Pastry Chef Xavier’s VIP service…

Pastry Chef Xavier and Jess. We shared “foodie” tidbits! He’s determined to make me a special dessert. 

We aren’t the type of passengers or customers to complain. If our steak is too well done, we may politely ask for a new one if the restaurant is not too busy. But more often than not, we eat it anyway, content to be together having a meal, even if it isn’t perfect.

Since beginning this strict way of eating 18 months ago, I have been sensitive to avoiding making a spectacle when ordering food, seeking out appropriate options by carefully perusing the menu, and asking the waiters to question the chef if necessary.

Aboard ship for almost 18 nights with approximately 36 meals eaten thus far (we only eat two times a day). We’ve had plenty of opportunities to discover which foods fit the guidelines of my strict diet (Tom’s less strict than I, especially on these cruises). 

For me, it’s a matter of feeling well or feeling sick. No willpower is needed for that! For Tom, lately, he feels well no matter what he eats, and although he’s gained back a few pounds, once we get to Belize with our home cooking, he’ll return to my way of eating, losing the extra poundage in a few weeks. 

The only part of the meals aboard the ship that has been a little hard to resist has been watching the fabulous desserts come out to our shared table each night, taste-tempting plates of elegant fruit or chocolate sauces, drizzled or slathered over varying types of cheesecakes, mousses, cakes, and pies, all of which, in my old life, I would have enjoyed immensely.

Each night, the thoughtful waiters have attempted to lure me into ordering “gluten-free” desserts, of which there are two options. Trying to explain the restrictions of my low carb, sugar-free, grain-free, starch-free, no processed food diet to a broken English-speaking overworked waiter is impossible.

As a result, when they’ve graciously tried to accommodate me, I’ve gently refused instead asking for the imported cheese plate (minus crackers and fruit) even if I had nary a bit of room in my stuffed belly after an otherwise fine meal of a protein, salad, and steamed vegetables. Doing so seems to appease the waiter that he’s done his job, leaving me content with the offering.

Invariably, the cheese plate arrives with a smattering of dried and fresh fruits, which I discretely put aside without comment, consuming the tidbits of cheese in a mere minute, thoroughly enjoying the tangy flavors.

When booking all of our cruises, we’ve chosen “Select Dining,” an option whereby we can eat at any time from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm in the main dining room Celebrity Equinox’s Silhouette dining room is an elegant massive two level white linen dining room with waiters scurrying about in tuxedoes and a white towel neatly draped across their arm.

With this choice, we can eat alone at a table for two or eat at varying configurations, round for six or eight, or rectangle for up to 10, sitting across from one another. This shared dining has been delightful, each night meeting new tablemates when lively conversation ensues in most cases.

Most often, passengers choose to sit with others to enjoy meeting new people. Instead of talking and enjoying the time among ourselves or with people on our other side, we respect. We observed our newly found dining companions prefer to remain quietly to themselves on a few occasions.

The other dining option is a fixed dining time of either 6:00 pm or 8:30 pm at the same table each night of the cruise, sitting next to the same people, night after night. Risky. Plus, we’re attempting to live a life of doing exactly what we want to do when we want to do it. Selfish? Perhaps.

Nonetheless, immensely fun. If we miss out, so be it. We’ll figure out an alternate plan. 

Anyway, back to last night. We were seated in the elegant lower level of the dining room instead of the main level when we didn’t have a reservation. The maître’d had taken a liking to us. As a result, we’ve only had to wait on one occasion for more than a few minutes for a table. 

If there was a long waiting line, we waited in the “ice bar”  enjoying a beverage until the maître’d informed us that our table was ready. 

Upon being seated at a rectangle table for eight, closest to the wall (not ideal), our penguin-dressed waiter rushed up to me and, for some unknown reason,  was aware of my dietary restrictions. Had the word spread that the tall, dark-haired, older woman with the adorable grey-haired guy was gluten-free along with other goofy restrictions? 

He ran circles around me. Tom, preferring not to draw attention to himself, more than what he accrues being endlessly chatty and humorous, slithered down a little in his chair. I chuckled. 

This was proving to be VIP service, none of which we requested or expected.

Ordering a Caesar salad minus croutons, a giant rare rib steak, buttered al dente asparagus, and a platter of steamed non-starchy vegetables, I was content. Oh, no. I wasn’t getting away that easy!

When I refused dessert, shocking our attentive waiter and not wanting to “hurt his feelings,” I explained that I was on a strict diet for health reasons. I gently explained that there was nothing I
could eat other than the ol’ standby cheese plate and that I was quite content (although I was actually tired of it already). The waiter dashed off before I could say another word.

In moments, Chef Xavier, pastry chef extraordinaire, white tower hat atop his head of curly brown and grey hair, crisp white uniform spotless and neatly pressed appeared at our table, insistent in a delightful accent I couldn’t quite decipher, that I give him a list of every item I couldn’t eat. 

Paper and pen in hand, he was determined to prepare a special dessert for me to enjoy each of our five remaining nights aboard the Celebrity Equinox until we disembark early for our extended stay in Belize. He asked many questions about the things I could have. A little embarrassed by all the attention, I quietly spewed the list of items I must avoid commonly used in baking.

When I tried to refuse his generous offer, I realized that he loved the challenge when his typical days and nights consisted of creating the same “cookie-cutter” desserts for the 11,000 meals served each day. 

Tom took the above photo of Chef Xavier and me, tableside. The favorite maître’d, observing this scenario, insisted that he’d find us tonight and each upcoming night taking down our names and cabin number.
I suspected that their sophisticated computer system could easily locate us after we check-in for dining.

So, I look forward to a new dessert concoction tonight and nights to come. I told Tom that even if it doesn’t taste fabulous, I’ll eat it anyway and enjoy it, knowing that the thoughtful consideration in itself whet my appetite. 

Thanks, Chef Xavier. Your kindness adds yet another memorable event to our year’s long
journey, so rich in its content and already becoming so rich in the experience of meeting new and exciting people along the way.