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PRINCESS CRUISES
CARIBBEAN
PRINCESS
Dining at the Chef’s Table on
Caribbean Princess
By

Richard H. Wagner
Executive Chef Antonio Cereda
With all of the behind-the-scenes cooking shows on
television these days and the prominence of celebrity chefs, it
is clear that people are interested both in how food is
prepared and the people responsible for its preparation.  On
Caribbean Princess, Princess Cruises is meeting this interest
with a program called “The Chef’s Table.”  Once or twice
during a cruise a small group of ten passengers is taken for a
tour of the ship’s main galley and then to have a gourmet meal.
This is not the typical walk-through-the galley tour conducted
on many cruise ships but rather a tour under the personal
supervision of the Executive Chef Antonio Cereda and the
Maitre d’ Hotel Angelo Balbiani.  The Chef is a graduate of
the Hospitality College of Stresa, one of the most prestigious
hotel schools in Europe, and his experience includes some 25
years on ships as well as at restaurants ashore.  “But I’m still
learning every day.”

Mr. Balbiani, who is also from Italy, studied at the famous
Cornell University Hotel School and his credentials include
experience not only on the Princess ships but on Cunard’s
Queen Mary 2.

The group assembled in the Lobby Bar where we were met
by Mr. Balbiani.  We were then taken through one of the
dining rooms to the entrance of the main galley.  The ship had
just that day passed a surprise U.S. Health Department
inspection with a perfect score and those involved in the food
department were both proud and anxious to maintain that
standard.  Accordingly, each of the guests washed his or her
hands and donned a white laboratory coat before entering the
galley proper.

At this point we were joined by Chef Cereda, a friendly man
with a twinkle in his eye, dressed in chef’s garb complete
with hat and ribbons.   The Chef is responsible for the
cooking of the food throughout the ship including not only the
main dining rooms but the specialty restaurants, the buffets,
and the lighter fare venues.  The menus for each cruise are
prepared by a team of chefs under the direction of the
Corporate Director of Food and Beverage and Menu Planning
at Princess’ headquarters in California.  However, Chef
Cereda analogized the process to a musical performance
where the conductor interprets and perform the piece.  “The
recipe is like the music, the one who plays adds something of
his own.”

The galley is a vast sea of gleaming stainless steel including
large ovens, cauldrons, refrigerators, tables and racks.  It is
divided into several distinct areas including: an area where
all of the cold dishes and salads are prepared; a fish
preparation area; a meat preparation area; an area where
soups, pastas and vegetables are prepared; a bakery; a pastry
shop; a fruit and cheese pantry; a coffee pantry and a bar
where the waiters fill wine and liquor orders.  There is also a
dishwashing area where 52 men work cleaning the china,
glasses, silver, pots and pans.

Caribbean Princess’ galleys work continuously.  “24 hours,
there are people working.  The bakery, the pastry, the galley
because we have vegetable preparation, we have the Horizon
Court buffet 24 hours, so we have 35 people working during
the night,” the Chef explained.

Unlike what one sees on television, there was no shouting
going on as the food was prepared.  This was the dinner hour
and the galley crew were concentrating on their various
tasks.  However, several looked up from their work to offer a
smile or a wave.

One of the reasons for this professionalism, Chef Cereda
pointed out, is that on Princess ships, the galley crew are all
over 21 years old.   “The people when they come here they
already have finished school and they have some experience
at a hotel or restaurant in their own country.  Also, there is
training on board.   When you join we have 15 days training
before coming onboard; training for cook, training for
assistant cook, training for sous chefs.  One of the corporate
chefs explains life onboard.  Then, when you come onboard,
there is more training.”   

The various preparation areas are located around the
periphery of the room and in the center of the room.  In
between is a path which is used by the waiters. After the
waiters take the guests’ orders, they come into the galley to
the station devoted to a particular dish.  Some dishes, such as
salads, have already been prepared and the waiters take them
from the refrigerated storage racks. In other areas, the waiter
gives the order to a chef who then prepares the dish.  “We try
to cook as much as possible like a restaurant, by order.” Chef
Cereda explained.

“Basically, at the moment the waiter places an order, they
place it on the grill.  This is not for your eyes only but the
way we proceed every day” added Mr. Balbiani, who is in
charge of all of the ship’s restaurants.

So that the waiters will be knowledgeable when taking
orders, there are photographs of the various dishes placed on
a wall.  In addition, examples of some of the dishes are
placed at the stations. “These are prepared for the waiter so
he can see and vocalize what exactly he will deliver,” Mr.
Balbiani noted.

When not explaining how the galley functions, Chef Cereda
gave insights into how to prepare certain dishes such as the
proper temperature of the oil used in preparing a rosemary
sauce or how to make a Parmagon basket.

At the end of the tour, the group was taken to a vacant “hot
spot” table where a waiter was waiting with bottles of
Mumm’s Cordon Rogue (French) champagne.  The Chef then
went off to prepare some special appetizers including caviar
with sour cream on potato; shrimp margarita cocktails; tuna
carpaccio; and foir gras terrine.  As each dish appeared the
Chef or one of his sous chefs would appear to talk about it.
Following the appetizers, Mr. Balbiani led the group out to a
large table in one of the ship’s three main dining rooms.  
There, the group settled down to a multi-course meal paired
with the appropriate wines.  The first course was “Home-
made Fettuccine a la mode du Chef” which included
“mushroom and seafood.  And we made some fresh tomato
Julian - - Roma tomato, a little bit of pepper to add a little bit
of power, and a touch of cream.”

This was followed by a sorbet made with strawberries and
cracked pepper - - a unique blend of refreshing coolness,
fruitiness, and spice.

The main course was “Double Impact Surf and Turf.”  In
addition to the required lobster and filet mignon, the Chef
added scallops and lamb rib chops with a choice of
condiments and sauces - - a delicious and filling combination.
But, there was still more to come: roasted figs with
gorgonzola cheese; soft chocolate fallen cake with chocolate
ice cream; and finally coffee with the Chef’s homemade petit
fours.

As a climax to the evening, the Chef and the Maitre d’ signed
copies of the menu and gave each guest a copy of a coffee-
table size book of recipes developed by Princess Cruises.
The Chef’s Table is by reservation only and space is very
limited.  Thus, it is advisable to contact the Maitre d’ or to
call the Dinner Reservations Line as soon as possible after
boarding.  There is a charge of $75 per person.         
CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTER FRIENDLY PDF VERSION OF THE ARTICLE
Maitre d’ Hotel Angelo Balbiani
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CARIBBEAN PRINCESS TOUR 4

CARIBBEAN PRINCESS TOUR 5

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CARIBBEAN PRINCESS TOUR 7

CARIBBEAN PRINCESS TOUR 8
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