For Windstar, celebrating 10 years of its partnership with the New York-based James Beard Foundation®, means it’s spent the last decade not just significantly upgrading the cuisine served onboard its ships, but also introducing travelers to chefs with diverse backgrounds and approaches to food.   

“The partnership with the James Beard Foundation has elevated our food culture,” says Peter Tobler, Windstar’s director of hotel operations (pictured above in May 2024 on Star Legend, when he traveled with James Beard Foundation chef Tanya Holland). ”We host chefs with varied cuisine specialties, sometimes a match to the sailing region, to highlight the flavors and regional dishes found around the world. 

“By the end of 2025, close to 40 James Beard chefs will have participated since we started the partnership.”

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Beyond specially-themed voyages, Windstar’s partnership with the foundation incorporates its chefs and recipes into all of its dinner menus at Amphora. “Out of the 24 dishes on our Amphora daily menu on our Star Class ships,” Tobler tells us, “at least two to three are creations of a James Beard Foundation chef. On Wind Surf, Amphora will feature three dishes each night.” 

We recently had a chance to sit down with Peter and chat about James Beard, discover more about the foundation and learn about what’s next and new in the partnership.  

I’m assuming that guests who’ve traveled on Windstar’s James Beard Foundation cruises know the signification of the man and the foundation, but can you fill us in?  

I particularly love this description of Portland, Oregon-native James Beard: “Known as the Dean of American Cookery, James Beard hosted the first televised cooking program. He is the author of 26 cookbooks and many magazine and newspaper articles, he paved the way for today’s celebrity chefs. As Julia Child proclaimed, ‘In the beginning, there was Beard.” 

The James Beard Foundation itself was created nearly 40 years ago  as a way to channel Beard’s passions around the culinary arts. It celebrates food culture but goes way beyond that, to supporting the industry through initiatives that range from diversity to advocacy and beyond.  

The nonprofit organization’s mission is to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture, while championing a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability. The Foundation firmly aligns with Windstar’s commitment to fresh and local epicurean experiences around the world. 

Describe for us how a James Beard-influenced cruise is different from other Windstar voyages.

There’s a lively onboard atmosphere surrounding the culinary arts because, in addition to the visiting chef, we have members of Windstar’s food and beverage team onboard, too. Between the partnership with the James Beard Foundation we also celebrate another lovely partnership, this one with the luxury division of Gallo to incorporate its sommeliers, and winemakers into the Windstar experience on select JBF chef theme cruises.  

The conversations between all of us – especially with our guests – are spirited, fun, insightful. By the time we do our first official culinary demonstration or wine tasting and seminar, our 180-passenger main lounge is packed. Beyond the two live culinary demonstrations, there are two official wine seminars, chef-hosted dinners, and an onshore “shopping with the chef” excursion.

And it’s important to point out that all the events (except for the chef-shopping shore excursion), are scheduled for either early in the day – or later in the afternoon so they don’t impact the ports of call we’re visiting.  

It’s important for Windstar to continue to invest in the relationship and what it means for our guests. The culinary movement for us is continually evolving and travelers are keen to try new and adventurous dishes.  

“Shopping with the Chef” onboard experiences are one of my favorite ways to spend a day in port. Can you describe it for us?

In one port on every culinary cruise, the guest chef, along with the ship’s resident chef, hosts Shopping with the Chef. They take guests to a local market, introducing them to the process of how they pick and choose fresh fish, seafood, vegetables. They show them local artisan items that we want to bring back on board to feature on the menu the same evening or in the days that follow.  

The same evening of that demonstration we feature the dish in the Amphora and all our other venues.  

The 2025 schedule of JBF-themed cruises includes voyages to the Caribbean, Europe and Mediterranean and will feature some of our guests’ favorite past chefs, as well as an extra-special trip hosted by legendary chef, Larry Forgione. which will travel via the St Lawrence Seaway and down our Northeast coast, terminating in New York City, the Foundation’s home.  Expect many more fun surprises and special opportunities all year as we celebrate this momentous anniversary.   

For more information on the James Beard Foundation partnership with Windstar click here