It’s very rare to find the terms “airline food” and “world-class cuisine” in the same sentence. However, after years of negative press, commercial airlines have been slowly trying to improve this image, at least for first and business class travelers. Who better for these collaborations than celebrity chefs, Michelin starred chefs and James Beard winners?
While some of these chefs might not be household names around the globe, within the world of restaurants, these are the best of the best of today’s culinary rockstars. The days of chefs being “hidden” in the kitchen are far behind us, and these individuals have developed into major brands, and a sought-after asset to travel and tourism industries, including hotels, airlines, and more.
They work with the airline staff to create menus that bring a new level of luxury to airline food, while taking into account the restrictive conditions of how it must be prepared; and then served while cruising along at 500 miles per hour at 30,000 feet.
In an interesting twist, Heston Blumenthal’s show ‘Heston’s Mission Impossible’ worked with British Airways to enhance the menu for 100,000 meals served each day. The team from the airline has continued to work with the many lessons learned from Blumenthal’s insane amount of talent and insight gained during the filming and behind-the-scenes of the show. Bringing together British tradition with the modern and straightforward approach by Blumenthal, British Airways has several unique offerings for their first class passengers, beyond just the breakfast and dinner selections.
A new “Height Cuisine” menu is now being offered, which they have carefully researched, developed and launched, which maximizes taste at the high altitudes. These recipes have been developed using high amounts of umami, which creates the ultimate flavor. In case you’re not up-to-date on all your food terms, umami is known as the fifth taste after sweet, salt, bitter and sour. It was identified in Japan, and is believed to offer the pleasant savory taste that occurs naturally in many foods such as seaweed, mackerel, tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.
A favorite perk of traveling with British Airways is their Afternoon Tea Service. A selection of fine sandwiches, sumptuous cakes and pastries galore are made available to make the flight that much more enjoyable. Don’t forget to save room for the traditional warm scones, jam and the clotted cream. Divine.
An airline that is already known for a pretty phenomenal first class cabin, the menu continues to also gain a very favorable reputation. After bringing four master chefs together for months of development, Qatar Airways now offers what they call “freshly prepared 5-star dining with the perfect wine pairings” on board their 787 Dreamliners. Master chefs Nobu Matsuhisa, Tom Aikens, Vineet Bhatia and Ramzi Choueiri collaborated to provide guests with this sophisticated and comfortable dining experience highlighting international taste combinations.
The true worldly influences can be tasted from start to finish. An example of the main course includes Thyme roasted chicken breast with supreme sauce, served with potato gnocchi and seared tomatoes; Iranian mix grill, served with lamb chops, kofta and chicken tikka with broad bean saffron rice; Oven roasted mustard and dill salmon, served with dill pine nut rice, yellow dal with shredded cucumber and carrot salad; and rounded out with Stuffed spinach crêpes with mushroom, cheese and tomato sauce.
Chef Nobu Matsuhisa says, “Qatar Airways understands my philosophy. It’s like a nice marriage, a balance in the food.” Creating menus for an airline is certainly a different sort of challenge for any chef, yet at the end of the day, each chef wants to spoil every passenger as they would a guest in their own restaurants.
Each of these master chefs certainly has a different approach to food, but with all believing in fresh and inventive cuisine, the collaboration simply works. Chef Tom Aikens says, “Good service is just as important as the food. If passengers leave the plane with a positive lasting experience, that means a lot.”
Chef Vineet Bhatia says, “When people ask me which part of India I cook from, I say it is pan-Indian, but it comes from the heart, because I believe in food. I believe in what I do.” It’s this level of passion that makes this an impressive collection of celebrity chefs who have been a great asset to the first class dining experience.
With the travel population being a very international mix of individuals, bringing together a dynamic collection of celebrity chefs to work together will surely be a concept seen by additional airlines in the future. “I believe this is a big adventure, a big opportunity, a big challenge, and I’m very proud to be part of it,” adds Chef Ramzi Choueiri.
The relationship between Chef Neil Perry and Qantas Airways continues to only get better with time. Fully integrated into the entire operation, Chef Perry has helped Qantas become known for their flawless service, impressive wine cellar and 5-star dining for their first class passengers.
Perry is one of Australia’s most exciting chefs, having built an international reputation at his renowned Rockpool restaurant in Sydney. Many of the international flights offer an 8-course tasting menu that is prepared on the plane, and then paired with the perfect wine by their “Sommeliers in the Sky.”
A very unique offering currently being served on many of these flights is an exclusive tasting menu celebrating the favorite dishes served during the 15-year partnership between Perry’s Rockpool Consulting group and Qantas
Here you can sit back and enjoy a vibrant selection of perfectly executed items such as the Spanner Crab and Harissa Tartlet, and the Yellowfin Tuna with Moroccan Eggplant. An entree favorite is the Rockpool Bar & Grill Style Crumbed Free Range Pork with St John’s Carrots, Potato and Cabbage Gratin and your choice of Fennel Jam, Hot English Mustard or Seeded Mustard. Be sure to not over-indulge in order to save room for the desserts such as Chocolate and Orange Pots with Almond Biscuits and Cacao Hand Made Chocolates.
Be sure to enjoy your next delicious culinary masterpiece paired with the perfect wine while dining in the clouds.