Cruise ship interview - Allure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Chef Molly Brandt - page 1
150 Central Park is the top specialty restaurant on Allure of the Seas.
It is a fine dining venue. However, unlike the fine dining venues on
other ships - - indeed, unlike the other venues on Allure - - the menus
are not created by the line's corporate headquarters. Rather, Royal
Caribbean has extended Chef de Cuisine Molly Brandt unprecedented
freedom to develop the restaurant.
"It is a great position to be in where I really have carte blanche to come
up with my own menus and be creative," Chef Brandt confided when I
spoke with her in 150's elegant dining room.
Creativity is the linchpin of 150 Central Park. Whereas there is room
for artistry in the execution of menus designed by others, the freedom
offered Chef Brandt allows for the full spectrum of culinary creativity.
By allowing a young, talented chef to express her creativity in a venue
where everything is top quality, Royal Caribbean is giving its guests an
experience akin to dining in a celebrity chef's first restaurant - - the one
that everyone recalls as having made his or her reputation.
"The food is a six course set tasting menu. I actually offer two
different menus for each cruise. I offer one for the first three days and
the other for the last four. Maybe the first menu is more appealing to
you than the second or the second more appealing than the first." Thus,
the two menu system gives guests a choice.
Within each menu, there is not a variety of items for the diners to select
from. Rather, there is one item offered for each course. "It is my
choice. Basically, we are leaving the thinking out of it. You just sit
down and enjoy. There is not really the option to get this or that."
Chef Brandt envisions that the menus will change over the course of her
tenure at 150 Central Park. "I want it to be somewhat seasonal. In
December, do I really want to put an artichoke on? Not really. It is a
Spring kind of vegetable. That is why I want to change it and it is nice
to change things."
"It is actually a fairly international menu. While I do have a very strong
influence from French fine dining; ultimately, I am pulling from all over
the place. If I were to put a label on it, I would say 'modern American'
but there is an international feel to it. I have saffron; I have influences
of Spain, Italy, France - - all of that."
"You are never going to find anything [on the menus] that is really way
out in left field. I love rabbit but I am never going to be able to put
rabbit on the menus here. They need to be accessible,
easy-to-think-about items presented in an elegant fashion."
Chef Brandt designs the menus not just to present a series of tasty items
but with the interrelationship of each item on the menu to every other
item on the menu very much in mind. "The cooking philosophy here is
balance. I am always looking for the second item to follow the first so
there is a balance throughout the menu. Like if the first item is going to
be bright and acidic, the next is going to be rich and luxurious so that
there is a good flow all the way through the menus."
"I do not want people to get palate fatigue. I do not want them to be
bored. So if I am going to use a tomato at the beginning of the menu,
you are not going to see a tomato for the rest of the menu. It is always
going to be something different; there will be different flavors."
While six courses may sound like a great deal of food, keep in mind
that this is a tasting menu. The portions are not large; rather, they are
designed to emphasize flavor over quantity.
Chef Brandt's role at 150 Central Park is not confined to designing the
menus. Instead, she is intimately involved in their execution. The
recipes are her own. She spends the morning preparing and in the
evenings, she is in charge of her own kitchen, which is separate from the
galleys used by Allure's other dining venues. At the end of the evening,
she enters the dining room and talks with the guests. She is onboard for
at least part of every cruise that Allure does. "It is kind of a labor of
The success of a fine dining venue depends upon other things beyond
just the food. "When we think about the restaurant, we really want to
think about it as a whole. It is the total experience."
Accordingly, Chef Brandt has worked with Allure's sommeliers and its
food and beverage management to find wines that pair with each dish on
the menus. The result is embodied in the "Royal Wine Pairing," which
guests can order for an additional fee. There is also an ala carte wine
list that has been developed for 150 Central Park.
Another key element is the service. "The front of the house
makes the biggest difference. You can have poor service in a
restaurant and the guests will comment negatively about the food as
"I am very fortunate that they have given me the best servers here.
They know I am very serious about how I want things presented; what
they are talking about when they set [the dishes] down; what they need
to highlight. Whenever I go and dine at a fine dining restaurant, a
Michelin star restaurant, I am looking for those little details. People
feel pampered when there is saucing tableside or they are adding this
little thing tableside. I really think about that and incorporate that into
what I am doing."
Also key is the physical environment of the restaurant. The foundation
of 150 Central Park's style is Old World luxury but there are also
over-sized, high-backed chairs giving it a touch of whimsy. "It is a small
venue. It is very elegant. It is well-appointed. It is kind of modern
with classical influences so I want to make sure that the plate reflects
In sum, "the whole concept is a fine dining experience. Everything is
pointed toward a pampered experience. That's what we want people to
feel like when they walk in here - - from being greeted; to having their
names on the menus; to the beautiful Limoge China and Riedel
stemware. Top to bottom - - décor, service and, of course, the
The interior is modern and
elegant with a slight touch of
Diners are given six salts from
varuious parts of the world.
Talking with Chef Maureen “Molly” Brandt
about 150 Central Park on
Allure of the Seas
Richard H. Wagner
In part two, Chef Brandt discusses
her career and how she became the
Chef at 150 Central Park
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