Emerald Waterways takes to The Rhone with A Top Chef
The Australian Company Scenic is no stranger to the River Cruise business. And its founder, Glen Moroney, is no stranger to travel. It all began in 1987 when Mulroney started his tour business with bus jaunts out of Melbourne. His company earned praise for quality and service and soon offered a dazzling array of tour packages to hundreds of destinations. So, it was hardly a surprise when Moroney went into River cruising, launching a total of 14 “Star-Ships” since 2008. Scenic now operates deluxe river trips from the Douro in Portugal to the Irrawaddy in Myanmar and the Mekong River in Vietnam.
Emerald Waterways is Scenic’s entrée into a new demographic: a more budget-conscious traveler who appreciates a fully inclusive cruise experience at a value price. Emerald has more than succeeded. For five years in a row, Emerald has been voted Best River Cruise Line for Value by Cruise Critic. Emphasizing port calls and excursions, Emerald gives its guests a look at the culture, history and local life of the places it visits.
Then, returning to the ship, passengers are treated to first class hospitality on sparkling new ships. The latest of these, Emerald Liberté has added a new itinerary to Emerald’s offerings. Plying the Rhone and Soane Rivers from Lyon to Arles or vice versa, the ship tours one of the world’s great wine-growing regions: Burgundy and the towns associated with it.
Emerald Liberté carries just 138 passengers. But it includes bells and whistles like an infinity swimming pool at the stern that turns into a movie theater at night. Guests are treated to staterooms that are masterpieces of spatial design, feeling far more spacious than they really are. Created by Glen Moroney’s wife Karen, a brilliant interior designer, these 170 square foot staterooms feature a new balcony concept in which the room’s floor-to-ceiling window descends about half way down, opening the room to the river breezes.
Meanwhile, in the ship’s galley, Executive Chef Teo Petre, who hails from Bucharest, presides over breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. These feature familiar Comfort Food appreciated by her large complement of British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealander passengers. Americans will feel right at home too when served favorites like Chateaubriand, John Dory—even Surf and Turf. Chef Petrie puts great style on every plate.
Complementary beer and wines served at lunch and dinner reflect this voyage’s route. From Chateauneuf-du-Pape to Beaujolais to Provencal Rosé the ship’s cellar consistently provided excellent vintages at every meal. And to go along with these wines, Emerald launched a relationship that is truly unique in Rhone River Cruising. Emerald invited Fabien Morreale, 4th runner up on France’s Top Chef, to prepare a meal expressly for its passengers.
Chef Morreale is swoon-worthy. At age 34, the Chef hails from Martigue, a Mediterranean coastal town west of Marseilles. He comes from a family with roots in Spain (his grandmother) and Venice (his father). In fact, he credits his grandmother, who, to this day, prepares the meals for all 15 members of the Morreale family, with his passion for food. He went a familiar route, working 15 hours a day from the time he was 16. At age 22, he went to Australia on a ‘working holiday’ visa. Working at Mu Shu, a Thai restaurant in Bondi Beach, his first exposure to Asian ingredients and flavors color his cooking to this day.
Returning home, he opened his first restaurant at age 24. He now has two—Le Garage and Le Gusto Caffé in Martigues where he also owns a bakery. Like all great French chefs, he is most enamored of local foods, fresh from farm fields, the sea and the land around Martigue. He has a contract with a local farmer to grow what he wants to cook. He is a passionate lover of vegetables like butternut squash, asparagus, haricots verts. And on the farm, he has commissioned the growing of some 50 herbs—10 varieties of mint alone along with 15 kinds of thyme as well as Asian herbs that take on a Provençal flavor in the chef’s hands.
As to his Top Chef France career, Chef Morreale has nothing but praise for the series. He was one of 1500 candidates and to have been selected for the final 12 was remarkable. The chef claims that his name recognition from the show alone accelerated his career by a good ten years.
The other bonus was working with his fellow contestants, an invaluable education. The pace of the show was a challenge, the thinking on your feet aspect was exhilarating and the 4th place finish was commendable for someone not yet 30 years of age. His career nearly came to a grinding halt when he was injured in a horrific motor cycle accident where he lost use of two of his fingers and spent two years recuperating. Even this experience didn’t end Morreale’s trajectory.
It was during these two years that he came to rely on a network of family and friends who kept both restaurants going. He couldn’t do anything for himself and he worked closer than ever with his team, his suppliers and he changed the way he worked. It opened new paths including the writing of a cookbook “Le Gout de Cabinot”, (The Taste of the Sea Shack) which sold out instantly. He subscribes to the lyrics of the song: “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”.
Chef Morreale is one of the wave of French chefs who are devoted to strengthening the link between the farmer and the ultimate consumer whether that is a chef or a homemaker. He believes that the future belongs to the most local of supply chains, that partnerships and cooperatives are essential to bringing the best to French tables.
For his dinner aboard Emerald Liberté, Chef Morreale’s menu consisted of three completely Provençale dishes; His appetizer course of Crunchy local green vegetables, goat cheese, locally produced olive oil with house crackers was not only sublimely beautiful to look at, its fresh flavors lept off the plate. This was followed by a main course consisting of Sisteron lamb and served with chickpeas and candied vegetables. The lamb was prepared in a traditional Provencal recipe that takes 8 hours of cooking. It was tender enough to eat with a spoon.
Finally, his sister, a former Pharmacist and now his pastry chef, may have had a hand in Strawberry Tart de Provence in the style of Fabien Morreale. This luscious dessert featuring the first Spring strawberries, was accompanied by a biscuit and artfully arranged hazelnut noisettes. The dinner was accompanied by two specially selected wines: Petit Bourgeois, 2016, a medium-bodied dry white from the Loire Valley was paired with the vegetable course. The red wine on offer with the lamb was more local: Fleurie, 2015, a Beaujolais from Domain des Fonds, an intense yet silky red.
Chef Morreale jumped ship after dinner, to return to Martigue. But the memories of his menu floated up the river as the Emerald Liberté continued her voyage into the picturesque heart of France’s beautiful wine country.
Guests booking any 2021 French river cruise of 8 days or longer will receive their choice of $1500.00 savings per couple, or $295 roundtrip air per person while those booking the five-day Christmas sailing will receive $1000.00 savings or round-trip air for just $695.00 a person. Additionally all guests booking 2021 France sailing with receive all DiscoverMORE tours—a collection of special events that invite you to delve deep in the region—for Free! All bookings include a complementary Deposit Protection Plan allowing guests to book with confidence in the event plans change. For complete information on Emerald Waterways offerings, visit www.emeraldwaterways.com