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The trend of culinary experiences taking an increasingly central role in travel isn’t exactly new, but it’s still fascinating to see how it continues to play out in the industry. In 2016, Skift identified “Food Is Now the Leading Hook of Travel” as one of its megatrends, noting that “food has an unmatched ability to communicate a unique sense of place.”
Exceptional food experiences are no longer something travelers might consider a “nice to have.” At this point, they’re often the focus of a trip. Even for cruise passengers today, time aboard between ports is now just as much apart of passengers’ culinary adventure as their explorations on land.
The partnership between Windstar Cruises and the non-profit James Beard Foundation is one example of how travel providers are doubling down on their culinary offerings. Launched in 2016, the partnership began when the cruise line started bringing award-winning culinary talent to passengers on its fleet of six elegant ships. Windstar is now the official cruise line of the Foundation. It has recently extended the partnership into 2021 and is continuously expanding the innovative food offerings on its ships, from tailored recipes, to wine tastings and cooking demonstrations, to inspiring culinary shore excursions.
For example, in June, celebrated Seattle Chef Maxime Bilet and Chicago-based Sommelier Belinda Chang joined Windstar’s Hidden Harbors of the Côte d’Azur cruise. Bilet, who grew up in the south of France, was named as one of Forbes’ top “30 under 30” in food and wine in 2012, and by Escoffier as one of the top emerging chefs. His co-authored book, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, was the recipient of the James Beard Foundation’s 2012 Book of the Year Award. Chang, winner of multiple James Beard Awards, has created wine lists recognized with awards from Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, and others. Aboard Wind Surf cruise ship, Bilet and Chang treated passengers to a hosted dinner with wine pairings, cooking demonstrations and wine tastings, and local market tours in various ports.
Another example will come in June 2019, when Windstar’s Yachtsman’s Harbors of the Riviera cruise will welcome Executive Chef and James Beard Award winner Jamie Leeds of JL Restaurant Group. Leeds is one of Washington’s most highly recognized chefs and restaurateurs with six restaurants under her name, including Hank’s Oyster Bar, Hank’s Oyster Bar on the Wharf, and Hank’s Pasta Bar and Hank’s Cocktail Bar. On the cruise, she will host a dinner complete with wine parings, invite guests to shop alongside her at a local market, and present demos of some of her favorite recipes.
There are many other award-winning chefs lined up to enhance Windstar’s culinary offerings on its upcoming cruises. On every Windstar sailing, the dinner menu will feature a “Signature Recipe” from the cruise’s resident James Beard Foundation-recognized chef, who will build the dish around local market ingredients when possible. Passengers will often then be able to accompany that same chef to the local markets for a tour when in port or see him or her creating amazing food during a culinary demonstration.
“Throughout the flourishing partnership, Windstar and the James Beard Foundation are immersing guests in epicurean adventures around the globe,” said Windstar President John Delaney. “While some cruise lines boast a celebrity chef or offer a special restaurant experience on board for an additional fee, we have an entire arsenal of chefs who give us the ability to focus on regional cuisine that’s aligned with each chef’s specialty. This equates to more memorable meals at sea, prepared with locally sourced ingredients by some of the most recognized culinary talent in the world –– all as part of our regular Windstar guest experience.”