Another Celeb Chef Goes to Sea

| Thursday, 05 Jul. 2012

Geoffrey Zakarian already conquered the Big Apple, so he might do equally well on the high seas. And heck, is there a celebrity chef out there who has yet to stake his name and reputation on a cruse ship restaurant? The trend ever continues as this Food Network star joins forces with Norwegian Cruise Line to provide three dining outlets for the new Breakaway. The ship, currently under construction in Germany, will arrive in her year-round home port of New York City in early May 2013. Breakaway will offer weekly summer seven-day cruises to Bermuda. In the fall, it will sail from the heart of Manhattan to the Bahamas, Florida and the Southern Caribbean.

So who is Geoffrey Zakarian? He may not be a household name like Wolfgang Puck or the once ever-present Emeril Lagasse, but this New York-based chef is a Food Network star. He won "The Next Iron Chef, Super Chefs" (no mean feat) on the fourth season, and he is a recurring judge on the uber-popular Food Network series "Chopped." He has also appeared on other television programs, like NBC's "Today" show. His cookbook, "Geoffrey Zakarian's Town/Country," was well-received.

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Zakarian earned his way onto the Food Network. His career spans some 20 years, fittingly, mostly in Manhattan (the home base for Norwegian Breakaway). He got his first kitchen gig at legendary Le Cirque, learned more of his craft working with Europe's superstar chefs, and in 1987, became an executive chef at New York's 21 Club. Remember when hotel dining got sexy in the '80s? Zakarian helped start that trend when he became executive chef of 44 at the Royalton Hotel. And did you recall reading about the hot hotel, Delano, in Miami? In 1995, he opened the Blue Door there to instantaneous acclaim.

More recently, he became owner of his first restaurant Town in 2001, receiving three stars from "The New York Times." He also received three stars from "The New York Times" for his follow-up, Country - and a much-coveted Michelin star. He's also scoring with more trendy Manhattan hotel restaurants, like The Lambs Club at New York's Chatwal Hotel, and The National at The Benjamin Hotel.

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This modern American - and very much a New York chef - will open Ocean Blue as a luxury seafood dining experience onboard this new Norwegian ship. He will also run The Raw Bar, an adjacent bar highlighting seafood and wines by the glass. This third outlet is dubbed Ocean Blue on The Waterfront, a more casual version of Ocean Blue. Talking about Ocean Blue, Zakarian says: "I am planning, preparing and recruiting for this restaurant the same as if I were opening on land, and truly, I have been humbled and inspired by Norwegian's vision to elevate hospitality on the seas."

Unlike many star chefs who take on ventures at sea, Zakarian has much experience running hotel restaurants, which gives him an edge over his competition. And with cruises only a week long, the ship should be able to secure impeccably fresh fish. The freshness of fish at sea is always a weak point for ships, no matter what quality they buy and how carefully they store it. Some celebrity chefs score big at sea (take Nobu Matsuhisa with Silk Road & The Sushi Bar aboard Crystal Cruises) and others, not so much. Their alliances end (think Charlie Palmer and Seabourn Cruise Line) or just slowly fade away.

The bigger issue is just how dedicated the chef is to the venture. Is it a public relations and marketing event or a serious commitment? Geoffrey Zakarian is promising the latter, and in time, we will see.

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