Since the age of 10, Zophonias Arnason has been firing up delicious culinary magic, for even some of the most parliamentary of guests. What is it like being in charge of every meal aboard the Radiance of the Seas®? Read on and find out.
Rather than ask you where you learned to cook, we would like to know what made you decide to make a living cooking?
First and foremost, I love cooking. Cooking is not just my career but my passion. I truly enjoy the fact that people are a little happier after a good meal that I helped prepare. This is one of the simple facts of life.
How long have you been cooking?
I started cooking at a very young age, going to a local bakery and delicatessen shop when I was 10 and asking the owners to share their recipes. I would go home and try the recipes out. Even though I have only been with Royal Caribbean for 2 years, mostly aboard the Radiance of the Seas, my professional career as a chef started 29 years ago. There have been memorable moments and interesting guests, such as a dinner that I prepared for Margaret Thatcher's birthday while I was Executive Chef at Summerville College in Oxford, UK.
It must be interesting to cook for more than 2,000 people. How do you accomplish such a feat?
I don't do it alone. I command an excellent team. There are 216 people dedicated to provide our guests something that starts with great food, continues with attentive service and hopefully it's perceived overall as a pleasant dining experience. There is also a team at the corporate offices that takes care that we receive the best supplies so we can offer the quality you would expect from a top-notch restaurant. The challenge of the Executive Chef is like that of an orchestra conductor: to make it all work together so the whole is even better that the sum of the parts. Our repeat guests will tell you that we consistently deliver not only in our specialty restaurants like Chops Grille but also at Windjammer and Seaview Café.
OK, we have to ask you. If you were to recommend one special menu, one special dish, one special wine, what would those be?
That's a complicated question, because as I said before, our mission is to satisfy and go beyond the expectations of our guests and they have a diverse palate. However if you ask me what my favorite dish is, I'll go with grilled fish, almost any fish, as long as it's fresh. I come from Iceland, so it could not be any other way. I believe in letting the freshness of the product speak for itself. Try the halibut at Portofino. You will understand what I'm saying. Regarding wine all I can tell you is that more than ten years ago I tasted a 1982 Chateau Cantenac-Brown and I still remember it.
Last but not least, Asia is the focus of this CAS Magazine's issue, so we would like your view on Asian cuisine.
Oh! Curry is a phenomenal way to prepare all kinds of food. There are so many varieties and most of them are so different and tasty. I also love Thai food, with its contrasts, opposites, if you will. I also admire the simple yet creative ways that the Japanese eat fish in many ways, all of them special. Also, look at the presentation of those dishes, which is very important. You want to eat something that is not only delicious but pleasant to the eye. Asian food accomplishes that beautifully. Also, the Japanese are well known for letting the freshness of the product speak for itself. Asian food is a subject you can write entire books about.