The farm to table movement has swept the culinary world over the past decade, with restaurants sourcing their ingredients from local farms and fisherman rather than mass producers for fresher, healthier dishes with less of a carbon footprint. Farm to table menus can now be found in most cities across the country, but the practice is not just happening on land. One chef has taken it to the high seas.
In 2011, James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz partnered with Royal Caribbean International to design seasonal tasting menus for 150 Central Park onboard Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, incorporating sustainable, high-quality, local ingredients into the restaurant’s supply chain.
“Getting product from our South Florida farms onboard was just too good to pass up,” he says. “We win, our farmers win and the customer wins.”
According to Schwartz, there was a learning curve when it came to sourcing ingredients and creating menus for a cruise ship.
“The menu planning process is much longer and there are a lot of logistical considerations for getting the ingredients on the ship,” he says. “You have to be really organized and think through what’s going to be available seasonally, but also on a relatively consistent basis. At our restaurants in Miami and Grand Cayman, we change the menu every single day, incorporating what’s coming in from our farmers and fishermen. It’s a different kind of creativity you have to apply to the puzzle at sea. You also have a wider audience and therefore a greater range of preferences to address.”
Schwartz feels his work at 150 Central Park has been a great learning experience leading to his role as Quantum of the Seas’Advisor for culinary and running one of the 18 diverse restaurants featured as part of its revolutionary Dynamic Dining offering: his own Michael’s Genuine Pub, the first American gastropub at sea.
If you are thinking “pub” means greasy finger food, think again. With Schwartz’s fresh, simple, pure philosophy behind it, this pub will feature a menu of snacks, charcuterie, cheese and desserts all made from great ingredients, as well as a variety of craft beers including Schwartz’s classic American ale, Michael’s Genuine® Home Brew.
“I’m excited for people to experience what we’ve worked so hard to create and maybe change their mind about what pub food is,” Schwartz says. “I see my role as Quantum’s Advisor for culinary as a great opportunity to share my approach to food and beverage with guests and illuminate the experiences they will have with the new Dynamic Dining program. We’ll talk about how good food and good beverage go hand in hand, from how craft beer is made, to what ingredients like hominy and speck are.”
Like any of his restaurant openings before, Schwartz knows that his work on Quantum will not be without its challenges.
“It’s the things you didn’t plan for that come to light when you get in the space for the first time,” he says. “We just need to make sure we do everything we can to set ourselves up for success in advance so we can respond to those unknowns the right way.”
Challenges aside, guests who book a cruise on Quantum will get to benefit from Schwartz’s artisanal food, handcrafted beer and culinary knowledge. According to him,
“It’s going to be a great ride.”