Today we’re thrilled to have a special guest, Chef John Suley, of Celebrity Cruises. Chef John Suley takes you into the Celebrity kitchen and even shares one of his favorite recipes. Find out more about Chef John Suley at the bottom.
Do you ever have a phrase or maybe a mantra that gets stuck in your head? I do, and it’s one that’s been there for years. When my wife and I recently bought our first house and had so many decisions to make about where to live, what we needed and really wanted in the house, and what we would add now or later, this phrase kept coming into my thoughts. When I’m planning a menu – whether for a casual barbeque with friends or for one of our ships’ restaurants that serves thousands of people – there it is. Even when I’m teaching my son how to tie his shoes, it’s there. For me, it’s the phrase “keep it simple.” And it’s simply the best advice.
When it comes to cooking, it doesn’t matter whether you’re serving one thousand people, one family, or even one person. Good food is about listening to your senses, using the best possible ingredients, finding a balance, or even a contrast between textures to add crunch, merging flavors and then savoring the result. It’s about celebrating the very essence of life, and it’s the same across cultures. Food is something best shared with others. And the simpler, the better.
I began to appreciate the beauty of simplicity when I graduated from cooking school, packed one suitcase and headed to Europe. I knocked on the doors of Michelin three-star restaurants and offered to work for free, just to have the opportunity to absorb the energy, knowledge, and creativity of the masters of the culinary world. The simplicity of living from one suitcase taught me to be resourceful. But the real appreciation for simplicity came by watching these renowned chefs and their teams make magic from the simplest, freshest ingredients available in London and Paris. These are people who revere a stalk of asparagus for its simple lines and symmetry, and who in respect for that natural beauty, insist that every piece of asparagus be trimmed to have not even a micrometer of difference in size. It may sound strict, but the result is stunning.
I’m a perfectionist, too, but not all the time. Relaxing over food is one of life’s simplest pleasures. One of my favorite things to make at home on a weeknight is an arugula salad with a lemon juice olive oil vinaigrette and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, a little Maldon sea salt, and coarse black pepper. Maybe to go with it, a pizza with a simple crust made with white wine, fresh crushed heirloom tomatoes, basil, chili flake, and burrata cheese. In the summer, add a glass of crisp rosé or a cold craft beer, and it’s a complete experience. With just a few ingredients, an amazing meal is born. You can taste every ingredient, alone and as part of the whole dish.
On our ships, we go out of our way to create food that offers this same simplicity, this same emphasis on individual flavors and textures that work alone or as part of a dish. Of course, that’s not to say that we don’t also serve complex, technique-focused dishes such as crispy pork belly with parsnips, apples, and calvados (served in our Murano specialty restaurant), or use intricate knife skills, or perfect the critical sense of timing required to orchestrate menus that have been designed to satisfy and expand the palates of guests from all over the world.
But in the end, it’s all about enjoyment. And my philosophy has been that the best way to enjoy anything is to keep it simple. Come onboard and taste for yourself sometime.
In the meantime, here’s my recipe for a simple summer salad:
4 cups of pre-washed baby arugula
2-3 ounces (1/2-3/4 cup) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Juice of 2 lemons (freshly squeezed)
1 oz. of extra virgin olive oil
Maldon sea salt
Coarse black pepper (in grinder)
Whisk the lemon juice, add the olive oil in a steady stream, add a pinch of salt. Toss with arugula and cheese; add more salt and add pepper to taste. Serve immediately in a cold bowl to keep it crisp. Oh, and don’t forget that rosé.
Play with it. See what you like, what you don’t like. Enjoy, taste, and keep it simple.
Widely regarded as one of the country’s top up-and-coming chefs, John Suley joined Celebrity Cruises in 2011, bringing a dynamic, innovative cooking style and passionate leadership to the modern luxury vacation brand’s food and beverage team. As associate vice president of culinary operations, Chef John provides vision and inspiration to the Celebrity Cruises food and beverage operations team, which includes more than 2,000 chefs. Under Chef John’s leadership, Celebrity Cruises became the first cruise line not only to cook at the legendary James Beard House, but also to create land-based pop-up restaurants, which debuted in San Francisco and New York City. John Suley is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America. He and his family reside in Miami, Florida.