On Silver Nova, Silversea Introduces S.A.L.T.’s First Chef’s Table
Before the sunset, a ballet begins on Silver Nova’s deck 10. It’s a carefully designed choreography, the hands of the chefs moving swiftly, lining up knives and cutting boards, organizing bottles full of condiments and fresh ingredients. They’re setting up the line, while the front of house team arranges 18 mise en place on the immaculate counter where until a few hours before guests had taken their afternoon S.A.L.T. Lab session.
On Silver Nova, this is the test kitchen where the Sea and Land Taste program hosts its daily culinary classes, a breathtaking room, spacious and bright, with sweeping views of the sea and the coastline, over 25 cooking stations and the best state of the art equipment (we tested some bread in one of the steam injection ovens!).
At night, this becomes the stage of Silversea’s brand new S.A.L.T. Chef’s Table.
“The new Lab on Silver Nova is so light and open, it would have been criminal not to use it throughout the day and evening,” says Adam Sachs, global director of S.A.L.T. “The grander space and new prominent position with its sweeping views lends itself to a special dining experience that’s unlike any at sea. Like the view outside those big windows, the flavors are always changing. Our chefs and everyone involved in the program really live to travel and find amazing tastes and ingredients along the way and the Chef’s Table format gives us a venue to share these discoveries with an intimate group of like-minded diners.”
In S.A.L.T Kitchen (the program’s signature restaurant) the idea is to bring the iconic dishes and traditions of the places visited during the cruise into the dining room. Because of the smaller scale of Chef’s Table, the culinary team is able to use some harder-to-source ingredients and be a bit more playful with the menu. This allows them to offer a creative and modern interpretation of the cuisine of the region in a setting that encourages conversation and curiosity. A set of exquisitely illustrated cards accompanies the courses, zooming in on hero ingredients.
Some examples? For the first menu – inspired by the Mediterranean – which I had the pleasure of trying, we had Mazara red prawns from Sicily served with artichoke and citrus; Black Venus rice (grown in Piedmont and Lombardy) with monkfish, chorizo crumbs and saffron aioli. There was piquillo pepper from Spain, prepared confit with a brandade, and Reblochon cheese from France’s Haute-Savoy perfectly complementing a braised red onion and Puy lentils. And one of the biggest hits of the night was surely the zucca ice cream with roasted pumpkin seed oil from Slovenia.
Sachs recalls how he discovered it: “I was in Slovenia last year attending the European Food Summit conference and had a chance to travel around the country and meet some of its culinary stars. In addition to revisiting the amazing Hisa Franko (for our S.A.L.T. podcast, we talked to chef owner Ana Roš who recently received Slovenia’s first three-star Michelin rating [link to the show],) we also met some producers doing interesting things, including at Kócbek, where a family makes the best organic pumpkin seed oil you’ll taste anywhere. It’s just deeply flavorful and kind of magic, not at all what you expect from something as mundane-seeming pumpkin seed oil.”
So when Adam and S.A.L.T. Executive director Ilaria Edoardi, together with Silversea’s Executive Chef Anne-Mari Cornelius, were putting together the launch menu and thinking about what would pair nicely with a sweet vegetal squash ice cream, they knew they had to use the Kócbek oil. “It’s a thrill honestly to bring these ingredients onboard and share with our guests, like introducing an old friend to new ones.”
For a service that runs at about three hours, guests didn’t seem to notice (always a good sign): “It didn’t feel long,” a couple from Texas told me. “We wish we could have gone longer. We enjoyed everything – the storytelling, the great interplay between the chefs, the setting and the view.” Others particularly appreciated the chance to socialize over a shared passion for flavor. And still other guests were intrigued the pairing which includes not just wine but also cocktails made especially at S.A.L.T. Bar, conveniently located next door.
Here’s how it works
Each dish is presented by the S.A.L.T. Chef’s Table chef (currently it’s German Castellannos Sanchez, with the help of a sous chef) with interesting anecdotes. “It’s all about finding the right balance,” says chef German, “and we don’t want it to be a cooking class. So we observe our guests to understand each night if they’re more interested in hearing us talk or rather prefer talking among themselves and simply enjoying the food. They get what we’re doing: they’re well-traveled and they know good food.”
Because of how the kitchen is set up the heavier and more elaborate bulk of the cooking is carried out beforehand, and what’s left to do is putting the finishing touches and assembling the plates. But as the concept evolves, opening up to the flavors of others regions visited worldwide, the idea is also to gradually incorporate more live cooking so as to further amplify the experience. At the end of the day, what counts is the experience, the summa of all the parts: this is what creates the lasting power of a memory.
As Adam says, “our creative process was about thinking about the kinds of restaurant we love to eat in, the ways we’ve enjoyed sitting at chef’s counter and engaging in the process of watching a meal come together.” It’s a wide range of restaurant experiences for someone as seasoned as the former editor in chief of Saveur, who mentions places like Trippa in Milan, Ko in New York, Ultramarinos in Barcelona, Burnt Ends in Singapore, Rome’s Retrobottega and a dozen more. “Not to compare what we’re doing with any of those,” Sachs adds, “but just taking inspiration from a kind of dining that involves a certain amount of action and feels very direct and modern and exciting to me. It’s a front row seat for amazing meals.”