Cruise ship interview - - Celebrity Eclipse - - Celebrity Cruises - - Jacques Van Staden -Qsine
Jacques Van Staden,
Celebrity Cruises V.P. Food
and Beverage Operations
talks about Qsine,
the new dining venue on
Richard H. Wagner
Qsine is a revolutionary restaurant. Not a revolutionary
restaurant for a cruise ship but a restaurant that is
different than any found on land or sea. It is a fine
dining experience but casual at the same time - - family-
style sharing of food is encouraged. The menu takes
familiar foods - - modern classics and comfort foods -
and gives them unexpected twists that make them unique
to Qsine. Similarly unexpected is the presentation, e.g.
Chinese food in Martini glasses, and both the food and
wine menus are on Apple iPads. All of this is within a
playfully decorated room which underscores that this
restaurant is out of the ordinary.
The creative force behind Qsine is Celebrity Cruises'
Vice President of Food and Beverage Operations
Jacques Vam Staden. Not your typical corporate
executive, Van Staden is in fact an accomplished and
While other teens were out playing rugby, Van Staden
had such a passion for cooking that he spent his time
learning the basics of his craft at a French restaurant in
his native South Africa. After graduating high school, he
sold his car in order to get enough money for the airfare
to the United States where becoming a chef was a more
In 1990, Van Staden arrived in the Washington, D.C.
area and secured a job cooking at the South African
embassy while attending L'Academie de Cuisine. He
then proceeded through a series of positions of
increasing importance at Washington restaurants,
cooking for some of the most powerful people in the
world. This included working under the late chef Jean-
Louis Palladin at Jean-Louis, adjacent to the White
Moving out on the world stage beyond Washington, Van
Staden served as chef de cuisine at Alizé, rated one of
the top five restaurants in Las Vegas and as executive
chef at Vegas' Aladdin Hotel's high-end London Club.
Retuning to the Washington area, he became executive
chef at the California-French restaurant Citronelle in
Georgetown. He also operated his own casual,
Mediterranean restaurant, "Café Olé", specializing in
tapas, before serving as executive chef for Washington's
renowned Watergate Hotel,
In 2007, Van Staden came to Celebrity Cruises and
played a major role in developing the ten quite distinct
dining venues on the critically-acclaimed Celebrity
Solstice. Today, in addition to overseeing the dining
operations on the existing Celebrity ships, Van Staden
continues to develop ideas for new dining experiences.
The latest of these is Qsine, which debuted on Celebrity
Eclipse in late April 2010.
"When we introduced our Solstice-class ships in 2008,
we took culinary style, taste and creativity to a new level
within the cruise industry. When we were shaping
Celebrity Eclipse, the third Solstice-class ship, we
wanted to continue to disrupt perceptions about dining at
sea. We decided to create something 'uniquely
unordinary,' - that's Qsine's tagline - so we designed
Qsine to offer a globally-influenced blend of nostalgic
and contemporary favorites, artfully presented with
elements of surprise."
In developing his concept, Van Staden thought not just
about the menu items but also the presentation and the
décor of the venue. "There are some restaurants that
have an incredibly strong visual presence, but the food
lacks imagination. Then there are places with zero visual
appeal, but out-of-this-world food. Personally, I believe
that eating is such a commonly shared bond, that a good
dining experience has the power to transport people in a
memorable, stimulating way. In order for its patrons to
maximize their dining experience, a restaurant should
incorporate thoughtful design and congruity between the
interior design and lighting, the cuisine, the presentation,
the service - everything."
"Qsine is designed to surprise our guests with uniquely
unordinary dishes, innovative presentations and engaging
experiences. It's designed to allow them to share with
each other, sample several different selections, and
simply experience both new and favorite foods in an
entirely fun and unexpected way."
Qsine's out-of-the-ordinary experience begins with
selecting the meal. "Guests are given the opportunity to
browse Qsine's wine menu and dinner menu by using an
Apple iPad - this is a great connection to the Celebrity
iLounge that debuted on Celebrity Eclipse. Then, the
servers verbally take the guests' orders. The dessert
menu is on a cube comprised of multiple interlocking
squares - a whimsical, fun 'toy,' if you will."
Nor is what is on the iPads a standard menu. "The menu
items are largely inspired by both the expected and the
unexpected. Take Kobe beef sliders, for example.
Everyone's heard of Kobe beef, many people have eaten
Kobe beef burgers. But I wanted to make it unique and
fun, so I created the ‘Slider Party,’ where guests receive
mini grilled Kobe beef patties with aged Wisconsin
cheddar, brioche buns, ‘Qsine's original slider sauce’ and
garnishes - and they build them to their liking. ‘Sushi
Lollipops’ came naturally - a sushi roll is such a neat,
cute item, I thought, why not go vertical, and voila.
‘Sushi Lollipops’ are Nigiri sushi a with soy center,
wasabi mayonnaise and pickled ginger-radish salad."
(See a copy of the Qsine menu)
Once selected, the menu items appear before the guests
in unconventional ways. "I'm a very visual person, and I
tend to think in terms of the senses. As I began to shape
the concept for Qsine, I let my imagination wander, and I
literally put pencil to paper as thoughts began to take
shape. As I began to actually visualize the items, it
became clear that presentation would be as important as
the cuisine, and that's how I started to design the custom-
built serving pieces."
"As the concept for Qsine came together - a venue
where guests could enjoy 'uniquely unordinary'
experience in every way - it seemed only fitting that the
presentation of the dishes be as compelling as the cuisine
itself. 'M's Favorites' is a collection of Middle Eastern
tastes presented in a custom-designed 'wall,' or shadow
box. 'Chitinis' are Chinese-inspired selections served in
martini glasses. "Lava Crab" is Alaskan King crab, sweet
yellow corn and scallions with Hataifi and Old Bay
sauce, served in glasses over heated red stones."
Qsine occupies the area which on the first two ships of
Celebrity's Solstice class is occupied by Silk Harvest, an
Asian restaurant. Silk Harvest is a popular venue.
However, quite a few cruise ships have pan-Asian
restaurants. Thus, Celebrity's decision to replace it with
a novel new concept underscores that the line is not
content to rest on its laurels as well as its commitment to
expanding the bounds of the culinary experience at sea.
:" As we were planning Celebrity Eclipse, our president
and CEO, Dan Hanrahan, challenged us to go beyond
the world-class dining experiences that we had already
introduced on the Solstice-class ships, and create a
concept that didn't currently exist elsewhere. As you can
imagine, it's not every day that a CEO asks a team to
provide its wildest ideas, so we took advantage of the
freedom to 'go big or go home,' as they say. So, we let
our imaginations run wild...and the rest is history."
Qsine combines a whimsical variety of chairs and
long tables that faciltate sharing of food as well as
There are also tables for couples and small
The dinner and wine menus are
displayed on an Apple iPad while
the dessert menu comes on a cube.
The menu items are unusual combinations and are
presented in non-traditional ways.