“I know I can show the world what food at sea can be.” Franck Garanger, Explora Journeys
The much-anticipated launch of Explora Journeys is nearly here. Created at the heart of Swiss hospitality (always a great foundation), the brand stems from the long-held vision of the Aponte Vago family to redefine the ocean experience for a new generation of discerning luxury travellers, to create a unique ‘Ocean State of Mind.’ Itineraries will blend renowned destinations with lesser travelled ports, for a journey that inspires discovery in all its forms.
A fleet of six ships, two of which are under construction, will be launched from 2023 to 2028. A crucial element of the experience will be gastronomy. Head of Culinary Franck Garanger has a clear mission for gastronomy aboard Explora Journeys, to earn recognition for serving the best food at sea and building a story, through travelling the world and tasting it, whether by the pool or on a suite’s private terrace, every venue will be different.
We caught up with Franck to find out more about this very exciting new experience.
How did it all start?
This career path chose me, it was my destiny. My father was a master baker, so I grew up in a culinary environment. When I was 16, I started training as an apprentice at a Michelin Star restaurant and after several palaces on the French Riviera such as Hotel de Paris in Monaco and Eden Rock in Antibes, I almost ended up working on a cruise. I always loved travelling and working with food so in the end this sorted itself out. Working on cruises allows me the opportunity to enhance the experience offered on board which is too often understated.
Tell us a little about Explora and how the all-inclusive luxury ocean journeys will be different to other cruise experiences?
When I started, there was a very clear message from Explora Journeys and Mr Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Group’s cruise business, that fits very well with my personal philosophy. I have been asked to be as environmentally friendly as possible. 100% is impossible, but we will try our best and work with organic suppliers. For example, we will use only chocolate from a producer from France who uses organic chocolate from Cameroon. The flavour is terrific, this chocolate is fantastic, and we will use it on board. Whenever possible, we will use this kind of organic produce. First, it is about the taste; second, sustainability and then the price. Even if the product is 20% or 30% more expensive, we will use it. This is our philosophy. Everything that comes on board with us, I would also put on my table at home.
Tell us about the culinary experiences aboard Explora and what guests can expect?
Every single experience will be memorable for our guests, like reading a story and taking with you a souvenir from your travels. Guests on cruises spend a lot of time on board so my mission is to ensure that every single passenger will leave with 2-3 memories of their culinary experience. The offering will be varied and to answer all tastes. From Michelin style to a simple pasta or risotto, Explora Journeys has everything guests may want to match their mood, ensuring that there is a different type of food that fits at the right time and right moment.
Although we talk about an overall culinary experience, every restaurant will have its own identity, from casual to formal. Chefs will have the freedom to create specials for the location they are in inspired by the destination, culture, history, and the local ingredients. Quality is key and we are working hard to meet and start a dialogue with the producers and understand the whole journey of the food, from the land to the plate.
Wellness is also a key part of today’s culinary experience, and our menus will be designed for everybody, no matter their dietary requirements and preferences. I like to call it a “menu to match your mood.”
Apart from the restaurants, what other immersive beverage-led activities will be on offer?
Our incredible beverage offering is led by Thibaut Briançon, Senior Lead, Food & Beverage Service. Thibaut is determined to source an eclectic beverage mix including rare and exclusive, fine wines that have been hand-selected from winemakers and vineyards. There will also be a variety of cocktails from our mixologists including non-alcoholic and organic choices that will ensure that our guests will receive more memorable experiences. For Explora Journeys, differentiation is a key element and with all our choices, we aim at providing unique experiences for our discerning luxury travellers.
Buffets on cruise ships can really vary. How will the buffet option stand out?
Explora Journeys will differentiate itself from competitors because there will be no buffet on board. Most restaurants will serve food at any time of day and night, but our guests will always choose from a menu with no buffet nor the usual self-service (our F&B outlet Emporium will be self-service with waiter assistance).
Often many ingredients aboard ships are frozen for practical reasons. What are the challenges around supplying really fresh ingredients when sailing?
On a cruise, you have to constantly change and adapt the menus depending on where you are cruising. We have been thinking a lot about what we want to offer, and we will be able to source a lot locally. We are recruiting top chefs and want to give them the power to create and make dishes authentic to the destinations. For example, to make a perfect baguette, you must use a particular type of flour from Viron in Chartres in the Beauce area, perfectly designed for baguettes. If the ship is in Thailand or Canada, we will send the flour there. This guarantees the best quality for our baguettes worldwide, wherever the vessel is. We are focusing on European food and the strength of produce, for that, we have created partnerships with small suppliers, and we will send their products to our ships.
If you could award a Michelin star right now, who would it be to and why?
There are many great chefs out there, but in my opinion, Mauro Uliassi and Borja Susilla Bonilla clearly outshine the competition. Both chefs share the philosophy that our culinary team has when it comes to creation. The focus, like in my cuisine, is always on the product and the simple ways to serve it.
After the inaugural sailing in 2023, what is next in the culinary journey for Explora Journeys?
After the inaugural sailing, this is when it will all start as we will constantly review all concepts and strive to make them better. We will keep looking for the best ingredients in the world and listen to our guests’ needs by keeping our philosophy of cooking simple but true to the quality of the ingredients. Guests will come to Explora Journeys for the quality of the food and the energy and passion we are putting into it.
To discover more, visit: explorajourneys.com
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All imagery courtesy of Explora Journeys unless stated otherwise.