When the Kona coffee blackened mahi mahi appeared before me on a bed of creamy polenta, I knew the food aboard the Safari Explorer wasn’t going to be your typical lowest- common-denominator cruise ship fare. The Safari Explorer is a 145-foot, 36-passenger luxury cruiser operated by American Safari Cruises that plies the water of Hawaii.
For one thing, Chef Michael Graziano has a decade behind him in Seattle gourmet restaurants. For another, he is fiercely devoted to using local, organic food.
“The whole idea is to support small local communities,” he said, adding that 90 per cent of the produce … the lettuce, chard, kale, carrots … comes from Molokai as does the beef and a wonderful assortment of island jellies including an exquisite papaya-lime-ginger mix. The fish, of course, is all local … mahi mahi, sea bass, moon fish, marlin.
It is quality over quantity. There’s no 4 p.m. tea or midnight buffet. Portion sizes are geared to what a normal person should eat, though anyone who wants double, can get it.
“I have freedom to express myself on the plate and I have a lot of passion for the food,” Mike said.
That passion leads to tasties like curried snapper over flat bread, dry rub ribs that crackled like bacon, crusted pork loin, chocolate lava cake for dessert and apple-raisin crepes for one breakfast.
The size of the ship also means Mike can cater to special requests … gluten allergies, no salt, half portions (or double).
And the strangest request?
“Someone wanted half a grilled cheese sandwich every day for lunch. With three French fries. Not four, not two but three.”
Yes, he served it, daily.
Want a taste of Chef Mike’s delectable food? Check out his recipe for Scallop Ceviche in RFT’s Recipe section.
— Photos and text by Yvette Cardozo, RFT Contributor