Jacques Pépin, Oceania Cruises' executive culinary director
It is no secret
that food is a very important part of the Oceania Cruises experience. This is largely
because the first thing that Jacques Pépin
set out to do as Oceania Cruises’ executive culinary director was create the finest cuisine at sea. At his side
was the dedicated and extraordinary culinary staff of Oceania Cruises and their
fleet corporate chef, Franck Garanger
Both Pépin and
Garanger hail from France and specialize in French cuisine, so it was only
natural that there would be an onboard restaurant devoted entirely to French
food and that it would be some of the finest French cuisine available anywhere.
Marina and Riviera, Jacques is Jacques Pépin’s first namesake
restaurant. Designed in the tradition of the great French bistros and
brasseries, Jacques serves timeless food that gives you a taste of the authentic
classics prepared the right way and created with only the finest ingredients.
In the forward
to Oceania Cruises’ culinary lifestyle book, Taste the World: The Food and
Flavors of Oceania Cruises, Pépin says:
“There is something irresistible about eating well at sea. I suppose
it’s partly the sea air and the relaxed pace that makes everything taste
better. But for me, a great deal of the pleasure comes from knowing what a true
feat of organization and skill it takes to pull off a satisfying meal under
such challenging conditions.
As I travel all over the world with Oceania Cruises, doing demos and
working with the chefs to develop new dishes and ideas, I am more impressed
with every voyage. I’m struck, first of all, by the quality of the ingredients
and the fundamental respect for techniques and tradition. The brioche smells
like butter when you break it open. The onion soup is made with real Gruyère,
real bread, and real stock, seasoned the right way, and served in the right
bowl with that little indentation that catches the cheese so it forms a perfect
crust in the oven. These small touches add up to a very great difference. There
is heartfelt pride in that brioche and that soup, and for my part, I am proud to
be associated with the men and women who devote their lives to getting those
details right every day.”
Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises, I’ve had the pleasure of dining at Jacques
a few times. An evening at Jacques begins with the enviable challenge of
selecting which of the delectable dishes you will try. This choice is often
complicated by the creativity of Chef Garanger, who
loves to design new recipes for the menu. The good news is that no matter which
courses you select, you are certain to be delighted. You can see from the menu
we chose during our most recent visit that my husband and I aren’t terribly
efficient at narrowing our choices.
Cuisses de Grenouilles en Persillade, Flan
Sautéed Frog Legs with Garlic-Herb Butter,
flan was a perfect, delicate complement to the flavor of the frog legs. And
what more can be said about anything cooked in garlic butter? It was
Gratiné à l’Oignon
Baked Onion Soup with Gruyère Cheese Crust
prepared perfectly. I didn’t know what that meant until I tasted this. The
onions are slowly simmered and topped with a layer of toasty Gruyère. Who knew I had to
take to the high seas to find this treasure?!
Pannequet de Saumon en Tartare
Salmon Tartare Wrapped in Salmon Gravlax
with Cucumber Rosace
richness of much of the food, I found this to be a perfect contrast. A light,
flavorful hors d’oeuvre, it was a salmon tartare wrapped in gravlax and simply
but elegantly presented on a bed of cucumber.
Fresh Mussels with Shallots, White Wine
Happily, the dramatic
presentation of this dish was matched by the incredible flavor. As Pépin mentioned
in the forward to Taste the World, preparing and serving food in the proper
dish is important. These mussels certainly were, and they were some of the best
mussels I’ve ever tasted. I was supposed to share with my husband – let’s just
say, he would recommend ordering your own.
Escargots à la Bourguignonne
Traditional Baked Escargots in Shell with
Burgundy Garlic Butter
Some people shy
away from escargots. I am not one of those people. If you are not one of those
people, try these. You will discover the way they should be prepared and eaten!
Poulet Fermier Rôti aux Herbes
Herb-crusted Black Foot Free
Range Chicken au Jus
he usually prefers fish, my husband surprised me by ordering the rotisserie
chicken. He wanted to taste a true French classic, masterfully prepared, which is
exactly what he got. Juicy and delicious in a perfectly roasted crust, this is
how chicken should taste. He chose traditional French accompaniments of haricots
verts and gratin dauphinois (because we couldn’t have a course without butter!).
Julia Child, a longtime friend and colleague of Pépin, famously said, “If
you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” So what could be better than using both, as
is the case with gratin dauphinois potatoes?!
Homard Thermidor à ma Façon
Maine Lobster Baked in Shell with Mushroom
Cream Sauce, Served with Crispy Parmesan
We capped off
our rich, decadent meal with the ultimate in richness (cream, butter AND
cheese!). Each time I dine in Jacques, I fully intend to try a new entrée. What
actually happens is that I can’t pass up the lobster thermidor. And fortunately
for my husband, I usually can’t finish it either!
In case your
mouth is watering and you can’t possibly wait for your next Oceania Cruises
voyage to try some of this cuisine, I am including the recipe for French onion
soup from Taste the World. In this book you will also find recipes for
the gravlax, rotisserie chicken, several gratin dishes and many more, along
with the story of one 24-hour day in the galleys, a behind the scenes look at
how this fabulous cuisine is created.
French Onion Soup
(makes 5 cups, serves 4)
7 cups beef stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
9 cups thinly sliced onion
1½ tablespoons finely chopped garlic
3 thyme sprigs
3 marjoram sprigs
12 to 16 slices baguette, each ¼ inch thick
Extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
½ cup dry red wine (such as Merlot)
3 tablespoons brandy
3½ cups chicken stock
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
Pour the beef stock into a
large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Adjust the
heat as needed to maintain a gentle boil and cook until the stock reduces by
half, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
In a stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and
garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent and a light
golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook until
the onion is a rich brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour, lowering the heat as necessary
to prevent scorching. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, place the thyme and marjoram sprigs on a small piece of
cheesecloth and tie into a sachet with kitchen twine. Set aside. Preheat the
oven to 350°F.
Lightly brush the baguette slices on both sides with olive oil.
Place in the oven and heat, turning once, until dry, about 5 minutes on each
side. Do not allow the bread to color. Set aside.
Add the white wine, red wine, and brandy to the browned onion and
bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until
the alcohol evaporates and the onion is glazed, about 5 minutes. Add the
sachet, the reduced beef stock, and the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
Keep at a low simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the broiler. Place 4 flameproof serving bowls on a small
sheet pan. Ladle the soup into the bowls. Top with the bread slices, and then
top the bread slices with enough cheese to cover the bread completely and
extend to the rims of the bowls, about ½ cup for each bowl. Place under the
broiler until the cheese is bubbling and toasted.
do not a chef make, so if you’re interested in honing your culinary skills and
learning some of the secrets to Oceania Cruises’ fabulous recipes, I highly
recommend taking a class at the Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard Marina
or Riviera. If the Oceania Favorites – Jacques class is featured
on your cruise, you can learn to make several of the dishes served at Jacques,
preparing them yourself in your own workstation with the guidance of masters like
Chef Kelly. Classes also teach other signature recipes from Oceania Cruises and
culinary techniques to prepare dishes from all over the world.
As we Americans prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we might suddenly find ourselves inspired to add a little French flair to our holiday dinner and enjoy this feast as those onboard Marina and Riviera will be doing – Jacques style! Happy holidays indeed!