As Crystal’s vice president of food and beverage operations and hotel procurement — as well as an accomplished chef — Toni Neumeister has created some of the more delectable parts of a Crystal cruise. He has overseen the culinary programs and partnerships aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity for more than a decade, fostering a lasting and exclusive relationship with Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and implementing esteemed programs and certifications for Crystal’s talented chefs, sommeliers, and bartenders. Now, with the launch of Crystal Esprit just a few months away, Toni shares insights and philosophies of his latest challenge: creating the world-class level of culinary offerings for which Crystal is celebrated in a far more intimate yacht atmosphere. As choices are a cornerstone of the Crystal Cruises motto, Toni and his team are getting creative to ensure guests have virtually any mouthwatering wish at their fingertips. Here are his thoughts about the new venture, in his own words:
This has been a very exciting time for Crystal and for me, professionally. I have been creating and collaborating on culinary programs for our larger ships for a long time, accommodating hundreds of guests and various preferences. With the debut of Crystal Esprit, the new challenge becomes catering to just 62 guests in an extremely intimate space, without diminishing any of the creativity and options our guests have come to love.
With the relatively limited kitchen and dining space on the yacht — particularly compared to the elaborate spaces on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity — our culinary team has enjoyed the challenge of acting in multiple roles. The standard of excellence for our team remains the same, whatever the size of our vessels, though the executive chef will also oversee purchasing, and the maître ‘d will also act as the head wine sommelier.
What’s most exciting in the process of planning the cuisine for the new yacht is that we can focus heavily on the local ingredients and cuisines of the destinations we visit. With the yacht sailing in each region for several months, we have the ability to build relationships with local farmers and fishermen and create menus based on what is best at the markets on any given day. This will influence the food that will be offered aboard the yacht, but our guests will still find their favorite Crystal cuisine. For instance, while cruising the Seychelles, instead of Nobu’s famous Black Cod dish, we may serve a different fish that can be sourced locally and prepared in the same way with those familiar flavors.
At the heart of the culinary — and all other — offerings aboard Crystal Esprit is the sense that we want guests to feel as though they are sailing on their own personal yacht; like they’re at home away from home. So, while travelers can still enjoy 24-hour stateroom dining service and casual dining options out on the deck, they can also treat themselves to snacks and beverages as they choose, at any time. The Barista Coffee and Wine Corner bar, for instance, will have self-serve pastries, espresso beverages and wines available any time a guest wishes — perfect for midday or midnight snacks.
Creating the culinary program for what is essentially an intimate personal yacht shared by travelers with a common love of new adventures has been a fun and engaging process that has brought my team of chefs and experts together, much like the Crystal Yacht Cruises experience will be for our guests.
Crystal Esprit itineraries from 2016 through early 2018 are now open for booking to all travelers. Book by October 31, 2015 for best available fares.