Browsing through the dining options on my last cruise, there was something new I didn’t expect to see — Carnival’s Chef’s Table. I’ve had this sort of meal in restaurants and resorts, but I hadn’t experienced this type of interactive dinner on a ship. Turns out, it’s not just dinner, but a multi-sensory experience. We toured the kitchen, got hands-on with a cooking lesson, and were completely wowed by a fusion of flavors and different types of cuisine during a multi-course wine-pairing dinner. It was as entertaining as it was delicious.
We began the evening with a champagne reception where we met Executive Chef Vivek Menon and the other guests that were participating. There were only 8 of us total and it was nice to share the experience with such a small group of people that were all excited about food.
After a glass of bubbly, Chef Menon lead us on a private tour of the kitchen. It was fascinating to see all the action behind the scenes and how efficiently things are run. We could sense the team’s enthusiasm for sharing their passion for food and it was obvious that the Chef’s Table Dinner gave them a chance to get creative and play in the kitchen.
The appetizers rolled out one-by-one, with Chef Menon explaining the creation of each. One, a mango sphere served on a biscuit, totally challenged our perception of food. It sort of looked like an egg yolk, so we all hesitated a bit before trying it, but the sweet burst of flavor and mix of textures was a pleasantly delicious surprise.
After our little amuse bouche, we went to the pastry section of the kitchen to learn how to make Carnival’s famous Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. We also got a few cooking tips to bring back to our kitchens at home.
Then, it was time for dinner — a creative seven course meal paired with wine. Here’s the menu we tried:
Mango Sphere, Rosemary Biscuit
Salmon Tartar Cornets, Sesame Seeds
Beef Carpaccio on Air Pillow, Chocolate Bacon, Apple Ribbons
Double Cooked Lamb
Beef Blanket, Spiced Grape Tea
Asparagus Cauliflower, Honey Carrot Tian, Mache, Lemon Streusel
Corn Custard, Polenta Cracker, Tangerine, Passion Caviar
Creamy Quinoa, Parmesan Churros, Olive Snow, Port Wine Jus
Bisque Our Way
Two Tomatoes, Three Basil, Crisped Brioche, Garlic Chip
Chorizo Crust, Fried Pop Corn Pudding, Lemon Macaroon, Lobster Foam
Bone Marrow Souffle, Scallion & Garlic Panisse, Gremolata Crisp
Sea Salt Praline Chocolate, Raspberry Mojito, Key Lime Cake, Apricot Vanilla Gel, Citrus Cream
Mid way through dinner we had a little bit of surprise entertainment … a magician that absolutely blew us away. I won’t let you in on his trick, but I will say that none of us around the table could figure out how he did it. We were totally wowed.
At the end of the evening, it was difficult to leave. We had made new friends and shared an experience I’m sure none of us will ever forget. Chef Menon gave us each a group photo presented in a lovely frame and an autographed recipe for the warm chocolate melting cake we learned to make in the demonstration.
The following afternoon, we came back to our cabin to find another surprise from the chef — a plate of chocolates with a thank you note. Such a wonderful personal touch.
The Chef’s Table Dinner was one of the most memorable meals on our cruise and I would definitely do it again. I think most would save this sort of thing for a special occasion, but I happen to think travel IS just the right occasion to try something this unique.
If you decide to try the Chef’s Table, definitely sign up for it on the first day of your cruise since space is limited. It’s definitely worth it!
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