MICHAEL FERRANTE finds Aussie stars in Asia
Having travelled the globe since the mid-90s honing his culinary craft and winning multiple awards, Australian chef Mark Best stood well placed when an opportunity from cruising’s new kid on the block, Dream Cruises, came knocking.
Best, who grew up in WAestern Australia, before following his passion for cooking with stints in France and the UK, headlines Dream Cruises’ on-board dining on Dream’s three cruise ships operating in Asia — Genting Dream, World Dream and this year’s addition to the fleet, Explorer Dream.
After more than two decades in the industry, including a stint at Alain Passard’s three Michelin Star Paris restaurant Arpege, winning a slew of coveted awards — the San Pellegrino Breakthrough Award for fine dining restaurant Marque and others, and running his own Eastern States eateries, Best was recruited by Dream Cruises president Thatcher Brown ahead of the company’s launch with the Genting Dream in 2016.
He staked his reputation by having his name part of the branding for on-board eatery, Prime Steakhouse and Seafood Grill By Mark Best, and was tasked with creating a menu that was understood, and liked, by the Asian market.
Best says he stuck with what he knew and aimed to leverage Australia’s strong standing in Asia for quality farm-fresh produce.
“We wanted something that reflected my land-based restaurants, so it’s all about supply — oysters from Batemans Bay, Australian Wagyu, Murray cod — we get on board as much Australian produce as possible. It’s what I’m familiar with and as an Australian chef, most of my identity is my produce,” he says.
“The quality of it (fresh produce) ...and truth in labelling is a huge one.
“That trust factor is paramount, especially in this market, there are no substitutions. It’s just the quality inherent in the Australian brand ... It’s a pretty easy sell, to be honest.”
He says his multicultural home town of Sydney has influenced his on-board creations and you need look no further than the restaurant’s diverse menu — swordfish tonkatsu with king mushroom sauce and fried kailan, consomme with dumplings, tagliatelle with veal ragu and Reggiano, and foie gras terrine — to know Best wastes no draws inspiration wherever he can.
“Coming aboard, I wanted to bring some of those influences to it but also overlaying some prime things — Australian seafood, Australian beef, Australian lamb — those sorts of things resonate especially with the mainland Chinese population, where Australia is seen as this brand of quality and food safety.”
Explorer Dream is being deployed Down Under this October for a series of short cruises operating out of Sydney, up and down the east coast, then from Auckland from mid-December for voyages around the New Zealand coast.
He says this will mean an even bigger focus on Australian produce and he would visit local provedores “as I would as a restaurateur”.
A Dream Cruises spokeswoman told West Travel that Best, would lead special “market to table” excursions during Explorer Dream’s deployment.