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THE PRINCESS APPROACH
A conversation with Master Chef
by Richard H. Wagner
Chef Alfredo Marzi is Princess Cruises' Master Chef. In this role, he develops dining concepts and meus for Princess. In addition, he journeys throughout the Princess fleet working with the ships' culinary teams and making sure that everything is up to Princess' standards. A delightful coversationalist, we were pleased to catch up with Chef Marzi once again on Regal Princess. (See previous interview).
“Our kitchen is an international kitchen. This company was born as an Italian company. Then it became a continental company. Then in the year 2000, they started to introduce a lot of oriental dishes. Now is the time to have celebrity chefs.”
The reason for this evolution is straightforward. “You need to follow what the passenger wants. I cannot be doing something I like and that the passengers don't like. I need to please them not me. The company does not need to please Princess Cruises, it needs to please its customers.”
To meet the demand for celebrity chefs, Princess first developed a relationship with celebrity chocolatier, Norman Love. “Mr. Love came aboard personally and first of all he put his own chocolate in our boutiques. Its very, very good.” In addition, Mr. Love created a series of special desserts which are served in the main dining rooms of the Princess ships.
Recently, Princess has entered into a business relationship with Chef Curtis Stone. “He has been hired to give support and be a consultant. This gentleman is very, very popular in Australia. Our market in Australia is one of the best in the business. [In addition], we wanted to have something that not everybody else has. This guy has a very open mind and a very simple cuisine in his own restaurant. The concept is to give something to our customer that when he goes back home he can prepare in his own house without any problem.”
Standard equipment on all modern cruise ships includes one or more main dining rooms, a buffet restaurant, and a poolside grill and pizzeria. The Princess ships have all of these things but Princess has been a leader in providing additional dining venues and events.
As the newest ship in the Princess fleet, Regal Princess “has more than the other ships.” Its culinary line-up includes the traditional Princess specialty restaurants Sabatini's (Italian fine dining) and the Crown Grill (steakhouse) as well as the new Ocean Terrace seafood bar. Then there are specialty events such as the Chef's Table (a feast hosted by the ship's chef and maitre d'), the Winemakers dinners (multi-course wine and food pairings), the Crabshack (casual seafood), and Fondues (European-style fondues).
Princess' objective in having all of these dining offerings “ is to give something special to our guests.”
Because there is an additional charge for each of the aforementioned restaurants and events, some passengers assume that they are a means of making additional money from guests once they are aboard ship. Chef Marzi explains that such assumptions are mistaken.
Take the Crown Grill, for example. “When you go there you pay $25 and you get 22 ounces of T-bone steak and three lobsters. The cost to us is $30. It is not to make money, the company does not want to make money with the [cover charge].”
Similarly, “the Chef's Table Lumiere - - yes, the customer pays $120 but the company does not make a penny out of this. You come in the kitchen, you get champagne, you get caviar - - caviar - - you go to the Ocean Terrace and it is $75 for one ounce. Then you go in the dining room, you have Donafugata, which is $52 a bottle, you have Amorone, which is $68 a bottle, then they serve a late-harvest wine from Chile, where again for half a liter it is 40 some dollars. You get one of my books, which is $28; you get the picture, which is $9; you get the rose - - one rose is already six or seven dollars. You don't pay a penny for the food, you pay for the wine and everything else.”
“The Chef's Table was started on Princess. It was my project when the Emerald came out. Then everybody copied.” To remain ahead of the competition, the Chef's Table on Princess is much more elaborate than chef's tables on other lines. In addition to the wine and food, “you have solid gold dessert cutlery and you have gold and silver cutlery for your meal. It was over $2 million to build the light curtain [that surrounds the chef's table in the dining room]. The company does not want to make money there. They want to make something that no one else is doing.”
Yet another example is the Tuscan wine tasting in Sabatini's. “You pay, I think it is $65 but you get five of the best Tuscan wines - - some of the bottles sell for $200. [In addition,] it kind of a meal. You have lamb chops, you have Tuscany steak, you have lasagna, you have chicken roulade with polenta. With every food [item] you have a wine parining. Again, you calculate the [cost of the] wine we give to you and the food, we don't make any money out of it. For us, it is to let the customer know that we have these types of wine aboard.”
The service charge can also act as a method of crowd control. For example, in the evenings, the wine bar Vines offers tapas plates. When this venue was first introduced, there was a charge for the tapas. “There was nobody there. Then there was no charge. There was a long line. The space is limited. I don't want to have a line of people to get tapas bothering the people who go there to have a nice glass of wine and a discussion with your friends or family. Now, you go there you get wine, you get [complimentary] tapas. This works well.”
In addition, Regal's line up also includes complimentary venues. Most conspicuously is Alfredo's Pizzera. “On the Grand and other ships, it is a [gourmet] pizzeria. On Regal, it is a restaurant - - appetizers, soup, salads, pasta, all kinds of pizza, dessert. Its not only pizza.”
Along the same lines, the International Cafe, located by the Piazza, is complimentary except for the specialty coffees. “Everything else is complimentary. You want to go out, your tour [will be leaving soon], you pick up a sandwich, it can be cold, it can be hot. In the morning, you have 23 different types of bakery items - - croissants, danishes, apple turnovers, muffins. You get one or two and maybe you go out.”
“All of these projects is to help the customer to get the easy life. Where you want and when you want. [They are] not to please us but to please the customer.”
In the next section, Chef Marzi talks about provsioning the ships and we take a look at the galley and stoage areas
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Cruise ship interview - - Princess Cruises - - Regal Princess - - Master Chef Alfredo Marzi - - page one