It’s appropriate that Calgary’s Chef Darren MacLean sets sail with Princess Cruises on Canada Day as if ever there was a Captain Canada of cuisine, MacLean is he. The Shokunin owner is well known for his gift for Japanese cuisine, but it’s the Canadian ingredients that set his imagination – and the conversation – alight. 

“While Canada may not be known internationally for our cuisine, the whole world uses our ingredients,” he says. “Our barley, our pork, our beef – they’re all highly sought-after because it’s clean, it’s pure, it’s safe and it’s delicious”

This summer, chef MacLean will join two Princess Cruises voyages for exclusive culinary experiences. From July 1 – 16, he will be the special guest chef onboard the 2,000-passenger  Sun Princess currently in the midst of a 98-day roundtrip world cruise voyage, and hosting a 100 per cent Japanese cruise guest audience. An audience MacLean is excited to cook for. 

“The Japanese are so succinct in the world of cuisine,” says MacLean. “If it tastes good, you can push the boundaries and they’re so gracious. I’m really excited to prepare Japanese cuisine expressed with Canadian ingredients for these guests.”

As the ship makes its way up the Canadian West Coast from Vancouver, MacLean will prepare dishes featuring the best Canada has to offer including, Canadian Wagyu, Pacific Geoduck clams, Haida Gwaii tuna, spotted prawns, Canadian turnips and eggplant all paired with BC wine and Japanese sake. 

MacLean is the only Canadian celebrity chef to ever be invited to guest on Princess cruises and it’s an honour he takes a great deal of pride in. He is passionate about advocating for Canadian cuisine all over the world – a crusade that began on his stint on the Netflix special, The Final Table. 

“Before the Final Table, I wouldn’t have said there was anything particularly unique about Canadian chefs,” he says. “But now I know that Canadian chefs have a tacit understanding of other cultures. We have access to the best Japanese, the best Italian the best French food with local terroir,” he says. “In Spain, they eat Spanish food. Here, we see food in a global way. Our food culture is an expression of the people who live here and those people are from all over the world – where they’re already very likely using Canadian ingredients.”

Once MacLean completes his stint on the Sun Princess, he will join the 3,560 passenger Majestic Princess in August. The voyage will depart from Shanghai on August 18 and visit four Japanese ports — Tokyo, Shimizu, Osaka, and Kochi — before returning back to its homeport in Shanghai. While onboard, chef MacLean will host a series of intimate chef’s table experiences at La Mer, offering a twist on chef Emmanuel Renaut’s French dishes, along with some of chef MacLean’s own creations. It’s an opportunity that humbles him as Chef Renaut holds some of the world’s highest culinary honours including three Michelin stars and the Meilleur Ouvrier de France

“I’m going to watch and learn,” he laughs.