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Introducing Our New Executive Chef, Leonel Martinez

Chef Leonel Martinez has been a rising star here at Waterways Cruises over the last four and a half years. As the sous chef, Chef Leonel has been quietly putting his own spin on a few dishes featured on all of the Waterways dining cruises for both our public cruises and private charters. At the beginning of October, Chef Leonel was announced as the new Executive Chef at Waterways Cruises and the whole team here couldn’t be more excited.

As we prepare for a very busy holiday season here at Waterways Cruises, Chef Leonel and his team have been especially busy in the kitchen. For our Public Cruises, Chef Leonel has been working on everything from the weekday three-course plated lunches, Friday/Saturday night three-course plated dinners, holiday-themed buffets, weekend brunches, Sunday supper buffets to specialty appetizers and light bites for the party cruises. Chef Leonel and his team have also been working on menu items for all of our private cruise packages such as the appetizers for the Bites and Sights Cruise, brunch buffet items for the Brunch on the Water Cruise, delicious buffet items for the Classic Seattle Dining Cruise, as well as appetizers, tasty dinner buffet items and plated menu options for the New Year Cheer Cruise and the Wedding Dinner Cruise.

Ever since stepping into his new role as Executive Chef over the last month, Chef Leonel has been making incredible improvements to the already delectable cruise dining menus. His menu enhancements have been everything from tweaking the popular baked mac ‘n’ cheese featured on the Weekend Brunch and Sunday Supper Cruises to creating the perfectly seasoned herb roasted tequila lime chicken wings featured on the Agave Tasting Cruise this fall, along with adding a grilled chicken and caramelized onions quesadillas option to the popular Husky home game sailgating cruises.

With over 15 years of experience, Chef Leonel has trained in some of Seattle’s most popular restaurants including Metropolitan Grill, The Pink Door, Wild Ginger, Cutters Crabhouse and Barolo Ristorante. All of his professional experience aside, Chef Leonel says his number one secret ingredient is always love, and maybe a little butter. He enjoys cooking for his audience, whether it’s for a sold-out dinner cruise on a Friday or Saturday night, the Waterways staff whenever he’s experimenting with creating new dishes or at home when he’s spending time with his family.

Chef Leonel’s creativity really shines in the kitchen when he’s designing the menu for one of Waterways Cruises’ unique wine, beer and spirit pairing dinner cruises. From conception to execution, Chef Leo works to create a delicious, multi-course plated dinner from scratch, that compliments and enhances the featured local wine/beer/spirit.

We here at Waterways Cruises are extremely proud of Chef Leonel, not only with moving into his new position as Executive Chef so successfully, but also the tremendous progress he’s made in his kitchen in such a short amount of time. Here’s to Chef Leonel continuing to enhance the dining experience and creating a tasty future here at Waterways Cruises.

The Waterways Fall Gnocchi is our current vegetarian option for both our public and private cruises this season. This makes an excellent side to any protein or a main entrée for a vegetarian meal. Loaded with veggies and flavor, you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy this dish.

2 tablespoon olive oil, separated
1 white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
5 red peppers, seeded and sliced
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 large leek (white and light-green parts only), sliced
½ cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 (4 oz) jar marinated artichoke hearts
2-3 cups spinach
Basic Potato Gnocchi (we make ours in-house)

To Make the Sauce:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, 4 red peppers, basil and oregano. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add ingredients to blender and puree. Add puree back to large saucepan over medium-low heat; simmer, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.

To Cook the Veggies:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add leek, mushrooms, zucchini, artichoke hearts and remaining red peppers. Cook until veggies are tender, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes.

To Cook the Gnocchi:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add 1 tablespoon salt. Add half the gnocchi; when they rise to the top (after about 2 minutes), continue to cook until tender, about 15 seconds more. Transfer gnocchi with a slotted spoon to pan with sauce. Repeat process with remaining gnocchi.

Final Step:

Reheat gnocchi over low heat in red sauce with veggies; gently toss. Remove from heat and serve immediately with fresh basil on top.

Number of Servings: 4