Guest Blog: Finding Culinary Talent for 150 Central Park

by 951

I must say, asking my colleagues to do guest entries is becoming an irresistible attraction! Of course, I’m very fortunate to have such outstanding colleagues to ask to contribute to this blog. Plus this amazing business has no end of topics to write about. In this particular case, I am asking Frank Weber, our VP, Food & Beverage, to go into more detail on our approach to 150 Central Park on Oasis of the Seas, the most upscale specialty restaurant concept we have undertaken to date.

Frank Weber, VP, Food & Beverage

Frank Weber, VP, Food & Beverage

There is no doubt that the rise of celebrity chefs over the last decade has been a phenomenon which has elevated the interest in food, cooking & dining to levels never seen before. The popularity of The Food Network on television as well as magazines such as Food & Wine and Gourmet is to be credited for educating consumers and helping them to understand and appreciate the art of food, cooking and wine, which used to be the privilege of a few. This has created true celebrity status for chefs and has created a generation of “foodies”.

Over the years, a variety of ‘celebrity chef’ concepts for our ships have been presented to me for consideration. My responsibility is to review these proposals and assess their value. It is no secret that celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay are well known amongst the general population and come at a price. Rachel Ray, for example, according to Forbes earns $18M a year!

So in reviewing the opportunities, I asked myself ‘what would we gain by engaging in such relationships? Certainly the association of a big name has great PR value. But would our cruise customer choose a Royal Caribbean International cruise over our competitors just because we hired a celebrity chef? I do not believe so.

One might in turn ask, what about the culinary talent and expertise we would get from the celebrity chef? Often times, it appeared we would be dealing with one of the ‘no-name’ chefs hired by the celebrity chef and not with the celebrity chef him/herself. I compare this to the culinary talent I already have at my disposal with Josef Jungwirth, our Director of Culinary Operations and the entire Royal Caribbean culinary team. Their talent, professionalism, level of execution and expertise is simply unmatched. So, really there seemed to be no need for me to hire the chef of a celebrity chef simply for the name association.

One of the great perks of my job living in the culinary world is that I get to try many different restaurants, including those of some famous celebrity chefs. I have to say some of these restaurants have been exceptionally good. However, I have yet to meet any of those celebrity chefs personally in the restaurants I visited. Not that this is a big deal, but in the back of my head I always hoped that perhaps Emeril, Wolfgang or Bobby would actually be in the kitchen cooking and that we could have a professional chat, chef to chef. I know that this is really an unrealistic expectation, yet there is always a little bit of disappointment and I feel that our guests would have a similar expectation.

So when we developed the 150 Central Park restaurant on Oasis of the Seas, we wanted to make the restaurant extra special, not only in the design, service, menu and concept, but also with a chef specifically for the restaurant. We tossed some names around, but ended up with an idea to find the ‘culinary talent’ of a future celebrity chef instead – a raw culinary talent. In the same way that TV shows such as “America’s Got Talent” or “American Idol” find new talent, we wanted to discover someone we could develop and help grow. After a long search, we found Keriann von Raesfeld. For us, she represented the total package. Not only is she extremely talented and creative and certainly on her way to culinary stardom, but she also had the right attitude and a ‘down to earth’ personality. Keriann is highly approachable, speaks the culinary language yet in a way our guests can relate to. She simply fits right into our Royal family.

For Keriann, this is certainly an opportunity of a lifetime, but what’s in it for Royal Caribbean and our guests? The experience of having Keriann actually onboard, executing her menu in 150 Central Park on a daily basis and giving guests the opportunity to interact with her, not only in the restaurant in the evening but also during the day on their cruise. Remember she will be living on Oasis of the Seas! And for me personally, I will have the satisfaction of seeing Keriann grow as a chef, hone her skills, and gain the experience of running a restaurant on the world’s most revolutionary ship and have her become the next name to join the list of celebrity chefs.

Adam’s note: Frank did an eloquent job of articulating what a wonderful asset Keriann will be to Oasis of the Seas and our brand. Nevertheless, our readers who will experience 150 Central Park will still be surprised at just what a talented chef and engaging personality Keriann is. I hope you have the opportunity to meet her.

  • ray

    I pray that RCCL will give her quality products to work with.
    Not the same stuff that is used in the main dining room.
    You can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear.
    One must have good quality products to produce the WOW. You can only season it so much.

  • Jamie Snyder

    Wow, that is NOT the dumbest idea I have ever heard…..
    Way to get it right, I have no interest in eating in a celebrity chef’s restaurant and pay more just for the name. I wish Keriann all the luck in the world. I hope you are letting her have input in the design of the restaurant and kitchen space.
    So… when are you going to start up and Iron Chef @ Sea?

  • tomyoung

    The Oasis of the Seas seems to be the be all and end all in cruising. The only thing that is alarming is the Nation seems to be developing classes. There just seems to be venues developing that are going to force parents to tell their kids that is nice but it is not in our package. For the most part this does not exist now on most cruise ships. It sounds like the industry is going to get into private areas on the ship. At that point maybe tours could be offered to show how the rich and famous enjoy a cruise. While I am being funny here I hope my humor does not become reality.
    While the Oasis sounds great for me it is just too big. I am sure it will work for most but this just seems to be way too many people in 1 contained area. I first went on the Voyager of the Seas and thought wow this is incredible. After going on the Jewel and then on the Mariner the Mariner seemed too big. So while the Oasis sounds like a tremendous idea I am glad you will continue to offer cruises for us common folk.
    I agree with your point on celebrity chef not being the deal maker or breaker on a cruise. After going to Emerils in Orlando good food is important but service is what makes or breaks the experience. You folks do not take a back seat on dining service. Continue to do it right.
    Tom Young

  • Florence Wheeler

    This comment is not related to 150 Central Park. I am so frustrated, I have found no other way to express my concerns. I do hope that I can get some assurances with this Email.
    In August 2010 we have booked on the Oasis of the seas to celebrate our 50th, our daughter and her husband’s 25th & their eldest son’s graduation. We will be a group of 13. Our wish is to dine together as a family,(four members are flying from the UK)as this will be the only opportunity to spend quality time. I called “Guest Relations” to request a table (preferably round)to accomodate all 13 of us, only to be told that the largest available would seat 10. To sit 10 & 3 is definitely not acceptable. I find it hard to believe that a ship as large as the Oasis do not have the facilities for larger groups.
    I know August 2010 is still a long way off, this is something I would really like sorted out fairly soon. We choose the Oasis as we hoped it would have something for everyone. My husband & I have been on cruises on your smaller ships, enjoyed every minute of it.
    Thank you for listening

  • clifton Phalen

    I am a HUGE fan of Royal Caribbean ever since our first cruise on Explorer. WE have a reservation on Oasis in Feb. and I can’t wait. I really enjoy the presidents blog and Mr. Weber’s information. It helps me stay up to date with the progress of the ship. The stories and videos are very interesting. I only wish the cruise was 14 days, not 7.

  • Robert T

    I agree with your view of celebrity chefs – not worth the extra cost and could be a disappointment to your guests. When I’m dining, it’s the food and service that determine the experience, not the name of the person preparing it. I think that developing your own culinary identity is a better approach.

    On a different subject (see Florence Wheeler’s previous comment on 20th August, 2009), I notice that the deck plans identify four areas in the main dining rooms as “Private Dining” (two on Deck 3 and two on Deck 4). What are these intended for? How are they reserved? What groups will they accommodate?

    Florence, perhaps you could ask Customer Relations about the private dining areas and post your findings?

  • johanne boerio


    • Adam

      Thanks Johanne.

      Someone will be in touch with you soon to help with your inquiry.

      • Adam

        Thank you for inquiry Johanne. Reservations for our specialty restaurants can be made online through our cruise enchantments area. Please note that 150 Central Park will feature smaller table arrangements so we will not be able to seat your whole party at one table.

  • yannick haas