Cruise ship inside interview - Royal Caribbean International - Anthem of the Seas - Executive Chef
Anthem of the Seas Cruise Review
Anthem in the Med Photo Feature
Anthem of the Seas Plaques Ceremony
Anthem of the Seas Sets Sail Video
Anthem of the Seas menus
Anthem of the Seas daily programs
Anthem of the Seas deck plans
Anthem of the Seas Hotel Director interview
Anthem of the Seas Executive Chef Interview
Anthem of the Seas dining options
Anthem of the Seas Captain interview
Anthem of the Seas offers an extensive array of dining options. However, in order to offer such an array, Anthem has to have a huge dining staff. And to make it successful, the dining staff has to be on top of their game all the time.
As Executive Chef, Gary Thomas pointed out:“There are 24 kitchens onboard the ship, 18 restaurants, 247 chefs. No one has ever opened so many restaurants in one go, ever. Its never been done, not even in Vegas. All the big hotels, no one has ever opened 18 restaurants at the same time. [Yet, Anthem's entry into service] is the most successful open that I have ever been involved with..”
“This cruise I have been averaging 17,000 meals a day. It's an enormous operation that has never been tried anyplace else in the world. It is there for everyone to see how well we do. Some things slip through the net but you are never going to get it perfectly all the time - - although we do try.”
“There are no ships with 5,000 guests putting out food like this. I don't care what anybody tells you. If you go to any dining room in the world, you won't see this kind of food being served. We put out 800 covers a night in each of the rooms. There are not many restaurants that do 800 covers a night, not at the quality that we put up. And that's just for dinner, not breakfast and lunch. All plated service as well.”
Because Anthem offers both a variation of the traditional cruise ship dining system as well as its own flexible dining system, working in the kitchens on Anthem is very demanding.
“Dinner service goes on for five hours so they have to be on point for five hours. There's no relaxing. With traditional dining you have the first and second seating . In between, people can re-group and do meal counts and that kind of thing. Here, the chefs have to go all five hours non-stop, bang, bang. So you have to keep people motivated, you have to keep people concentrated so that the last plate served looks exactly the same as the first plate.”
In order to be prepared for such a demanding job, training begins even before the chefs ever see Anthem. “Before the chefs start arriving, they start studying the menus, the recipe cards and how the food should look. By the time they get here they have an overview of what they are going to be doing and how they are going to be doing it in each particular restaurant.”
Chef Thomas, who is amused by the fact that the chefs call him “The General” and “Chef Ramsey,” expects his staff to meet very high standards. As a means of quality control, each evening in each restaurant there are “tasting tables” where the chefs, under the scrutiny of Chef Thomas or a sous chef, prepare and sample each item on the menu.
“Its so I can see my guys' recipe knowledge. When I come in for the tasting table, I fire a million questions at my chefs. I will ask the chefs lots of questions, not just about the food but about financials and logistics. If you go in any of my kitchens, the guys can tell you how much money I have left to spend today, how much money I have left to spend tomorrow. If they are going to go over budget, I can make adjustments for a station that has slightly more money than another.”
While Chef Thomas is a stern task master, he clearly appreciates the efforts of his staff. To that end, he encourages his chefs to go and meet with the guests. “For me it is important that my chefs get as much exposure as possible because they are the ones who do all the work. Executives come and go but these guys are the ones who make things happen all the time.”
Dining In Wonderland
Of the 18 restaurants on Anthem, Chef Thomas clearly takes the most pride in the Wonderland specialty restaurant. With its décor straight out of Lewis Carroll; Wonderland is not a traditional dining venue but rather a dining experience.
“Wonderland is as good as any fine dining restaurant there is at sea, if not better. Just walking into the restaurant is a wow. You are going into a very unique experience.”
“It starts with the menu. We received an award for the menu. I've never seen such a unique menu where you actually put water on the menu [for the] the menu to appear.”
However, you do not actually select your meal from the menu. “The waiters will tell you what to have. They will direct you what to have.”
“This is the thing - - not everything is as it seems in Wonderland. [The name] Wonderland speaks for itself - - Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter's tea party. It is a most unusual dining experience. You call it Wonderland and you're intrigued. That is the whole point behind Wonderland. Not everything is as it seems.”
To illustrate, one of the menu items is called “Vanishing Noodles,” which at first glance may look like chicken noodle soup. “We make fois gras into what looks like a noodle. When we pour the hot stock on it, the fois gras disappears but the flavor stays. The chicken stock will evaporate the fois gras but [the flavor] will incorporate into the soup. The noodles are gone. Although they vanish, there is an actual flavor burst that is unforgettable.”
“Its a unique experience, uniqueness from start to finish.”
Chef Thomas' three favorite items on the Wonderland menu: “The Branzino fish, the short rib, and the Baked Alaska - - my take on the classic.”
Above: Each dish on the menu in Chic is displayed for a chef's tasting table.
Below: Scenes from Wonderland