Sea ViewsFrom President and COO, Adam Goldstein

Sea Views Blog with Adam Goldstein

The Unexpected Journey of Allure’s Chef de Cuisine, Molly Brandt

If you asked me a year and a half ago what I’d be doing today, the last thing I would say is “Chef de Cuisine at 150 Central Park aboard the largest cruise ship in the world, Allure of the Seas.”

My name is Molly Brandt. And really, I never expected to be here.


Now, I don’t want to give the wrong impression. Working onboard has been both one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. It’s just becoming the head chef of any restaurant—at sea or on land—can be a demanding proposition. I hope this little blog post gives a behind the scenes look at why running a kitchen in general isn’t a piece of cake (bad pun totally intended), and how being at sea can make seemingly easy tasks cumbersome.

I won my position as Chef de Cuisine through a contest, “The Allure of the Seas Culinary Challenge” sponsored by Royal Caribbean and the Culinary Institute of America, my alma mater. During that competition, I was asked if I was ready for “ship life,” and I naively exclaimed “yes!”

Suffice it to say, I was not ready, not even a little.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a big difference between cooking at sea and cooking on land. I often tell people that an apple is an apple is an apple. On the ship, my challenge is not in the kitchen, it’s the logistics—namely inventory management.

Most of cooking is having the right ingredients on hand. Onboard, if I’m not organized and don’t plan my menu well in advance, I’m up you know what kind of creek without a paddle. As you can imagine, I can’t just run to the grocery store when I need something and there’s no way they’re carting provisions for little ol’ me to the ship in the middle of the ocean. On Allure of the Seas, I have two menus I change every three months, which means I have to start looking for inventory a month or more ahead of time. While guests are enjoying the spring menu I’ll already be sourcing ingredients for the summer months.

The tricky thing is, it’s not just locating the ingredients. It’s getting them onboard. If an ingredient is distinct and proprietary, or if Royal Caribbean has never used an item before, then I need to find it and pass the information to the purchasing team. From there, the purchasing team needs to identify the correct product, find out who supplies it, negotiate the best pricing, give the item a code and enter it into our fleet-wide inventory management system. Once there, it needs to be contracted to theMiamimarket and supplied through one of our distributors. All this needs to be completed at least two weeks before needing the product. (Since we only load provisions on embarkation day in Fort Lauderdale, this means if I need a product for that night’s service, I need to make sure what I need is already onboard from the previous week). All this makes me sweat a little, as it’s an exercise in organization.

It’s a good thing I’m a list person.

Besides not being ready for the logistical challenges of running a restaurant on the ocean,
the lifestyle of living and working onboard has been an adjustment as well. On the surface, it looks like anyone’s dream job: I live and work in your vacation fantasy-land. And, while I know you’re probably not going to feel bad for me, life onboard is a bit of a vacuum. I miss the mundane, ordinary things that most people are vacationing from. Because I’m on the ship twenty-four seven, I’m insulated from the events of the world.

I miss driving, talking to my friends, visiting the coffee shop on my way to work. While going to the grocery store is a chore for most people, I miss socializing with the produce section.

On the flip side, I can relax on a beach with palm trees swaying and warm ocean water lapping at my feet when I can spare a few hours. I’ve made friends from all over the world, gone ice skating after hours with a professional, international ice cast and hung out on the mooring deck crooning karaoke with the marine department until the wee hours of the morning. (Thank your lucky stars you didn’t hear that!)

Like any job, there are things I like and dislike. But, I know that this position is unlike any I’ve ever had: living and working onboard Allure of the Seas is and has been an amazing experience I wouldn’t trade.

To see more of Molly’s delectable dishes, please click here.

21 responses to:
“The Unexpected Journey of Allure’s Chef de Cuisine, Molly Brandt”

  1. robert landry

    My son Bobby will graduate in a couple months from the cullinary arts program. I have often sudgested to him to look at a cruise ship as a potential employer. Having sailed on Allure of the seas and experienced it’s delightful cuisine I beleive this would be a great place for him to work.

    • Adam

      We’re sure he’d be up for the challenge, Robert. Once he graduates, you’ll have to make sure to have him contact us about any opportunities. Thank you.

      • Jessie

        Adam to that comment about contacting about a job.. What is the best way to contact someone about a job and who? I am currently taking some time of from culinary school, My Culinary adviser and mentor felt that working on a cruise ship would be good for me.

  2. Scotty Brauer

    I must say that Molly provided one of the highlights of my Wedding Cruise.
    Getting married on the Allure of the Seas, on the outer side of our Aqua Theater Suite balcony, we
    ejoyed a fantastic dinner at 150 Central, on the Allure of the Seas Inaguaral sailing – December 2010.

    Molly came out during the meal to introduce herslf, make sure all was prepared to our liking, and even
    pose for pics. It was an awesome meal, awesome cruise, and an awesome opportunity to meet a truly
    gifted chef.

    Kudos to Royal Caribbean / Molly Brandt / and 150 Central.

    Scotty

    • Dina

      I love to sail on Royal Caribbean and I love to watch Top Chef so when I saw you were the chef on RC’s Allure I was hoping you would make the cut. I did enjoy watching you cook and hope to some day sail on the Allure and taste your food for myself!

      • Adam

        Hopefully that dream will become a reality, Dina. We appreciate your comment and we’ll be sure to pass it along to Molly. Thank you.

    • Adam

      We appreciate the kudos, Scotty and we’ll be sure to pass them along. We are glad to hear you and your wife had such a fantastic time onboard Allure’s inaugural sailing and hope to see you both onboard again in the future.

  3. Wanda M. Eavers

    Hi, my husband and I and 3 other couples are sailing 10/28/12 on the Allure and are looking forward to your menus…You sound like a person in love with her job. So I’m sure that we are going to be having some fun loving food. See you then, Wanda

    • Adam

      Thanks for your kind words, Wanda, we’re positive your group will be Wow’d.

  4. Jean Stewart

    We loved watching Molly on Top Chef Texas and are Royal Loyals! Thanks so much for the article, and we’ll look forward to cruising with her in the future!

    • Adam

      You’re welcome, Jean. We hope to see you onboard enjoying one (or both!) of Molly’s menus soon.

  5. Celesta Burton

    Although this response is somewhat delayed, I wish to “THANK YOU, MR. GOLDSTEIN.” Through your involvement and personal attention, 2 Letters of Credit (LOC) were issued for a cruise. However, we are now experiencing difficulty receiving the amount of credit toward the cruise we want.

    Briefly, so that we could celebrate my friend’s birthday (March 23rd) ON THE CRUISE, we selected the Freedom of the Seas cruise scheduled for March 18, 2012. Somehow, after completing information on the RCCL website, I was somehow linked to American Discount Travel. I spoke to an Agent named Jackie; and told her the cruise date I wished to reserve. After a moment or so, Jackie informed me that “SHE COULD NOT FIND A CRUISE SCHEDULED FOR THE 18TH!” She said she could book us on the 25th cruise. Before booking the 25th cruise, I called my friend (in Washington, D.C., I live in FL) to relay this information. We were both confused, after seeing the 18th cruise on the RCCL website; but, we surmised that if Jackie did not find the 18th cruise, then maybe it was cancelled! Although we were extremely disappointed, we booked the 25th cruise with Jackie. And, thus begins OUR HORROR STORY!

    After advising and emailing copies of our Credit Certificates to Jackie, I experienced considerable difficulty in having them accepted. Jackie said the fault was that RCCL was not accepting them. I called RCCL and spoke with an Agent who, after giving him the booking numbers, told me they were valid. The RCCL agent advised that a deposit was generally required before acceptance. He also advised that, since LOC’s directly impacted commissions, travel agencies are reluctant to accept them. After advising Jackie of the name and my conversation with the RCCL agent, I paid a $500 deposit and she then accepted the LOC’s and discounted the $263.95 from the $1,144.74 cruise price. A day or so later, I paid the balance of the cruise.

    Exactly 2 days later my friend saw the 18th cruise on RCCL’s website. I immediately called Jackie with this info. This time SHE FOUND THE 18TH CRUISE!!! However, she said we must cancel the 25th cruise AT A $500 CANCELLATION COST. I again called RCCL. Following explanation of the issues, Vickie, the RCCL agent asked me to have Katie call her. As a result of my vehement protest, Katie Workman, the office mgr., took over the case. Important to note that at this point, Jackie has NO RECALL (and, according to Katie, there was no notation) OF MY INTEREST IN THE 18TH CRUISE DATE.

    Through my contact with RCCL and their cooperation, RCCL reduced the cancellation fee $350. However, Katie has consistently attempted to make it appear that SHE ADVOCATED ON MY BEHALF!!!

    Although there are in excess of 50 pages of emails between me and American Discount, I have been unable to resolve the following issues:
    1. Why BOTH cruises, according to Katie, ARE NOW $900;
    2. Why I am now required to pay additional PORT FEES/TAXES;
    3. Why the LOC’S MUST BE APPLIED AS PAYMENTS AS OPPOSED TO DISCOUNTS;
    4. Why I am still charge A $75 CANCELLATION FEE by RCCL;
    5. Why my $500 deposit fee HAS NOT BEEN CREDITED TO THE CRUISE AMOUNT;
    6. HOW THE $ 900 CRUISE AMOUNT COSTING “MORE THAN” THE 1,144.74 CRUISE AMOUNT?

    Mr. Goldstein, this ordeal has resulted to much stress, anxiety, annoyance and dismay for my friend and I. We simply want to enjoy a cruise, perhaps our last. In consideration of this ordeal we should be given an expense free cruise from RCCL! Thank you. PLEASE CONTACT ME IMMEDIATELY!!!

    Celesta Burton

    • Celesta Burton

      Dear Mr. “WONDERFUL” Goldstein:

      Your action in response to my letter of 2/12/02, in which I explained problems I was experiencing with American Discount Cruise Travel Agency, was extremely gratifying. You, Mr. Goldstein, made two 70+ seniors very, very happy! Our cruise, with balcony, on the Freedom of the Seas was awesome! The staff especially our Stateroom Attendant, Julia Laws, did all within their power to make us comfortable. If ever I have another opportunity to cruise, it will be on RCCL. Once again, thank you with all my heart.

      Celesta Wiley-Burton

      • Adam

        Thank you Celesta, we were happy to help you. We look forward to having you back onboard soon.

  6. Travis Kamiyama

    Chef Molly is a pure talent with drive and ambition without borders. She immerses herself in the culinary art and innovation, attempting to push the envelope and creativity on every level. I love to see those that are aligned with their gift and have the passion at the same time. It helps, though, to be with Royal Caribbean Int’l that consists of leaders that set the tone for all to follow and be proud of!

    • Adam

      Thank you for your kind words, Travis. We’ll be sure to pass along your warm regards to Molly.

  7. Trish

    And just what ARE those spring menus??? Oasis has their menus posted…How about ALLURE!! Cruising in May and DYING to know!

    • Adam

      Hi Trish, our Spring menu is not yet available but please keep an eye on our Facebook wall for any menu updates. Thanks.

  8. Mary

    do you have halal meat and poultry on the Allure?

    • Adam

      Hi Mary, currently we do not carry Halal meats onboard any of our ships. Thanks for your question.

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