Disney Chefs Cook Up Gourmet Treats for New Ship
Disney Cruise Line
This is not a cooking lesson. Hunnel and his team have been carefully testing dishes for the ship's first-of-its-kind French restaurant, Remy. When the 4,000-passenger Dream debuts in late January, the adults-only, fine dining venue at the top of the ship is expected to be a standout feature.
The 80-seat restaurant is named for the diminutive star of Disney Pixar's "Ratatouille," but make no mistake -- there is big talent behind the scenes.
The menu, still under development, is actually a collaboration between Hunnel, who heads Disney World's AAA Five Diamond restaurant, and Chef Arnaud Lallement of l'Assiette Champenoise, an acclaimed Michelin two-star restaurant just outside of Reims, in France's Champagne region.
The chefs were charged with creating French-inspired gourmet cuisine, combining classic and contemporary styles, with an emphasis on sophistication.
Yes, the restaurant will be on a Disney ship with many families with kids onboard. But the idea for Remy is to titillate adult palettes. The restaurant will have a cover charge of $75 and will be limited to those ages 18 and up.
The experience at Remy will start with a signature champagne cocktail followed by a set menu of eight lavish courses. Disney Cruise Line's French-trained Chef Patrick Albert will head the kitchen onboard the ship.
Creative force Hunnel tells us his Cannelloni of Alaskan King Crab, which also has a hint of vanilla and splash of Veuve Clicquot, will be familiar to those who have dined at Victoria & Albert's, where the menu is constantly adapted to the fresh ingredients available, not to mention the whims of the chef.
"It's one of the dishes that we get a lot of requests for from our guests," Hunnel says. "They'll come in and say, 'I had that king crab dish. It had the caviar line going across the top. Can you make that again for us?'
"I'm hoping that will transfer over to Remy as well, so when the guests go on the ship and dine in Remy, then they can say, 'I had that dish at Victoria & Albert's at the Grand Floridian.'"
Hunnel is also known for his use of ingredients like Kobe beef and Japanese Wagyu strip loin, and these, too, will make appearances on the Remy menu, I learned. Also expect specialties from collaborator Lallerment, whose signature dishes include roasted lobster with cream and fresh asparagus with black truffles and vin jaune.
Fresh ingredients will be flown in for Remy from around the world, Hunnel says. The dish we were lucky enough to sample includes crab from Alaska, caviar from Israel and flavorful micro greens sourced from a farm in Ohio.
"The ingredients must be the most perfect ingredients, all in season at the moment," Hunnel explains.
For my visit, Master Pastry Chef Erich Herbitschek, who has worked with Hunnel for 15 years, was on hand in the kitchen at Victoria & Albert's as well, to give me a preview of a sweet delight that will cap the meal.
We went into his pastry room, which felt like going into a secret lab, and watched as he carefully filled cones made of what he says is one of the best white chocolates available, with Meyer lemon mousse, blackberry-violet sorbet and real candied violets.
To say the dessert was delicious is an understatement. "Thrilling" would be more appropriate.
With an added touch of sculptural spun sugar, it also looked like a work of art.
"Well, I think presentation is equal almost to the taste of it," the chef says when I mention this. "Of course for me personally, the taste is most important, but a dessert without a great presentation really doesn't appeal to anybody, so I really think presentation for dessert, specifically, is very important. That's why I have a lot of components here. It takes a lot of time to get this all together, but it's worth it."
Remy will also have an extensive wine collection -- a section of the restaurant is actually located in the wine room -- and guests will have the option of visiting the sommelier pre-dinner to select wines for the evening.
Purists may want to choose the 1990 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is what the wine critic drinks in "Ratatouille."
The décor of Remy will be Art Nouveau-inspired, with soft greens and red and gold accents. Tables will be set with Frette linens, Riedel glassware, Christofle silverware and china made exclusively for Remy – with the little mouse carefully integrated into the design. The restaurant will also feature a private Chef's Table that seats 16, in a room even more opulent and inspired by scenes from the movie.
The Disney Dream will also have an adults-only Italian restaurant, Palo ($15 per person), already a popular feature on the line's earlier ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. On Dream, though, there will be an enhancement -- the addition of a terrace for open-air dining.
Ozer Balli, vice president of Disney Cruise Line Hotel Operations, met me for a chat at Palo on the Wonder, where he said much planning is going into the family-oriented options for the Dream. Thanks to the cruise line's unusual rotation dining system, families will sample three themed restaurants.
Royal Palace, the fancy main dining room, is inspired by royalty in classic Disney films, and will serve continental cuisine. The lively Animator's Palate features a Pacific Rim menu and a show where the audience interacts with "Finding Nemo" characters. Lastly, Enchanted Garden has a "magic" garden design and a menu that is based on seasonal ingredients.
There's also a food court that Balli says will offer "something different," as well as a poolside café. He adds: "Our guests are really in for a treat."