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Windstar Announces Chefs for 2023 James Beard Foundation® Culinary Themed Cruises


Small ship cruise line Windstar Cruises has announced its lineup of James Beard Foundation®-affiliated guest chefs for its series of three themed culinary cruises in 2023. The trio of acclaimed visiting chefs include D.C.’s Jerome Grant; New York’s Ayesha Nurdjaja; and Boston’s Tracy Chang. 

Windstar is the Official Cruise Line of the James Beard Foundation (JBF). The nonprofit organization’s mission is to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion 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, as well as efforts to reduce food waste. 

Ayesha Nurdjaja, Foto: Clay Williams

All three themed cruises in 2023, detailed at the links below, include two on-board cooking demonstrations, as well as four dishes by the JBF visiting chef at a hosted dinner with wine pairings. Each chef will also lead a market tour, gathering fresh and local ingredients for dishes served on board. In addition, all three chefs will provide multiple recipes to be featured on Windstar’s menus across all cruises—adding to a growing menu of James Beard Foundation-affiliated chefs’ special menu items, served across the fleet on every sailing. 

“As the Official Cruise Line of the James Beard Foundation, we’ve hosted dozens of top chefs over the years. One of the best byproducts possible is a delicious and constantly rotating section of JBF dishes on our menu – on all of our sailings,” explains Windstar President Christopher Prelog. „It doesn’t get any better than sailing with a James Beard Foundation guest chef on a special culinary cruise. Not only will you get to eat their food—you’ll get to know them. You may even learn a few tips and tricks for being a better cook yourself, and you’ll definitely have a richer and deeper travel experience because of it.” 

3/4-11, 2023 on Star Legend in the Caribbean, from Panama City to Oranjestad with Chef Jerome Grant 

Jerome Grant grew up mostly in the United States—New York, Oklahoma, California, Maryland—and picked up the basics of Filipino cuisine from his mother and the Caribbean flavors of his Jamaican heritage from his paternal grandparents. After graduating from Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, Grant moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he gained his first critical notice while helming the Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort. Back stateside, Grant accepted an executive sous chef position at Urbana Restaurant in Washington, D.C. before working as executive chef of the Mitsitam Native Foods Café inside the National Museum of American Indian. Grant then became the inaugural chef of the Sweet Home Café inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture. His recipes and menus took the café from a simple concept to becoming a James Beard Award recognized restaurant and cookbook. Since 2020, Grant has been with Dacha Restaurant Group in D.C., including Jackie Restaurant, which pays homage to Grant’s Filipino-American roots, and Dacha Beer Gardens. He’s also preparing for the upcoming launch of Mahal, an open-fire kitchen. 

Grant is a 2019 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award Semifinalist for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic. Sweet Home Café is a 2017 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant, and the restaurant is inspiration for the 2019 James Beard Media Award Nominated “Sweet Home Ca Cookbook.” 

Grant is excited to join Windstar in the Caribbean, reconnecting with the Caribbean flavors of his Jamaican heritage along the way. 

6/17-26, 2023 on Wind Surf in the Mediterranean, from Venice to Athens with Ayesha Nurdjaja

Ayesha Nurdjaja is the executive chef at Shuka in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, as well as sibling restaurant Shukette. Born and raised in Brooklyn, she is the daughter of an Indonesian father and Italian mother. Nurdjaja graduated from culinary school in 2006 and, after watching chef Lidia Bastianich cook on PBS, walked into Lidia’s restaurant, Felidia, and asked for a job. They brought her on as a line cook and she worked her way up the ranks to become sous chef. Since then, Nurdjaja has helped lead the kitchen teams at Bar Artisanal, Michelin-starred Picholine, and at Michelin-starred A Voce under chef Missy Robbins. She also spent time as executive chef at Il Bordello and most recently at Brooklyn neighborhood favorite Red Gravy, where she offered her take on modern southern Italian cuisine. In 2015, Nurdjaja joined with restaurateurs Vicki Freeman and Marc Meyer to create Shuka, with a menu that draws on the vibrant flavors found throughout Italy, Morocco, and Tunisia. Shukette followed to great acclaim in 2021.

Nurdjaja is a 2022 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award Nominee for Best Chef: New York State. 

Nurdjaja is a frequent traveler to the Aegean Sea and is thrilled to lead Windstar guests on a culinary journey in one of her most favorite places on the planet. 

9/21-30, 2023 on Star Breeze in Asia, from Tokyo to Osaka, Japan with Chef Tracy Chang 

Tracy Chang is the chef/owner of PAGU restaurant in Cambridge, MA, celebrating Spanish and Japanese style tapas paired with natural wines, sakes, sherry, and more. Chang’s love for the restaurant industry began at an early age—her grandmother immigrated to Boston in the 1980s and opened several Japanese restaurants. Prior to PAGU, Chang founded a pop-up restaurant, Guchi’s Midnight Ramen, and hosted events with restaurants, startups, nonprofits, and universities, including Harvard, where she is a teaching fellow. During Covid-19, she co-founded two nonprofit initiatives, Off Their Plate (OTP) and Project Restore Us (PRU), to provide essential worker communities with food and groceries. The standard operating procedures she created for her restaurant PAGU, as well as for Off Their Plate, have been compiled into a comprehensive guide by the James Beard Foundation, World Central Kitchen, and the Aspen Institute.  

Chang is an alumna of the James Beard Foundation Chef Bootcamp for Policy & Change, James Beard Foundation Women’s Entrepreneurship Leadership Program, and a 2020 James Beard Restaurant and Chef Award Semifinalist for Best Chef: Northeast. 

Chang looks forward to sailing in Japan—exploring her family’s roots and celebrating her grandmother’s culinary legacy in the process. 

Text: PM Windstar Cruises, Fotos: via Windstar Cruises