If the culinary-poolza of season 10 was the main coarse, boarding the Celebrity Constellation for ‘Top Chef’ The Cruise was the decadent dessert that left me blissfully happy.
After 10 seasons of ‘Top Chef’ the idea of the themed cruise seemed long overdue. I have only set sail one other time during the 30 years of my life, but this experience out-shined my previous trip from the moment I stepped onto the boat. It may not be fair, but anyone who hands me a glass of champagne just for walking in gets a special spot in my heart.
I felt like a VIP everywhere I went on the ship and I didn’t have to flash a badge or wear a chef’s jacket. The staff was incredibly friendly and not one of them failed to flash a smile and greet me at any time. Even on my way to and from my room the attendants asked if there was anything I needed. The boat and rooms were spacious and boasted flat screen tv’s, private bathrooms and ample amounts of storage for garments. My favorite part of the boat…the deck I had breakfast and lunch on every day. A warm breeze blowing across the area offered shade and sun with a view of open ocean. It felt like my own little secret spot. Spike also found this oasis and we ended up having breakfast together on more than one occasion, but more on that in a bit.
When I saw the list of chefs that would be attending I wondered how much they would actually surface to mingle with the 2,000 fans on board. I figured we’d only get a peek on scheduled events like book signings and cooking demos or perhaps get to ogle them as they had a drink in a roped off VIP area. I was incredibly impressed with how much time we all spent enjoying the company of the chefs. Tiffany Derry gets the award for most accessible and welcoming. I don’t think she stopped smiling once. She encouraged fans to approach her, ask questions and take pictures. We rode the elevators together on several occasions where she made easy small talk and let her personality shine. I later worked up the courage to ask for a picture as she mingled on the deck with everyone. Her reply to my request…”You bet! Come here baby!”
Second place goes to Spike Mendelsohn. I pegged him as a ‘Top Chef’ villain during his two runs on the show and he earned a label of jackwagon in my book. I was schooled. I sat down in my aforementioned secret eating spot on the boat and a few minutes later he plopped down at the table directly next to me. Before I realized it, we had gabbed away for nearly half an hour and my breakfast was gone. Our convo centered mainly on food accessibility as I bemoaned the fact that most cookbooks of the ‘Top Chef’ caliber were beyond me. The ingredients lists on a past ‘Top Chef’ winner’s book weren’t practical for the average cook and it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Spike shared his idea for a cookbook with me and, while I won’t share the details out of new found respect, I will say we need a tome from this man.
Other chefs roamed amongst the crowd of people and after a few days of the celebrity shock value, it was natural to see them in line scooping up heaps of Hubert Keller’s Macaroni and Cheese. A few chefs were shy and remained behind closed doors, but still surfaced in loose disguises. I caught Tom Colicchio reading a book quietly in a big ol’ hat and heavily shaded glasses. I let him read in peace, but gawked from the bar.
I took photos of the menu and you can see some of their creations below. The flavors were foreign to my mid-western palate. As I mentioned to Spike, in my neck of the woods it is hard to sample foods beyond what Applebees is featuring. On the boat, offerings like duck, lobster (I’m not talking about that wimpy stuff from a red hued crustacean themed shack), oysters, goat, scallops and pork belly were all amazing delights. It suddenly struck me as I was eating goat for the first time…an opportunity to eat these meals created by Richard Blais, Tim Love, Hubert Keller, Tiffany, Spike and Fabio is something most people will never get to do. I was suddenly humbled and grateful.
I will admit some foods fared better than others. Some dishes were pushed away, but I think that the execution and service of 800+ meals in less than two hours is to blame. It was amazing to see it happen…good or bad.
While the cruise was food themed, the people are what made it amazing. The chefs were incredibly welcoming and active. The themed cruise was ideal. Everyone had a kindred spirit that was worn on their sleeves as we all shared a passion for food and the show that brings a healthy mix of drama and culinary delights. We TC Lovers were able to sit in on two Quickfire Challenges, cooking demos by Tim Love, Tom and Gail, all the chefs on board. What really moved the crowd was Hubert Keller spinning (yes spinning like a veteran DJ) on a nightly basis.
We also were encouraged to ask questions. Several time slots were devoted to questions from the crowd. You could ask anything and I’d say most responses were 100% completely honest. Audience participation was also a constant. Some lucky members of the audience were selected to be sous chefs for the elite on board.
It was a Top Chef fan’s dream.
So when is the next cruise Bravo???!?
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