Cruise ship dining guide - - Celebrity Century - - Celebrity Cruises - - Executive Chef Claudio De Carlo
An inside guide with
Executive Chef Claudio De Carlo.
Richard H. Wagner
Executive Chef Claudio De Carlo confesses "I have a
passion for food." Indeed, recognizing that same
passion in Celebrity Cruises' approach to the culinary
aspects of its business, Chef De Carlo's goal for
Celebrity Century and for Celebrity in general is "to be
the number one with culinary."
The Celebrity Approach
Celebrity Century provides a Celebrity cruise
experience. Dining is an important part of this
experience and so the dining on Century must be
consistent with the dining on other Celebrity ships.
"We run all our ships with the same menus. The
menus are decided by the culinary team ashore. They
send [the ships] the recipes and the pictures [of the
dishes] and we all follow the same pictures and recipes.
It gets the standard and the quality on all the ships the
The chefs onboard the ships do, however, have input
into the menus. "We work very closely with shoreside,
our Master Chef Jacques Van Staten. He comes on the
ships and we work with him. [In addition,] the
executive chefs meet once a year for a culinary
conference and we [discuss] menu trends and what
items to change. But, the last word [belongs to] the
gentleman who has his name on the menu. That is Mr.
Jacques Van Staten. We executive chefs are here to
bring his ideas to the plate."
The next step in ensuring that the dining on Century
will meet Celebrity's standards is obtaining good
ingredients. "We have certified suppliers. We do not
take anything onboard during the cruise. We get
everything in [the ship's homeport]."
The ship, however, does not just accept whatever the
suppliers send it. "We do quality checks on the pier. If
something is not up to our standards - - the tomatoes
are too ripe or the fruits are not ripe enough - - we send
it back and try and get them the same day. It is difficult
but it is possible."
Once the ship has the ingredients, the next step for
Chef De Carlo's 120 chef team in ensuring that the food
on Century meets Celebrity's standards is to prepare the
food themselves. "We make everything onboard. We
do all our ice creams onboard. We do all our pastries
onboard. We don't open up boxes and take the cake
out. We don't open up boxes to make soup mixes. We
cook from scratch. We cook all our sauces ourselves.
We cook the sauces from the beginning. The same with
the bakery - - the bakery runs 24 hours. I have 10
bakers and they do all the bread onboard."
Of course, making the food onboard will not be a
guarantee of quality unless the people who are making
it know what they are doing. "We have a program for
developing all of our chefs. We work together with the
CIA in New York - - the Culinary Institute of America
in Poughkeepsie. We send people there and we have as
well culinary trainers from the CIA on the ships that
train our people. [Crew members] can work their way
up the ranks. At Celebrity you really can start as a
dishwasher and end up as executive chef."
The ship's top chefs act as the final quality control.
"Before anything goes out to passengers either one of
my assistants or I will taste each item and compare it
with the recipes and the pictures to make sure we have
the consistency. Nothing goes out before it is checked."
The Dining Venues
Century's main dining room is the Grand Restaurant,
which occupies portions of two decks at the stern of the
ship. For breakfast and lunch, the restaurant is
operated on an open seating basis. For dinner, most
guests opt for the traditional two-seating system.
However, there is also a flexible dining option in which
the guest can decide when to come to the restaurant for
dinner. The menu is the same regardless of whether the
guest is on the traditional system or the flexible dining
"We have a menu cycle, we never repeat ourselves.
[For each dinner], we offer 10 main courses, three
different soups, five appetizers, two hot appetizers and
"Everything is cooked fresh for the dining room. We
don't pre-cook. We cook the steaks to order. We cook
the fish to order. OK with prime rib, we know from
historical figures how many we have to pre-cook. All
other items we try and cook ala minute. That is why we
have the amount of cooks onboard. Compared to some
other cruise lines in the same size ship, I have 30 chefs
more. That is the quality."
"We have a lot of special orders - - ethnic food,
kosher food, diabetic, gluten-free. We have a special
order station in the kitchen where four guys especially
trained in dietary foods work. When you have a
requests, either [you can] pre-book it with your travel
agent or when you come onboard, speak right away
with the assistant maitre 'ds. We can provide almost
As an alternative to the main dining room, Century
has a specialty restaurant. "The Murano is a French-
influenced fine dining venue. Silver service. There is a
lot of tableside cooking. It is very exquisite from
soufflés to tableside Dover soles, filet mignon with
lobsters. It is an experience."
"It has a totally independent kitchen from the main
dining room. I have ten chefs working there under my
supervision. They produce everything fresh from
scratch. Starting in the morning they cook all the
sauces, all the soups - -, everything, they make it fresh."
"You pay a $35 cover charge but if you go in a
restaurant somewhere ashore, you will pay for that
menu $150 I would say.”
For an additional charge "we have the Five Senses
menu. The Five Senses is a six course menu with wine.
It is a high experience."
Century also has several casual dining venues. The
largest of these is the Islands Café, the ship's buffet or
lido restaurant. "We always have the Asian station.
We have the pasta station running almost 12 hours, a
salad bar. At dinner time, we have the curry station
and a grill station. We have sushi in the evening. We
have the international buffet at lunch time. There is a
lot of choice."
While buffet restaurants offer a lot of choices, the
trade-off is often a loss of flavor as the food is often
sitting in trays under warming lights for long periods.
On Century, the buffet is operated so as to maximize
flavor. "We have a separate kitchen that is just
producing up there for the lido restaurant. Fresh
cooking - - that is the whole secret. I have seven cooks
in the kitchen there that are just producing fresh and
fresh and fresh. When the paella runs out they start
cooking paella fresh again. It's a big operation but I
think that is why Celebrity is well known for its
Just forward of the Island Café is the Poolside Grill
providing light fare al fresco. "We have tacos, we have
chicken breasts, we have kebobs, and we have chicken
wings. Every day, [there is] a special. So it is not just
burgers and hot dogs."
Further forward on the same deck is the Aquaspa
Café, just by the entrance to the ship's spa and fitness
area. "The spa café is light and healthy food. You will
find nothing there that is cooked with butter. We do
not use any MSG or any preservatives at all. We cook
just with olive oil, with non-saturated fats and stuff like
that. [There are no] high calorie items. It is a nice
change. You can go to the Poolside Grill and have a
burger or go to the Aquaspa and have a healthy dish
there. It is your choice. It is very popular and the
people like it."
Guests can also have a light meal at the ship's
specialty coffee bar, the Cova Café on Promenade
Deck. "In the morning, we serve Danish and savory
Danish as well. We have pastries over lunch. We have
sandwiches. From five o'clock until late, we serve
different types of tappas. You can enjoy your morning
coffee; in the afternoon, your tea time; and in the
evening, your wine in the Cova Café. It's a nice
ambiance. We have nice music going on there in the
"Variety of food - - nobody can really complain at
Celebrity. [One cruise] is not enough to experience all
of the food onboard."