British chef Jamie Oliver is famous for his authentic Italian cuisine served in a welcoming, casual atmosphere. And even though he has restaurants all around the world, it was a notable first when he launched a restaurant at sea—on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas—in 2014. Since then, he’s opened Jamie’s Italian on Symphony of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, and considering our guests’ reactions, the partnership looks like it will last well into the future.
Each Jamie’s Italian makes fresh pasta from scratch every day, just as his land-based restaurants do, and are just as precise in sourcing the quality ingredients that make his food stand apart. We recently caught up with the renowned chef and asked him about what it’s like to partner with Royal Caribbean—and what guests should order off the menu. Here’s what he had to say:
How did you come to partner with Royal Caribbean for Jamie’s Italian?
When I was growing up, every three years my dad would save up and take us all on a Royal Caribbean cruise. And when the company asked if I’d like to take Jamie’s Italian to sea, it was a great way to remember all those happy family holidays.
What was it about the partnership that appealed to you?
I know just how important food is on Royal Caribbean because I’ve been a guest. They understand the importance of simple, fresh ingredients in a warm, welcoming setting. They also put a lot of emphasis on hospitality, so we have a lot in common. I’m really pleased to be working with them; I know they’re a really forward-looking brand, so it’s a great match for Jamie’s Italian.
Were people surprised to hear that you were taking Jamie’s to sea?
Well—we’re expanding all over the world, so why not try out the waves as well?
What’s different about operating restaurants on ships versus your standard brick-and-mortar locations?
Cooking on a ship brings a few unique challenges, so we’ve had to adapt some things. Fresh ingredients are key, so my team has worked hard with Royal Caribbean to find farmers and producers in key locations around the world who can supply the ship and also meet our very specific criteria.
Even something as simple as making our pasta from scratch every day needed a logistical re-think. But we’ve found a way to make it work!
Jamie’s Italian is superb, and can compete with anything on land. How do you ensure that quality control?
We work closely with the crew to make sure our produce and ingredients are sourced using exactly the same food ethos and criteria as in our land-based restaurants. The food you enjoy at a Jamie’s Italian on a cruise ship is exactly the same as at any of the restaurants on land… although the view might be a bit different.
What’s been the response by diners who visit the restaurant?
I think diners love the simple, super-tasty Italian food we offer. My team on board love to talk to guests about the fantastic produce we use and the stories behind our food. I’m really proud of our Jamie’s Italian menu.
Are there any particular favorite dishes among them?
Turns out pasta dishes are just as popular at sea as they are on land, and our famous prawn linguine is always a winner.
Do you have a recipe you could share with our readers?
You couldn’t get a more classic recipe than this beautiful Bolognese (see below). It’s proper Italian comfort food and delicious any time.
125g tomato purée
60ml red wine
30g higher-welfare pancetta
250g quality minced beef
250g minced higher-welfare pork shoulder and belly
30g mortadella (no nuts)
2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
4 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley
extra virgin olive oil
1. Peel and finely chop the onion and carrot, then trim and finely chop the celery.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the chopped vegetables and cook gently for 10 minutes, or until softened.
3. Stir in the tomato purée and cook for 5 minutes, then pour in the wine and allow it to bubble away until reduced by half.
4. Finely chop the pancetta, then add it to another large pan over a medium heat with the minced meat. Cook for 5 minutes, or until browned all over, breaking it up with a wooden spoon – don’t overdo it too much at this point.
5. Add the browned meat to the softened vegetables, chop and add the mortadella, then stir well.
6. Tip in the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon, then cook for 2 to 3 hours over a low heat, or until softened and the sauce is thickened and reduced. Season to taste.
7. Cook the tagliatelle in a large pan of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions until almost al dente – it’ll continue cooking in the sauce so it’s important you don’t overdo it.
8. Reserving a cupful of the cooking water, drain and add the pasta to the Bolognese. Toss well and cook for a further 2 minutes, adding a splash of the cooking water if needed.
9. Finely chop and stir through the parsley leaves, then serve with a drizzle of Extra virgin Olive Oil and a good grating of Parmesan.