The Master Chef on How He Wasn’t Supposed to Stay on Board, and is Happy He Did
“Where Luxury is Personal.” This is so much more than a tagline from our new branding campaign. The operative word in this sentiment is personal, rooted in the people who comprise each Crystal Experience – the dedicated souls who ensure that no detail is overlooked when delivering experiences that are personally meaningful to you.
People like Crystal Serenity Prego Chef de Cuisine Alfred Napotnik, who “stars” in our new advertising campaign that highlights the many ways the Crystal Experience is a personal one for both guests and crew alike. Chef Alfred shares how and why he was personally drawn to the Crystal Family, and how making guests’ smile is his greatest joy.
The Beginning of a Passion
I’m from Wolfsberg in Carinthia, Austria, which is south, and close to the Italian border. When I was a kid, I was dragged by my parents almost every second weekend to Italy for lunch or a long weekend. So, there are certain things you remember as you eat them over and over. The taste of Northern Italy is part of who I am, and I love that I get to incorporate it into what I do every day. There are similarities between this regional cuisine and dining aboard Crystal ships. Food is a family affair in Italy. It is the heart of coming together, laughing too loudly, lingering over the table. This is how it is in Prego. Our guests are family, and I love being a part of these moments.
Becoming a chef wasn’t my first choice. On a particularly boring day of classes, a friend of mine and I decided to drop out of school. It was the first major life decision I had made on my own. When my father found out, he said, “Okay, it looks like you are a man now. Welcome to the man’s world.” And he sent me off.
Did I regret it at the beginning? Yes. But I decided to follow what was already part of me and pursue a culinary career. Very quickly I found that being a chef is very, very hard work but also incredibly rewarding. I am now a certified Master Chef, but the journey never ends. I remember feeling completely lost on my first job after culinary school cooking in a hotel galley, then learning to cook in different settings and in different countries – this is how you really learn if this is your passion or not. It is mine. It gives me such joy to see the great delight and satisfaction on people’s faces when they enjoy what I’ve made for them. There is no better feeling than that.
The Beginning of a Crystal Journey
On Crystal Serenity, I am surrounded by top professionals who also feel this way and truly make our guests’ satisfaction the ultimate priority.
I started working for Crystal in 2007 when I was invited by Toni Neumeister (currently senior vice president of hotel operations, then vice president of food & beverage operations) to come see Crystal Serenity. My first encounter with the ship was a “wow” experience. Everything was beautiful. The people were the best in the industry and some of the friendliest I had met. I originally requested to come aboard for only six months, and I am still here today. At the beginning, I would travel between Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, but when you start on a ship, there is a special connection there. Crystal Serenity is like a second home for me, and I know it is that way for many of our guests, too.
A luxury cruise brand is not born overnight. Crystal has been cultivating our brand for many years, with a focus on finding the right people first. This philosophy started the glow of a new kind of luxury years ago, and ended up with a great ball of fire, I think. Over the years, so many people have contributed to make Crystal as special as it is, and I love that we never stop striving to perfect and deliver whatever is possible for our guests. Our main goal is always to deliver the best product and experience in all areas, and I am really proud to be a part of this team. I think this is the luxury – to be able to go somewhere and have people stop at almost nothing to make your dreams come true.