Royal Caribbean partners with Miami chef on Oasis of the Seas
150 Central Park, a premium restaurant on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, where Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine is designing the dishes on the menu. (Marjie Lambert/Miami Herald/MCT)
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At first glance, it looks like an odd fit.
Schwartz, owner of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in the Design District and two other restaurants, specializes in rustic dishes, simple preparations and local, seasonal ingredients. The menu at his flagship restaurant changes often based on what's available each day.
150 Central Park offers a tasting menu of six or seven courses, fancier cuisine and a luxe ambience with white linens and Limoges china. The room is small, serving about 90 meals a night for a cover charge of $40 a person — high for a ship's alternative restaurant — with optional wine pairings for an extra fee.
As with the ship's other restaurants, its galley must be stocked every Saturday with all the ingredients required during the next seven days of Caribbean cruising. Unlike a land-based restaurant, 150 Central Park has no leeway to change its menu to incorporate, for example, an unexpected bushel of baby squash.
Royal Caribbean had shunned the celebrity-chef concept while other lines brought in big names to develop recipes. One reason, said Frank Weber, Royal Caribbean's vice president of food and beverage, is that the cruise line wants its chefs to be in the dining room interacting with guests — something a culinary star doesn't have time for.
In this partnership, Schwartz will design the recipes and set the tone, but James Seyba, one of his sous chefs at Michael's Genuine, will be the chef de cuisine, overseeing day-to-day operations of the shipboard restaurant and making the rounds in the dining room.
Schwartz will give the cruise line entree to farm-to-table cuisine, Weber said. Starting with Swank Specialty Produce in Loxahatchee, Royal Caribbean will buy small quantities of local produce just for 150 Central Park.
With South Florida's upside-down growing season, the variety of vegetables available for the first seasonal menu (they'll change quarterly) is limited, Schwartz said: baby beets, radishes, a mix of lettuces and bok choy.
The next one will be the "harvest" menu, Schwartz said, with a much greater variety of local produce. All will be bought from Swank initially, with the goal of gradually adding other farms.
Schwartz is adapting his signature style for the new venue. Michael's Genuine's short ribs — marinated in a dry spice rub, slow-roasted for hours, then grilled — will be served aboard the ship, but portions will be smaller and the dish "will be tweaked in terms of presentation" to fit the high-end restaurant, he said.
On the other hand, the Design District restaurant's popular onion stuffed with cinnamon-spiced lamb and apricots won't be served at 150 Central Park. "It's a rustic dish that doesn't translate," he said.
Instead, Schwartz created a not-so-simple dish with two cuts of lamb, one braised, the other seared, "sort of Indian-inspired" with some surprising ingredients including pistachio cream.