onion aioli and smoked salt and pepper on a brioche bun.”
A bevy of other cruise lines have enlisted big-name culinary talent in recent years: New York chef Geoffrey Zakarian has opened restaurants for Norwegian, Miami’s Michael Schwartz has developed menus for Royal Caribbean, and even Food Network’s Guy Fieri has gotten in the game, stamping his imprint on several poolside burger joints aboard Carnival Cruises.
Hard to say whether such splashy recruitment of high-profile cooks will be enough to lure back wary travelers after all the disaster and dysfunction surrounding luxury cruises lately. But it’s a start.