She was full of enthusiasm and excitement about her new 'adventure' at Crystal, and as we spoke, I learned more about her ambitions and passions. I wondered how she had ended up with this unusual role, and she told me about her early studies - informed by her background as an elite athlete - on the science of nutrition, which led her to a career working for major food companies such as Kellogg's and Danone.
As time went on, she was more inspired by the links between good food, very important to an Italian from Puglia, she tells me, and good health. She started her own business, working not just in the field of weight loss but also sport, oncology and pregnancy. She loves the food culture of Italy and is inspired by teaching and sharing her learnings. As an enthusiastic eater, she also understands the need to balance a love of food against a healthy lifestyle, and assures me the two are not mutually exclusive (thank goodness!).
As culinary nutritionist for Crystal, she is working with the culinary team on board, initially to create the menus in the new Italian restaurant Osteria d'Ovidio. Together they created a delicious and balanced menu, firmly rooted in Italian heritage, with lots of focus on organic and plant-based foods. Now she is working to balance the menus across the whole ship and is responsible for special diets and special requests.
Whilst Dalila is excited about the vegetarian and vegan options, she is more passionate about the deliciousness of the food, which is welcome news for a greedy cruiser like me. She also highlights the importance of sustainability in sourcing supplies locally, and adapting menus according to what is easily available.
She is keen to stress that she is not a chef, so her work with chefs recognises their greatness, while she brings the scientific background to the party. She loves, though, that there is a 'little bit of herself' in certain dishes.
Asked about her own inspirations, she cites Massimo Bottura as her number one favourite chef. This Italian maestro chef, widely known for his innovative approach to Italian cuisine, is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
A key ingredient in Massimo's food is the underlying social and environmental consciousness imbued in every dish he serves, and he advocates for reduction of food waste and protecting the environment and biodiversity through sustainable cooking practices and ingredient sourcing. Clearly Dalila's passions align closely with those of her hero.
She will be on board in October, and is planning some interesting interactive opportunities for guests, in addition to creating some special menus. Cooking shows and seminars will feature, as well as her favourite blind tastings, highlighting that link between what is in your mind and how something tastes, and introducing people to some new experiences.
Having said that, she is very focussed on food presentation: the first thing you do with a dish is eat it with your eyes. As for her own food, she loves fish and vegetables, and especially the mixing of tastes and textures with the addition of fruits, salads and seeds. And pasta of course!