Cruise Food Is Better Than Ever – Just Ask Daniel Boulud

When Cornelius Gallagher was a student at the Culinary Institute of America in the early '90s attending a guest chef demonstration by Daniel Boulud, he never once thought he’d eventually work alongside the man himself. Especially not on a cruise ship. But now, Gallagher and Boulud, both F&W Best New Chefs, have teamed up to create sophisticated restaurants on the luxury cruise line, Celebrity Cruises. 

The duo first worked together in 1999, when Gallagher was hired as a sous chef at Restaurant Daniel in New York City. “I got to learn from him in so many different ways,” says Gallagher. “Not just how to be a great chef, but I learned about business from him and how to be a great restaurateur. He has a tremendous heart.” Gallagher brought those lessons with him for the next decade as he took on executive chef positions at Oceana Restaurant (where he was recognized as a 2003 F&W Best New Chef), Sonnier & Castle, and the Bohlsen Restaurant Group, staying in touch with Boulud through the years. 

The 10 Best Cruises for Food
Lamb Chop à la Grècque, Sweet and Sour Eggplant, Pistachio-Pepper Pesto, Tzatziki
Lamb Chop à la Grècque, Sweet and Sour Eggplant, Pistachio-Pepper Pesto, Tzatziki. COURTESY OF CELEBRITY CRUISES
After two decades working in restaurants, Gallagher began contemplating his next move. The cruise industry was not something he had considered, but when Royal Caribbean International, the largest cruise line in the world, reached out about a job as the director of food and beverage, he saw an opportunity to create a larger impact. “I really wanted to join an industry and a company where I could really make a difference, and share everything I’ve learned from working with these great chefs — Daniel being the pinnacle — with a larger platform.”

Gallagher also saw room to reshape the stigma around cruise dining. “I wanted to change the perception of what great food in the cruise industry could be,” he says. “It was a unique step, but after ten years with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, I strongly believe it was the right one.”

7 Things I Learned on My First Cruise Ship
Now as the vice president of food and beverage operations for one of Royal Caribbean’s brands, Celebrity Cruises, Gallagher oversees all restaurants and culinary operations for the brands’ 14 ships (and counting). Under his supervision, Celebrity has gained a reputation for having one of the best food programs in the industry. As more and more well-known chefs entered the cruise space, Gallagher remained selective about who Celebrity would partner with. “There are a lot of options for us, but we always want to be aligned with excellence,” he says. So when Boulud invited Gallagher to Boulud Sud’s fifth anniversary party in Miami in 2019, he took the opportunity to boldly ask about a potential partnership. To his surprise, Boulud said, “Sure.”

Mille-feuille of Pineapple “Martinique” Kumquat Marmalade, Rum Sabayon
Mille-feuille of Pineapple “Martinique” Kumquat Marmalade, Rum Sabayon. COURTESY OF CELEBRITY CRUISES
Boulud had always admired the cruising industry. As a young apprentice, he would often prep ingredients for food festivals on Croisières Paquet ships. Later in his career, Boulud brought Le Cirque onto a cruise for a three-day pop-up. “It was pretty cool,” he says. “What I like about the cruise industry is how organized you have to be — you have to calculate everything so carefully. I like that discipline and that you have to really have a sense of excellence in order to succeed.” Boulud also trusted Gallagher and knew he could rely on him. “I felt very confident that we could do something wonderful together.”

The 10 Best Cruises for Food
Gallagher and Boulud moved forward with the collaboration slowly, first introducing Boulud as the culinary brand ambassador for the Celebrity fleet. They served several of his dishes at Luminae, a suite class-exclusive restaurant, and he took over the Chef’s Table, a special tasting menu that occurs twice per cruise. “We thought that the next natural evolution of the partnership would be to launch a Daniel Boulud restaurant at sea,” says Gallagher. They decided to open a full-service restaurant, Le Voyage, on the Beyond in 2022. “It’s the culinary feather in our cap within the portfolio of 32 restaurants and bars on board, and it instantly became a success.”

Le Voyage on Celebrity Ascent
With global flavors and an opulent touch, Boulud treats Le Voyage the same way he would any of his other restaurants on shore. Boulud and members of his executive team helped open the restaurant, working with Gallagher to slightly adapt their rock-solid training model for an onboard format. “I’m a big believer that you don’t always rise to the level of your aspirations, but you fall to the level of your systems,” says Gallagher. “Having solid recipes or formulas in place that work a hundred percent of the time is incredibly important, especially in this industry where you’re bringing on new employees all of the time.”

This Is the Best Cruise for Food, As Voted on by Our Readers
This month, Le Voyage will be opening on its second ship, Celebrity Ascent. For every version of the restaurant, Boulud and Gallagher want the experience to feel familiar, but also unique to the individual ship. “We always want our menus to evolve and that is based on where the ship is going and the type of clients we have on board,” says Gallagher. “One of the most transformational changes for [Le Voyage on Celebrity Ascent] is the design. We were really able to dig in and focus on, not only the vibe of the restaurant, but the color palette, the softness of the materials, the directionality of the light, the selection of the playlist, what the servers are wearing, and the menus themselves.” 

Gallagher and Boulud work so well together, not just because of that mutual attention to detail or their respect for the cruise industry, but because of their shared history. “It’s been very organic because our relationship is organic,” says Gallagher. “This partnership has blossomed and become something better than I think either of us could have ever imagined.”

Previous Post Next Post