Daisy Martinez Went From Prep Chef to Food Network to... Cruise Ship?

Between her Latin-fused Food Network show Viva Daisy! and book signings, Daisy Martinez is a busy woman.

Just two weeks after graduating from the French Culinary Institute, she landed a gig with PBS' Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen as a prep-kitchen chef.

A meeting with Rachael Ray and a cruise ship invitation later and now she's part of Celebrity Cruise Lines' Savor Your Destination initiative. Each cruise features a

prominent chef that hosts a series of meals, cook-offs, and events.


says she was one of those people who was dubious about the whole

cruise experience. Her

first featured ports of call included Rome, Naples,

and Croatia. She hosted about four to five events, including a

three-course dinner for more than 200 people. The ship's Tuscan Grille made the entire menu

from her recipes. She also had her skills tested with a Top Chef-style

cook-off against Celebrity's chefs, with cruisers serving as sous chefs.

Cramped kitchen space? Not at all. She compared Celebrity's

kitchen to the equivalent of four New York City restaurant kitchens. "I

was blown away that it was so spacious."

Since Martinez

played host only during the sea days, she got to enjoy the ports of call just

like everyone else. Accompanied by two Celebrity chefs in Rome,

Martinez recalls her favorite meal as pasta with tomato sauce and bits

of pork and fried artichoke. She also had a dense ricotta cheesecake

from a guy who worked his way up from dishwasher to chef. "It was beautiful. Citrus-scented," she said.


also encountered bees on the hams in Rome, which apparently made it

"special" -- according to the market vendors. Mind you, the hams had

large holes in them.

In Croatia, she had mussels in a light tomato broth. The town Dubrovnik reminded her of a step back in time.


Martinez's second cruise with Celebrity in December, she is going in

with an open mind. Many of the ports of call on the 11-day journey,

which is to Latin America and the Caribbean, she has never visited.

Of Puerto-Rican heritage, Martinez says, "Latin food is sexy." Ceviche? "Wow, that's kinda hot."


hot, but for different reasons, was her invitation on Emeril

Lagasse's show for a segment on tamales. She could choose to invite four

guests, but she received a call that two of the guests names sounded

"too ethnic" for the show.

"I've never heard from anyone from his

camp, nothing at all, not 'I'm sorry.' My feeling was, as a colleague,

you don't let something like that happen, you don't let that happen to

anybody," she said.

Martinez leaves aboard the Celebrity Equinox

on December 12; however, she won't be in South Florida for long -- she'll have

it brought to her.

After the cruise, she's flying to Tampa with Joe's Stone Crab legs for her mother and father.

"That's like the funky side of Miami," she said.


she's not cooking, her absolute favorite guilty pleasure is chicarron --

deep-fried pork belly, which she jokes warrants a blood test


Latin food "is like a language everyone understands -- while it's ethnic, it's not alien," Martinez said.

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Anthony Cave