Recipe: Classic Cheesecake

cheesecake

What better way to celebrate Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer than with a picnic or cook-out? While we’re sure you’re got the burgers and barbecued chicken covered, be sure not to forget dessert! At Celebrity, when we want to end our meals with something tasty, yet not overly decadent, we head over to the Aqua Spa Cafe for treats that are both flavorful and good for you.

One of our favorites is a light light on a classic favorite: Cheesecake!

Classic Cheesecake Recipe

Cake Base

5 ounces graham cracker crumbs
2 ounces granulated sugar
2 ounces butter (unsalted, melted)

Cheesecake Filling

21 ounces cream cheese (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
5 large whole eggs
4 ounces sour cream

Garnish

3 tablespoons powdered sugar
As needed popcorn
3 ounces mixed berries
10 chocolate curls
3 tablespoons chocolate sauce

Method

For the cake base, preheat oven to 400° F (200° C). Combine all the cake base ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Place 1/4-inch mixture in a 6-inch by 2-inch round mold. Bake at 400° F (200° C) for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and reserve.

For the cheesecake filling, preheat oven to 220° F (105° C). Mix the cream cheese, vanilla extract, granulated sugar and lemon juice until smooth consistency. Then add the eggs one by one and finally the sour cream little by little while stirring. Place in the cake base mold. Bake at 220° F (105° C) bain-marie or water-bath style for at least 2 1/2 hours.

To serve, cut the cheesecake into 6 portions. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, then caramelize the top of the cheesecake with a creme brulee torch. Torch the popcorn to caramelize. Place portions on plates. Decorate plates with berries, chocolate curls, chocolate sauce and popcorn.

Serves 6.

Wine Pairing: Chalk Hill; Semillo; Botrytised Estate Vineyard Selection; Sonoma, California

Paul Qui, second from right, joins fellow 'Top Chef At Sea' participants Nina Compton, Tiffani Faison and Brooke Williamson. Courtesy: Instagram

Paul Qui, second from right, joins fellow ‘Top Chef At Sea’ participants Nina Compton, Tiffani Faison and Brooke Williamson. Courtesy: Instagram

Top Chef Season 9 Winner Paul Qui has been having a great year. The Philippines-born chef was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 2014 Best New Chefs and is now the chef/ proprietor at Qui restaurant and East Side King, a group of food trailers and restaurants, in Austin, Texas. Oh yes, and he’s literally sailing to Alaska right now aboard the Celebrity Solstice, as part of the Top Chef At Sea program.

Trained in classic French and Japanese cuisine, Qui takes a modernist approach towards food and enjoys adapting traditional Japanese dishes by incorporating South East Asian and European influences with an eye towards local flavor. We recently caught up with the James Beard Foundation Award-winner to dig deeper into his influences.

If you were stuck on an island with three ingredients, what would you choose and why?

I would choose chickens, yuzu and soy sauce. I can pretty much eat anything with soy sauce, I love citrus and chicken is just so versatile.

What part of the world inspires your cuisine? What country would you like to travel to and why?

Texas and Asia. I’d like to travel to China to explore the diversity of its cuisine and to understand the foundation of all of Asia’s cuisine.

If you could open a restaurant with a Top Chef contestant from another season, who would you choose?

I would choose Sheldon. I think we could develop some amazing Filipino food together.

If you were not a chef, what would you be doing right now?

I would be traveling the world eating.

Who inspired your love of food?

My family is my biggest inspiration of why I love food. Family and food go hand in hand in Filipino culture.

Courtesy Tiffani Faison Instagram

Courtesy Tiffani Faison Instagram

When Chef Tiffani Faison was recently asked by a reporter why she keeps doing more Top Chef shows, she joked that she didn’t really have a good answer. “My therapist and I are working on it,” she said, alluding to her fun, but challenging times while competing on the original show, the All-Stars edition, and Bravo’s newest iteration, “Top Chef Duels.” “It’s so much fun, even when it’s super-stressful and you kind of want to throw up, it’s still fun.”

Faison, who is currently sailing to Alaska aboard Celebrity Solstice as part of the Top Chef at Sea series, has been working in restaurants since she was 14. Most recently, the Boston-based Faison was invited to run Rocca Kitchen & Bar and opened her own restaurant, Sweet Cheeks.

We recently caught up with her to discuss her inspirations and more.

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Courtesy: Brooke Williamson Instagram

Courtesy: Brooke Williamson Instagram

Brooke Williamson has been cooking since she was 15, when she was hired as an assistant at the Epicurean Institute of Los Angeles. She’s since worked her way up from a pastry assistant at Fenix at the Argyle Hotel, to a sous chef at Michael’s in Santa Monica, to Executive Chef at Boxer and later Zax.

Along the way, Williamson also became a part of the Top Chef family, competing in Season 10 and facing off against Shirley Chung in “Top Chef Duels,” as well as joining the Top Chef At Sea program aboard the Celebrity Solstice.

Williamson recently took a break from sailing and running a number of popular restaurants with husband Nick Roberts, to chat with us about some of her influences.

If you were stuck on an island with three ingredients, what would you choose and why?

One, our Playa Provisions pickled habanero hot sauce. I feel like you could put that stuff on anything and make it taste good—or at least mask the flavor of something you wouldn’t want to be eating. Two, dark chocolate, because I’m pretty sure that out of all of the things that I would find on an island, chocolate wouldn’t be one of them, and I would really miss it if it weren’t an option. And three, butter! I’d be happy eating fresh crab or fish with butter for every meal of the day, and I have a feeling there would be plenty of seafood swimming around that island.

What part of the world inspires your cuisine? What country would you like to travel to and why?

I eat a lot of Asian food, but I wouldn’t say it inspires my cuisine. I would love to travel to Thailand and Vietnam to eat, because it’s the way that I like to eat when I’m not at work. However when it comes to inspiration in what I do in my own kitchen, I’m inspired by my surroundings. I feel like California offers a ton of inspiration.

Brooke Williamson (center), flanked by Nina Compton (left) and Tiffani Faison (right). Courtesy: Brooke Williamson Instagram

Brooke Williamson (center), flanked by Nina Compton (left) and Tiffani Faison (right). Courtesy: Brooke Williamson Instagram

If you could open a restaurant with a Top Chef contestant from another season, who would you choose? And why?

There are so many talented chefs who have come out of Top Chef—many of whom I would love to work with—but opening a restaurant with someone is like marrying someone. It’s all about the give and take of a relationship, and the mutual respect that you have for one another… I feel that way about so many people that I’ve had a chance to get to know, such as Kristen, CJ, Sheldon, Josh, Lizzie, I could go on…

If you were not a chef, what would you be doing right now?

I can’t imagine my life without food or something that pertains to it. I would love the opportunity to work on a farm or in a cheese-making facility for an extended period of time, and be a part of a process that most people take for granted.

Who inspired your love of food?

My entire family’s understanding of how big a part food plays in bringing people together, especially my mother. I also tip my hat to Julia Child for entertaining me enough to sit in front of the TV as a child watching cooking shows for hours on end.

Nina Compton, second from left, prepares for her "Top Chef at Sea" journey.

Nina Compton, second from left, prepares for her “Top Chef at Sea” journey.

Chef Nina Compton may not have won first prize on Top Chef this past season in New Orleans, but the St. Lucia native scored the coveted Fan Favorite award and is now mobbed by admirers wherever she goes. Trained in French, Caribbean and Italian kitchens, Compton has worked under renowned chefs Daniel Boulud and Scott Conant, but is currently spending her time aboard the Celebrity Solstice as part of Celebrity’s Top Chef at Sea series.

We recently caught up with the self-proclaimed “gnocchi queen” to chat about her culinary influences and which of her fellow Top Chef alumni she’d like to partner up with.

If you were stuck on an island with three ingredients, what would you choose and why?

Champagne, because you can always have a glass of champagne; a good piece of cheese, because it goes well with the champagne; and avocados. I love them, especially with grilled fish. They also make a great moisturizer and hair conditioner.

What part of the world inspires your cuisine?

I read a lot about different cultures and cuisines and try to use that in my cooking. I especially love Latin flavors as I live in Miami and it’s similar to Caribbean cooking. I also love French and Italian, as they are so similar and different at the same time.

What country would you like to travel to and why?

I would love to go Greece or Turkey just to experience the culture and food.

If you could open a restaurant with a Top Chef contestant from another season, who would you choose and why?

I would open a restaurant with Shirley Chung from season 11. We get along well both in and out of the kitchen; we can almost read each other’s minds without even having to speak.

If you were not a chef, what would you be doing right now?

I would be a DJ. I love music and try to incorporate it in every way that I can on a daily basis, whether I am in the kitchen or not. It’s a way to escape sometimes.

Who inspired your love of food?

My family. We are very close and we sit down and have a meal together whenever I am back in St. Lucia; it makes me appreciate the time we have together so much more and to be surrounded by food makes it even better.

Angelo Sosa Top Chef at Sea

Angelo Sosa gives cruisers a private cooking class aboard the Celebrity Summit as part of “Top Chef at Sea.”

Top Chef alumnus Angelo Sosa has been having a great year. He started off 2014 by successfully proposing to his longterm girlfriend, and is now gearing up to open a Tribeca location for his Michelin-recommended Añejo in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Meanwhile, Angelo continues to run his successful restaurant Poppy Den in Las Vegas.

Sosa also just breezed through the inaugural Top Chef at Sea series aboard the Celebrity Summit earlier this month, where he participated in culinary demonstrations and cook-offs with fellow Top Chef participants Spike Mendelsohn and Ash Fulk.

We recently caught up with Chef Sosa to learn more about his cooking style.

If you were stuck on an island with three ingredients, what would you choose and why?

Salt – because I don’t like under-seasoned food; Sriracha – I love spice; Whiskey – to forget I’m on the island.

What part of the world inspires your cuisine? What country would you like to travel to and why?

Asia. I would love to go back to Thailand—the people and the cuisine are both incredible. The humility of the people is touching and the cuisine is so vibrant and tasty.

If you could open a restaurant with a Top Chef contestant from another season, who would you choose and why?

Mike Isabella because we have an amazing relationship and with his Jersey attitude he’ll protect me.

If you were not a chef, what would you be doing right now?

Professional baseball player. I am half Dominican so it’s in my blood.

Who inspired your love of food?

My tia [aunt] Carmen. She passed away but every time I step foot into the kitchen her soul is with me.

(Courtesy: Ash Fulk's Facebook page)

(Courtesy: Ash Fulk’s Facebook page)

Top Chef Season Six alumnus Ash Fulk is something of a barbecue expert. He currently works as the chef de cuisine of the new Hill Country Barbecue Market in Brooklyn, New York and previously held the same position at Hill Country’s Manhattan location. So it’s hardly a surprise that the self-taught locavore said he would bring wood, brisket and barbecue rub with him if he were stuck on an island with only three ingredients. “I might die on the island,” he told Celebrity, “but it would be a heck of a good last meal!”

We recently caught up with Fulk as he participated in Celebrity’s Top Chef at Sea series aboard the Celebrity Summit earlier this month.

What part of the world inspires your cuisine?

I would say the farms of the American South.

What country would you like to travel to and why?

I have not been to Denmark and would love to go there. My mom tells me I have Danish blood… Although she may have been referencing the breakfast pastry.

If you could open a restaurant with a Top Chef contestant from another season, who would you choose and why?

Ashley Merriman. I think her food is awesome, and we could call the place ASH Squared! Oh wait! Not my season? Then I’d have to say CJ [Jacobson], so he could reach stuff on the top shelf! That dude is tall…

If you were not a chef, what would you be doing right now?

If I wasn’t a chef? I would probably be cooking for my friends and family. That answer might be a bit on the nose though. I guess I’ve always liked to write, even though I was never any good at it.

Who inspired your love of food?

That’s tough. I guess I first fell in love with food when I could taste it. I was a sick kid and my sinuses were all blocked until I was about three years old so I couldn’t really taste anything. Then one day I ate a pepperoni and exclaimed, “This tastes!” I think I was doomed to this life right then and there.

Top Chef at SeaLast month, we launched Top Chef at Sea, a four-cruise series of culinary adventures that brings 20 Top Chef alumni, including previous winners Kristen Kish and Paul Qui and fan favorites like Nina Compton, on board our ships to meet, mingle and break bread with our guests. Each of these foodie voyages includes interactive Quickfire Challenges, private cooking classes, and exclusive events hosted by former chef’testants. The four Top Chef at Sea cruises depart July 27, August 15, September 19 and November 15 and are set for destinations including Bermuda, Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean.

In celebration of the partnership between Celebrity Cruises and Top Chef network Bravo, we’ll be publishing Q&As with a number of participating Top Chef at Sea chef’testants over the next couple of weeks. Be sure to check in for the inside scoop on what really inspires your favorite chef’testants and more.

Learn more about Top Chef at Sea.

Check out our full interviews with chef’testants here:

Arta Kjato

Arta Kjato knows a thing or two about kids. As the Youth Program Manager aboard the Celebrity Summit, Arta is responsible for planning activities and events to entertain our younger guests, including Celebrity Cruises’ excursions. When brainstorming the next great event and adventure, Arta says she finds inspiration in “life itself.”

“I find inspiration every day,” says Arta, who has been with Celebrity Cruises for several years. “I consider myself very lucky to have a job which I love and am truly blessed to have a healthy and happy family who love and support me.”

We recently caught up with Arta to talk about her job, her funniest moments and her favorite places to travel.

What activity do kids enjoy the most?

This definitely varies based on the ages of the kids. Older children always enjoy activities more when they are given the freedom to do things on their own, such as scavenger hunts or other challenges that require teamwork and “figuring out” correct solutions. The younger kids love a balance between “hands on” activities, like arts and crafts, and sports and family challenges.

What’s the funniest moment you can remember while working with Celebrity?

Since I work with kids, every day is a comedy in and of itself. One recent moment that stands out in particular was a “Pajama Jam Night.” Because I love connecting with the kids, I wore an overall monkey pajama set, with the tail and all! Of course, as I was waiting in the crew area in my PJs, I ran into the Chief Security Officer who said, “I really don’t want to know.” His reaction made me laugh a lot, especially now that I’ve been on board for six months, they’re used to seeing me all dressed up.

Later that same night, I went down to the Guest Relations Desk to finish an errand—still in my outfit—and came across a guest that was waiting for assistance. When she saw me, she yelled out towards the desk, “So now you are sending the giant mouse to help me out?!”

I enjoy making people laugh and love, especially when I can do it for our guests and my fellow crew members.

What do you do when you’re not working on a ship?

Most of the time I just want to spend as much time as possible with my family and friends. I love to take them out and spoil them or travel together. I also enjoy cooking, remodeling the house and garden, driving and sleeping in late. Just some things that I miss while onboard.

What’s your favorite place to travel to?

Working for Celebrity has opened my eyes and heart to many new experiences and ways of seeing the world. I have been almost everywhere. For crew members like me, a normal contract means you can literally make a circle around the globe, come back to where you started, and then fly home.

A place that I would like to go back to is Sydney, Australia. The energy that flows through that city and the feeling that overtakes you the moment you step off the ship there is absolutely amazing. Everyone should visit Sydney at least once in their life. Did I mention that we dock right next to the Sydney Opera House?

President's CruiseLast month, Celebrity Cruises’ President and CEO Michael Bayley, hosted an exclusive party on board the Celebrity Equinox 7-night Mediterranean cruise from Rome to Barcelona. The indulgent affair was held in Bolgheri, a medieval Tuscan village .

A select number of Captain’s Club guests were invited to wine and dine at the luxurious event where local groups provided traditional open-air entertainment ,to demonstrate the village’s rich cultural legacy, while historical reenactments proffered a glimpse at 15-century Tuscan life. To enhance the experience, the village was closed to the public during the event, so Celebrity guests had full V.I.P. access to the town’s delightful shops and restaurants,.

“The evening in Bolgheri was wonderful, the food delicious and the atmosphere was enchanting!” commented guest Kelley White Hawkins, who attended with her husband. “Thank you, Celebrity, for this special event!”

For more highlights from this special Tuscan event , check out our Facebook photo album, filled with highlights of the party .

If you want to plan your own Tuscan adventure, be sure to see our top travel tips.

The next President’s Cruise will be on Celebrity Century, leaving Singapore on March 8, 2015. Want to plan something further ahead? All special event cruises are listed in the Captain’s Club section of the Celebrity Cruises website.

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