Cruise ship interview - Allure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Chef Molly Brandt - page 2
Talking with Chef Maureen “Molly” Brandt
about 150 Central Park on
Allure of the Seas
Richard H. Wagner
Lisa Bauer, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President for Hotel
Operations has said: "The whole idea behind 150 Central Park is for
the restaurant to take on the personality of the chef." That being the
case, the question becomes who is Chef Molly Brandt and how did she
become the chef de cuisine at 150 Central Park?
Chef Brandt did not plan on becoming a chef. Rather, she grew up
planning to follow her parents into the medical profession. However,
her life took an abrupt turn as a result of a decision to throw a birthday
party for her college roommate. She did not want to have the usual
undergraduate type of party and so she thought it might be interesting to
have a dinner party. "I never really was much of a cook but I went out
and bought all of these food magazines and started flipping through
them. It was all way above my head."
Nonetheless, Brandt preserved, buying all of the ingredients and
skipping classes to prepare. She followed the recipes and "low and
behold they really turned out. [At the party,] everybody was smiling
and happy to be there. I thought: 'Wow, this is awesome."
Her friends' reaction spurred her on to prepare Thanksgiving dinner a
few weeks later. "After that I was hooked. It really satisfied me. It was
where I was supposed to be. It was like I had been just missing
something all along."
After graduating from college, Brandt attended the prestigious Culinary
Institute of America, eventually becoming a teaching assistant in the
Institute's French fine dining restaurant. "The Culinary Institute is what
you make of it. I really threw myself into it. It never felt like school.
It never felt like work so I loved it."
Part of the program was an internship, a requirement which most of the
students fulfilled at a restaurant. Brandt, however, did her internship at
the Food Network, preparing food for television productions such as
"Iron Chef America" and "Emeril Live." "I got to do something
different every day, which really expands your repertoire pretty
After her time at the Culinary Institute, Brandt worked in Beijing,
Shanghai and in Italy. "Then after that I worked in Manhattan for
Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud" - - a Michelin-starred restaurant.
In her spare time, Brandt dined in other fine dining establishments. "It is
research and development. You really get ideas from that sort of thing."
The next step was to go into business for herself and so she returned
home to Minnesota where she started her own catering firm.
Maintaining the international path her career had taken thus far, she also
co-founded a company that offers intimate, culinary-focused vacations
in Northern Tuscany.
"I had a great business and I loved being my own boss." However, one
day she received an e-mail from the Culinary Institute alumni
association informing her that Royal Caribbean was holding a contest to
select a chef for a fine dining restaurant on Allure of the Seas. It said:
'Win the job of a lifetime' and they laid the job out in very appealing
terms. Fine dining is really where my heart is. So when I opened up
the e-mail and it said you get your own fine dining restaurant [I thought]
I may as well try this."
The first step was to send in a resume along with a video of a dish that
the contestant would like to feature in the restaurant. "When I found
out I [had been selected as] a finalist, I made it my job to win the
Next, there was a two-week period during which the general public
could vote for their favorite. "I campaigned like a politician to get
people to vote for me." Brandt won as "fan favorite."
"We had a month to plan a three course meal for the [final]
competition. I would hold practice sessions and I made all of the food
that I would make for the judges within the allotted timeframe. It really
gave me an edge going into the competition because I knew exactly
what I was going to delegate to my assistant. He had a very precise list
and we had photos of how I wanted each dish to be plated."
"Royal Caribbean flew all of the candidates to the Culinary Institute of
America." Each candidate did an interview and then prepared a meal
for a panel of judges including Royal Caribbean executives and master
chefs from the Culinary Institute. "I even brought my own dishes. I
wasn't kidding around. Fortunately, it worked out."
Upon becoming a Royal Caribbean employee, Brandt was sent to Oasis
of the Seas for a "crash course" in working on a cruise ship. Her first
assignment was to cook all of the dishes that she envisioned featuring
on Allure. "It was a really good lesson because it forced me to find out
what was onboard and where I can find things. It was a steep learning
curve but necessary so that when I got on the Allure, it was a lot easier
for me. They threw me right in there but I would not really have it any
After spending six weeks on Oasis, Chef Brandt flew to Finland where
Allure of th Seas was in the final stages of construction. Her contract
calls for her to be Chef de Cuisine of 150 Central Park for one year. "It
is a unique and amazing opportunity and I am so very, very fortunate to
be afforded it."