This is sponsored content for Celebrity Cruises.
There are great meals, and then there are extraordinary dining experiences that remain with you forever, thanks to a special magic.
Few understand this better than Cornelius Gallagher, who oversees premium cruise brand Celebrity Cruises' food and beverage operation. It's a hefty responsibility, comprising 7000 food and beverage professionals and menu development across 10 ships. But the Michelin chef's key mission is to elevate each meal to an occasion dazzling enough to excite even the most experienced diner.
He says: "The restaurant experience tries to pull people away from reality and put them in this beautiful little pocket of time where you can create this different and heavenly, almost other-worldly polished, flawless experience."
A devotion to detail
Outstanding dining experiences, says Gallagher, are a complex mosaic of perfect details. "It's not just about food," he says. "It's the friendliness and warmth, the hospitality. The ambience itself has to be just right. The direction and the colour of lighting, sounds and creating the right playlist; the plates or china, the menus themselves – even the font on the menu. All those details must communicate in harmony. It's a blend of art and science, you can't just automate it."
A feast for all senses
Unforgettable dining experiences, says Gallagher, delight every sense – not just taste.
One of the most awe-inspiring examples is Eden, a unique immersive experience aboard Celebrity Edge, where culinary and performance art merge with design in a stunning, three-storey space created by leading architect Scott Butler. Dishes are served by performance artists amid music and theatre, and the entire 11,800sqft space is wrapped in glass, adding ocean panoramas to the spectacle.
Performance art and culinary excellence collide at Eden, aboard Celebrity Edge.
"Scott wanted to create something to really maximise the experiential potential of the full ceiling height and these gorgeous views as the ship goes around the world," says Gallagher. "We worked together with the entertainment team to create something that's really unique and different and experiential in the space."
Pushing the boundaries
The Magic Carpet, on Celebrity Edge, literally elevates the dining experience, in a groundbreaking combination of imagination and engineering. The world's first cantilevered, floating platform that reaches heights of 13 storeys above sea level, becomes a different venue with each perspective and location.
"When you're on the Magic Carpet, you're really immersed in the space, it's the ultimate al fresco dining experience," says Gallagher. "You're floating 14, 15 decks above sea level. It really is an experience that is all about the destination, whether that's Santorini or Barcelona or the Caribbean."
He adds: "It's the ultimate local restaurant with the world's best views. There's nothing better than eating locally-sourced food, in Spain, Greece or France with views of the coast of that country."
Indulge in a dining experience like no other at The Magic Carpet, on Celebrity Edge.
Technology enables the magic behind another unique Celebrity Dining experience, Le Petit Chef. In partnership with Belgian artists Tablemation and Skullmapping, the experience uses three-dimensional projection mapping technology and 4K cameras to project images onto the table.
"It's fun for people who are five years old to 80 years old," says Gallagher. We don't want everything to be formal. We want to vary it up and offer a little something different and cool for everybody."
All these sensory wonders are underpinned by a meticulous dedication to the cooking craft – and it begins at the source.
"As any chef worth their salt will tell you," says Gallagher, "it all starts with ingredients. We have great relationships with local suppliers throughout the world and we communicate with them days before we reach those ports to create these almost micro locally-sourced food experiences. In Barcelona, they'll go to La Boqueria off Las Ramblas and source food there to create a locally inspired meal."
Gallagher believes in a pursuit of excellence in every one of his dishes.
He says: "When we source products, we're really fastidious. We just don't just say: 'Okay, we'll take tomatoes.' We want a tasting of those tomatoes. We want to know exactly when they're in season. I want to send my chef there to make sure that those tomatoes, when we're buying them, they are at peak flavour. And that the farmer is doing the right things in terms of the soil, the level of alkalinity, what type of seed they're using, if they are heirloom or not, how much sunshine does that part of the world get?"
This pursuit of excellence means every dish, in every venue, is packed with fresh, local flavours - whether it's the Celebrity Flora Ecuadorian cuisine, served in the Galapagos, the Greek kefalograviera or ceviche in Cypress, or Morton Bay Bugs aboard Celebrity Solstice when she's in Australian waters.
With over 170 awards globally, when you cruise with Celebrity Cruises® you'll experience extraordinary destinations, culinary excellence, intuitive service, luxurious accommodations and stunning design. Our dining options, with menus curated by Michelin star Chef Cornelius Gallagher, are inspired by, and locally sourced from, the amazing destinations we visit. Celebrity Cruises recently joined forces with the iconic Chef Daniel Boulud as our Global Culinary Ambassador to create even more unique dining experiences for our guests. Discover Europe in 2020 with Celebrity Cruises' revolutionary new ships - Celebrity Edge® and Celebrity Apex℠ for the most groundbreaking culinary experiences at sea.