We know what you’re thinking: What does a Food Network chef have to do with cruising? Well, everything, if you’re on one of Celebrity’s Savor Your Destination culinary theme cruises. Enter Daisy Martinez, star of the network’s “Viva Daisy!,” a show focusing on home-style meals with a Latin flair. Brooklyn-based Martinez was weary about the whole experience on her first foray aboard Celebrity Equinox, in September 2010. Now she tells us she’s a “believer” — which is a good thing, since she’s currently hosting her second Equinox stint, an 11-night Western Caribbean jaunt that ends December 23.
As a special guest chef, what do you do exactly on a cruise?
A chef does classes and hosts events. The Tuscan Grille hosted a dinner made entirely from my recipes. I hosted the dinner and 12 people … we made paella. There was also a “Top Chef”-style competition with chefs on the cruise, and passengers were the sous chefs. We started at 11 a.m. and cooked three courses. I must have hosted four to five different events, only on the water. …
The kitchens are beautiful, spacious. You could fit four New York City restaurant kitchens into one Celebrity kitchen. I was blown away that it was so spacious.
Do you have time to go offshore?
Absolutely. [On the last cruise], two of chefs from the ship took me to this little restaurant off the water in Dubrovnik; I had steamed mussels in a light tomato broth. In Rome, there was a farmers market; they had a vendor with all of the local hams. I asked, “Why are there bees on the hams?” and the vendor replied, “They make the honey special.’ Everything works together, the bees left holes in the hams.
I had lunch in a little cafe [in Rome]; we told the waiter we were chefs. I had pasta and tomato sauce with bits of pork and deep-fried artichoke. I also had pears with a light honey syrup. The waiter also told me about their famous dense cheesecake. … It was beautiful, citrus scented, made with ricotta. I had a gazillion wonderful meals.
What about the meals on the cruise itself?
I had breakfast at the Oceanview Café and for lunch, you have the specialty restaurants. … Blu is healthy, and Qsine has family-style courses, food that you know, but fixed and presented in a whimsical way. I had spring rolls, but it was stuffed with shredded baby back ribs and served with a chipotle-type sauce. …
When I die, I think I am going to haunt this place; this is where you want to be. I was very anti-cruise, I thought it was restricted, but its like a small floating city, you don’t run into the same people twice.
Would you consider doing these cruises on an ongoing basis?
In a flat second, in a New York minute. … Funny aside – my mother lives on the Gulf Coast and she had never had stone crab legs. I arranged for stone crab legs to have on Mother’s Day dinner for her. I ordered more than three people could eat. I have never seen her eat so much, she was watching her weight, but she ate until she was fit to bust.
My mom and dad are getting [up] in years; after this cruise, we are docked back in Fort Lauderdale. I am going to fly to Tampa and spend the holidays with them in Tampa. I arranged for the stone crab legs.
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