Class Act Cooks on Silversea

| 1.18.13

Learn to Cook in free classes from Relais and Châteaux on Swank Cruise Line

Silversea offers Relais and Châteaux cuisine

It's not enough that you're paying big bucks for a luxury cruise? No more chilling with a glass of wine on velvety seats while someone else does the cooking class grunt work? Say it ain't so, Silversea. But it turns out guests on six-star cruises no longer want to kick back while some white-coated chef demonstrates a dish from afar. Passengers want action. Hands-on cooking classes. Wielding knives. Food Network-style cooking competitions, where adrenalin soars, sweat pours and guests cheer for their favorite chef.

And so, on 14 swank voyages spanning the globe in 2013, "Relais & Châteaux L'Ecole des Chefs" is the new class act (pardon the pun) on Silversea. David Bilsland, a former instructor at London's esteemed Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, will host the new- school school.

I've attended classes with Chef Bilsland before on a Silversea voyage in Asia and came away impressed. The ones I saw were demonstration-only, but Bilsland knows his stuff. A wealth of information, he imparts facts with style. Plus, unlike other chefs who occasionally demonstrate, he is a certified instructor and knows how to teach. Without that pedigree, even the starriest chefs in front of a group ensures snores.

Are you aware a fan of cooking classes at sea? Tell us here: Silversea Cruise Forum

The interactive culinary school is a program developed with Jacques Thorel, Consulting Grand Chef for Relais & Châteaux. (R & C is a most prestigious collection of highly rated boutique restaurants and hotels around the world.) Thorel has earned two Michelin stars (a big deal) at Restaurant L'Auberge Bretonne in Brittany, France. He's also written a few books (alas, only in French.)

Silversea is the only cruise line that can feature Relais & Châteaux cooking school at sea. And the classes are free. As in complimentary. On Oceania and other cruise lines offering hands-on and other specialized classes, guests pay for the privilege.

How will guests who sign up be singing for their supper (or lunch) onboard? Expect special workshops on basic knife skills (it's the dull knife that draws blood, not the sharp one) and kitchen terminology (do you know what sweating an onion means?) as well as hands-on sauce and baking classes. Any cooking classes that are demonstration-style allow plenty of Q & A time.

Chefs will actually teach recipes that home cooks can use for entertaining - something sorely missing from many such classes. I can't tell you how many classes (at sea and onshore) I've moderated or attended where star chefs demonstrate how to make dishes like lobster stock, uni (sea urchin) cannoli and venison paté. For home cooks. Really?

On some voyages, guests have food adventures, like joining a "Market to Plate" escorted tour, followed by a cooking class using the just-purchased local foodstuff. "Culinary Outings," instructor-escorted excursions to a restaurant, hotel or other foodie venue guarantee a culinary exploration through expert eyes.

I went on a market tour with Chef Bilsland in China. He made it informative and fun, in part, by bringing along a local guide to interpret. Guests were amazed and somewhat dazed, but glad they went. Heads-up for the squeamish; exotic markets sell live animals and seafood that are selected by customers and killed. Food does not get any fresher. However, it's an eye-opener if you haven't experienced this before.

Here is a sample culled from the 14 voyages on various ships where the new interactive school is featured: (

• Voyage 7309 - Silver Explorer departs Lisbon April 29 for a two week "Flavors of Europe" voyage to Portsmouth.
• Voyage 1318 - Silver Cloud sails from Southampton June 9 on a 10-day trip to Copenhagen.
• Voyage 3328 - Silver Shadow goes from Vancouver September 12 to Tokyo.
• Voyage 3331 - Silver Shadow leaves Tokyo September 29 and heads to Hong Kong on a 12-day cruise.
• Voyage 2336 - Silver Wind departs Las Palmas December 3 on an 18-day sail to Cape Town, South Africa.

Are you aware a fan of cooking classes at sea? Tell us here: Silversea Cruise Forum

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