Almost Royal

by Katherine Arteche
17 Dec 2019

A journey with Dream Cruises gives a taste of the palace.

For many of us, the thought of being the head chef for the British royal family would mean preparing an endless presentation of quail and boiled potatoes, stacks of braised turkey leg, and a handful of mulberries spilling from the edges of silver platters. But that’s a scene one would conjure if your only point of reference was from a biographical film of Queen Victoria, who reigned in the 19th century and was known to have a voracious appetite.

But on board the Genting Dream with Dream Cruises, this year’s edition of “Taste the Dream – A Taste of the Palace” brought guests a slice of a real royal culinary experience with two luxury itineraries featuring two acclaimed celebrity chefs: Chef Darren McGrady, the former British Royal Family chef at Buckingham Palace, and Chef Ivan Li, whose ancestors were imperial high court officials who served in the imperial kitchen during the Qing dynasty.

Chef Darren McGrady and Chef Ivan Li with Mr. Michael Goh (middle), President of Dream Cruises & Head of International Sales at Genting Cruise Lines.

Portfolio was invited to join Chef McGrady on the first installment that set sail on November 11 to 13, with destinations being two Malaysian islands, Penang and Langkawi. The journey also marks his debut in Southeast Asia, where one of his main priorities was to obtain the right ingredients to execute the royal recipes with authenticity.

His six-course degustation menu, “The Queen’s Feast”, was specially curated and housed onboard the dual establishment Prime Steakhouse by Mark Best and Seafood Grill by Mark Best. The main highlight was Queen Elizabeth II’s frequently requested entrée, a Gaelic steak dressed with whisky mushroom sauce. Dessert was a sampling of treacle tart, which was revealed to be a favorite of Prince Harry’s during his nursery years.

Chef McGrady's interpretation of the humble treacle tart.

Chef McGrady served at the palace for a good 15 years, before moving to Texas and establishing his own private fine dining catering service. He shared that while it seemed commonplace for an English chef to serve the British Royal Family, its culinary history has proven otherwise.

“Going back hundreds of years, it was French chefs who were working in the kitchen,” he says. “Until today, most of the cuisine is sort of French-based, and the menus of Buckingham Palace are all written in French. Her majesty speaks fluent French so she understands all the dishes. Hence for me, the kitchen is the only place I speak it.”

To expect a royal treatment at The Palace goes without saying: Each suite is provided with a private butler service that is on call 24/7. All dining reservations, show requests and any errands required are easily communicated through a quick call on the mobile phone that’s assigned to each of the 142 suites.

Additionally, The Palace’s programs comprise a series of workshops that were curated specifically for the thematic sail. Of such, a hands-on millinery introductory class was led by Awon Golding, a London-based head designer at Lock & Co., whose works have been commissioned for notable influences like Lady Gaga and more recently the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.

When traveling on board Dream Cruises as a guest of The Palace, one will be inclined to find their itineraries packed with numerous all-inclusive options, from theater shows to masterclass tastings and guided on-shore excursions. Upon embarking in Penang, bon vivants would make a beeline for Georgetown, the capital of Penang’s food-centric district. The Malaysian island also has its fair share of heritage sites, it being the home of the 134-year-old East & Oriental Hotel, which once housed guests like Charlie Chaplin.

Chef Li helmed the cruise’s second installment on the following weekend on November 17 to 20, and presented three tasting menus from his family-owned restaurant Family Li Imperial Cuisine. The next series onboard the Genting Dream with Dream Cruises will celebrate Asian festivities, with sail dates commencing from January to April 2020.

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