150 Central Park’s Winter Tasting Menus Launch with a Royal Pairing

TOASTED HAZELNUT FINANCIER truffle cream, brown butter streusel, roasted strawberries. Larkee has paired this with PORT, FONSECA Late Bottle Vintage, Portugal. (photo by Jessica Gross)

TOASTED HAZELNUT FINANCIER, the dessert course in the Farmhouse Menu combines
truffle cream, brown butter streusel, roasted strawberries. Larkee has paired this with PORT, FONSECA
Late Bottle Vintage, Portugal (photo by Jessica Gross.)

Special Ops chef Thomas Tennant is on the road again, this time with the sea beneath and Wine Director Eric Larkee as first mate to introduce Michael’s winter menus to Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class beginning with Allure of the Seas this Sunday.  The two are already onboard to prepare the team for the change of seasons inside 150 Central Park.  Outside, it’s all Caribbean sunshine on Deck 8, as the ship sails back to its home of Port Everglades.

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“I love Central Park,” says Larkee, reflecting on what it’s like to be back on Oasis Class after working on Quantum of the Seas to launch Michael’s Genuine Pub. “It’s the greatest amenity on any cruise ship.”

Please enjoy the new winter menus below, Farmhouse and Homestead, featuring lots of Florida produce from some of our favorite farms including Swank and Teena’s Pride.  It is that time of year! We hear WIFI is working like a charm, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed for an Instagram or two, gentlemen! Chef and Bradley will also take part in the transition over the next few weeks. Oasis implements on Saturday, February 7.

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Farm-to-Ship: Cruising into Summer at 150 Central Park

Ah, #shiplife. With Michael’s Genuine® Pub coming online in the fall, we are utilizing this summer menu transition at 150 Central Park aboard Allure and Oasis of the Seas as an opportunity to orient our greater TGHG team to the unique charms of work at sea!  Special Ops Chef Thomas Tennant will cruise the length of menu implementation periods with genuine teammates coming on and off throughout. First up, Allure. Eric disembarked in Port Everglades yesterday, and Michael and Ryan hopped onboard. Rather than feature two menus per week-long sailing that swap half way through, we are introducing one six course menu with choices on course numbers three through six. Oasis will come online in July.   To start, a smattering of tapas including tortilla español with romesco sauce.  Delicioso.  Poulet Rouge chicken from Joyce Farms is back, as is Jim Wood’s Palmetto Creek pork.  Please find Michael’s Summer Menu, including option of Royal Pairing selections by Eric Larkee, below.  Happy sailing, gentlemen!

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[VIDEO] Somm at Sea: International Man of Mystery Eric Larkee


Time lapse.  It’s been known to happen while cruising the great wide open.  Blue for days, as we say.  But today is a port day for Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas in Sint Maarten. The Dutch side of this Caribbean island in the Kingdom of the Netherlands comprises its southern half, with the French Saint Martin to the north.  TGHG Wine Director Eric Larkee is on his second of two tours of duty with Special Ops Chef Thomas Tennant chaperoning fine dining restaurant 150 Central Park through its seasonal menu transition.  The restaurant abroad Oasis of the Seas launched Michael’s new winter menus Shadehouse and Harvest last week. Now it is big sister’s turn. Chef meets the ship next week for a couple of days when Eric is back on dry land.

Not only is he responsible for selecting the Royal [wine] Pairing for the rotating menus and training front of house staff, but lately Eric has voluntarily embraced the role of Brand Stringer to capture the action.  Even invested in a Gorillapod to make it nice.  The menus look great this season, as they should with all our farms here in South Florida at the height of harvest.  The first dish of each menu is a favorite of mine always, primarily due to Eric.  He has a way of handling the pairing to whet the palate and leave you wanting more.  Borek Farms Beets start things off for Harvest, roasted, pureed, pickled, and then shaved, with creamy robiola cheese, pistachio, and citrus.  The brightness and freshness of the star ingredient is balanced by something luxurious and creamy in the cheese and then zapped right back up with the last ingredient, the crisp acidity of a glass of Schramsberg, Blanc de Blancs from the North Coast of California.  A whole New World, indeed.  Enjoy Eric’s time lapse below, and we wish him safe travels home. We’ve got plenty of material at home base begging for a sequel!

[UPDATED] The Recipe for a Great Summer Salad May Not Be a Recipe at All

Update: Eric Larkee is the MAN! Here are the wines we tasted today — incidentally available at various genuine venues below — along with Chef’s kick-butt salads.

-Prieure de Montezargues, Tavel, France 2011 (Grenache Blend) VINTAGES-Schloss Gobelsburg, Gobelsburger, Kamptal, Austria 2012 (Zweigelt) MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD & DRINK
-Lucien Crochet, Sancerre, France 2011 (Pinot Noir) MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD & DRINK
-La Croix de Carbonnieux, Bordeaux, France 2012 (Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot) MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD & DRINK
-Bollinger, Special Cuvee, Champagne, France NV MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD & DRINK AND ARTISAN AT 150 CENTRAL PARK
-Bonci, Carpaneto Vineyard, Castelli di Jesi, Marche, Italy 2009 (Verdicchio) ARTISAN AT 150 CENTRAL PARK

FLORIDA LOBSTER AND LYCHEE SALAD butter lettuce, avocado, pickled onion, macadamia nuts, jade dressingFLORIDA LOBSTER AND LYCHEE SALAD rice noodles, bean sprouts, coconut milk, puffed rice About one year ago today, then guest blogger Emily Codik offered up Michael’s keys to building a great salad, using as an example one of his best recipes and a personal favorite — Butter Lettuce with orange, hazelnuts, avocado and shallot-hazelnut vinaigrette. We now find ourselves aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, sailing the warm waters of the eastern Caribbean to St. Thomas in the height of what has shaped up to be a particularly hot summer in the tropics and craving food to match.

Somewhere in the Atlantic!

Somewhere in the Atlantic!

Sea days also mean everyone’s on the ship – all 4,000 plus passengers – each looking for stuff to do. For us, it means we have an opportunity to gather a small group of people inside 150 Central Park to share what’s new here now that Michael has only recently taken over the menus like we have done for a couple of years now on sister ship Oasis. What better way to share that than a new summer salad recipe or two presented with wines that love them, in the good hands of Chef and The Genuine Hospitality Group wine director Eric Larkee.

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We’ll post some photos and video later of the dynamic duo in action… Stay tuned!

We’re starting by taking a page from Michael’s cookbook and the upcoming “Artisan” menu here with Florida Lobster and Lychee Salad with avocado, toasted hazelnuts, pickled onions, and jade dressing. Here local lychees are subbed for papaya, since we just had a killer season in Homestead! Then, it’s even further outside of the confines of the recipe and wine boxes… Using a few great ingredients from great sources and having some basics down (of which there is a dedicated section in MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD,) you can make DIY salads all the time and know what to drink with them. It’s what we did in building the summer dishes and Royal Pairings for the ship, including another variation of the Lobster salad, pictured above and on the current “Meadow” menu. Relax. It’s summer, and we’re cruising.

Florida Lobster Salad with Avocado, Papaya & Jade Dressing from MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat by Michael Schwartz

Homecoming Means Going for Special Ops Chef Thomas Tennant


Thomas in The Cypress Room kitchen in June.

Thomas Tennant began working in the Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink kitchen in September of 2007.   Since then, we as a company have grown from one restaurant to four in Miami, one in Grand Cayman, and two sailing the high seas of the eastern and western Caribbean. Chef Thomas has been there through it all, most recently on the rock.  After working the line and sousing at our flagship for three years, Thomas chose to accept chef Michael’s mission of opening chef de cuisine in Grand Cayman, not a walk in the park.  First, the job required a skilled chef immersed in the genuine ways to make sure Michael’s vision was executed to a “t” in the kitchen.  Thomas did so with passion and his endless stream of fearless creativity.  He not only led and garnered the respect of his back-of-house team, but also of the people on island, not an easy feat for a foreigner.  With patience and determination, he reached out to the community, made friends with farmers, and integrated into island life like pate to crostini.

I think we can all agree Thomas earned his stripes.  So when it was time for him to return stateside, another mission was waiting for him.  Well-armed with his gift of adaptation, our new special ops chef dove head first into a number of Schwartzprojects.  First up, Royal Caribbean, and learning the ropes of our 150 Central Park program, including local ingredient provisioning, inputting recipes into its ‘Master Cook’ system, testing them, and finally implementing new menus.

150 Park Sign for OA_AL Poster_Chef Michael_Winter_Meadow&Artisan_AllureAs Ellie previously posted, summer dishes were tested in June alongside Michael, Bradley, and Hedy at The Cypress Room with the help of 150 Central Park chef de cuisine Dominic Bradshaw.  Thomas got his first taste of shiplife on Saturday, July 27 when he boarded the Oasis of the Seas for his maiden sailing and service in the galley, implementing summer’s “Meadow” and “Artisan”.  With Michael, Eric and I heading out on sister ship Allure of the Seas this Sunday to do the same, and Thomas at the gate in MIA waiting to board a flight to check back in with Grand Cayman for a few days, we rang him up to chat about his impressions of shiplife — from what happens when the pasta machine breaks down 10 minutes into prep, to how many languages he can now say “Thank You” in.

TGK:  So when I tell people I’m heading out on a sailing, they think of poolside daiquiris and a great tan.  “You’re going on vacation!” they insist.

Thomas Tennant: Yea… no. You kind of work all day. You work, you work, you work, you take a break and then you work again.

TGK:  Were you prepared for the experience? Was it what you expected?

TT:  It’s a very diverse crew, very international.  Lots of Filipinos and Indonesians, some Europeans, and lots of island people.  It was something familiar from living in Grand Cayman, so in that way it was a smooth transition in terms of learning how to communicate and work with the staff in the galley. I also made sure to get off the ship for a few hours when we were in port, especially in St. Thomas which is a US Virgin Island, to take advantage of the cell service! 

TGK:  What is the key to survival on the ship as a chef?

TT: The key is making it work through adaptability… Sometimes you don’t have an ingredient so you need to be flexible and use good judgement.  Some employees are still in training mode, but they are open to constructive criticism.  They have a strong work ethic, and everyone is open and welcoming.  Shiplife is all about the ultimate hospitality, not just to the guests, but to each other as crewmates.  Everyone lives together and works together.  That’s over 2000 employees, and you become acquainted real quick.  By the end of that week, I was already speaking three new languages.  Everyone is friendly if only just by virtue of having to get along.  The worst thing you can be disciplined with a notice from the captain. No one wants that!  

TGK:  Talk to me a little about what it’s like working in the galley?

TT:  There’s a little bit of translation from the written recipe to application that needs to happen for the staff to understand. They read the recipes, and because English isn’t their first language, you tell them to butter a steak, and they may think you mean to put a pat of butter on it.  All of them have some sort of classical training before they get on the ship.  I can’t tell you how many cooks would come up to me and show me their certifications and paperwork from the courses they passed.  The galley at 150 has the cream of the crop.  The cooks there want to be there and it’s sort of a badge of honor.  The most important thing is the discipline and structure.  No one would dare question the chef’s direction.  That just does not happen.  The culture is very different in that way from restaurants on land.  The captain is the only 5 stripe officer on the ship and the chain of command descends from there.  You have 4s and 3 1/2s and so on… These controls allow the ship to function. 

9366583638_cbacf6161b_bTGK:  Did anything go wrong that you were forced to adapt to on the fly?

Ingredient-wise, the only thing that didn’t make it on the ship were the bing cherries so we use Amarena instead. cherries…  Michael showed us another way to form the ruccoli pastas, and one of the comis (line cook) did it differently, sideways with his fingers, but it achieved a better result because it was more efficient.  Michael is always pushing the team to work better and innovate no matter how seemingly small a task may be.  We make thousands of pieces of ruccoli pasta… so every second counts.  Also our cavatelli machine broke within 10 minutes of using it.  I thought to myself oops we’re on a ship, there’s nothing we can do about it.  But the guys called engineering and after little welding and readjusting on the gears, it actually worked better than before!

TGK:  How has the response been to the new menus?  Any dishes in particular stand out to you?

TT:  One of my personal favorites is the rock shrimp salad at MGFD, and it translated really well with the lobster salad… That dish was the most talked about! Everyone really loved that, especially the jade dressing. The venison and the sausage also came back with a lot of clean plates, if they order it.  Substitutions on the ship especially in the main dining room are par for the course so that was something that required getting used to.  Also Hedy’s quattro leches.  Oh man, I didn’t stop hearing about that one!