In-flight dining trends show more vegan options, meat alternatives


Inside the quest to make airline food worse

Impossible rendang croquette cake, a dish created by Molly Brandt, is seen during a presentation at Gategroup in Dulles, Virginia on January 31, 2023. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)


Last month, one of the world’s largest airline caterers conducted a tasting at a test kitchen near Dulles International Airport. Gategroup showcased his six dishes that showcase culinary trends that could appear on future seatback trays. We had duck rillettes with pickled ratatouille, whipped blue cheese dip topped with bacon date relish, and heirloom roasted cauliflower steak with turmeric tahini sauce.

Although it was a gathering of In-flight meal, neither chicken nor pasta were invited to the table. The old punchline wouldn’t fit the menu.

“The idea is to make a big difference in airline catering,” said Molly Brandt, former Top Chef contestant and executive chef of innovative cuisine in North America for the Swiss company. . “Not everything here flies when I plate it, but maybe 70% of it, or the essence of cooking, does fly.”

As travelers’ taste buds become more sophisticated, the airline industry is striving to keep up with flyers’ cravings for more plant-based meals, listing providers on menus and embracing the wonders of fermentation. One of the challenges of global catering companies is adapting to current ingredients and techniques. — and execute that vision in the cloud. The process interweaves art and science, reconciling the whimsical fantasy with the sober reality of a pressurized cabin.

Sophitmany Skalacamara, Associate Professor of Food and Beverage Management at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, said:

“But it won’t be easy. [catering companies] If food must be cooked 24 hours in advance, will it taste the same if reheated? Will it look the same? how is the texture? How does it taste? They have to do a lot of research. ”

In-flight meals continue to evolve. It has undergone many renaissances and dark ages, as over 100 years of in-flight dining has shown us.

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The long and strange journey of in-flight meals

Our flying ancestors also had to pay for pre-made nosh. This means that the industry’s first offering is strikingly similar to today’s budget airline options.

In October 1911, Imperial Air made history by serving its passengers the first in-flight meals. “Food in the Air and in Space: The Amazing History of Food and Drink in the Air” On flights from London to Paris, travelers could buy drinks such as ginger ale, fresh lemon squash and sherry in addition to biscuits or “sandwich packets”.

Foss said diversity does not exist. “At United he only had one menu,” he said, citing his 1931 crew manual listing meals. “They were more about consistency than creativity.” Choices were fruit, cold fried him chicken, rolls, cake, coffee, or nothing.

The advent of basic heating appliances for airplanes and improvements in food freezing technology have allowed airlines to expand their menus. Many carriers also tried to deliver for comical effect, especially in his 1960s and his 70s.

On Western Airlines, flight attendants donned red coats and hats and presented an English breakfast with hunting horns and recordings of hounds. Transworld flight attendants wore berets and maid outfits and cosplayed as French-style meal service. I had chips. Passengers were given keys that opened the left side for the outbound journey and the right side for the return journey. Unfortunately for the next passenger, some travelers ate both meals.

The golden age of in-flight meals is over. Future: Snacks and Sustainability.

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 shook the industry by removing government controls and introducing a free market in which airlines had to offer a free market for their customers. With increased competition, carriers have changed the way they feed people, Foss said. Some have scaled back or eliminated services, or started charging for meals.Others angled to be high altitude versions of Michelin star restaurant.

“The age of creativity was when airlines had their own catering companies and chefs,” said Foss.

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The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks shattered the airline and its culinary aspirations. To save money, they scaled back their investments in food and beverages.The industry is in trouble again coronavirus pandemicFor safety reasons, the carrier has suspended food service. But when travel resumes, you will need food, for better or worse.

“From my personal experience, it is clear that the quality of food has declined,” said Sophit Manny, who usually flies economy flights. “The portion sizes are also smaller.”

Don’t blame the chef when you complain about bad food on board. Altitude, which dries out the cabin and dulls your senses, is one of the main culprits.

“I don’t smell very well because my nose is dry and I can’t discern the taste or smell of food,” said Sopitmani. “Onboard, you lose about 30% of your taste buds.”

“Onboard, you lose about 30% of your taste buds.”

— Associate Professor Johnson & Wales Sophitmanee Sukalakamala

Aviation safety standards and limited in-flight cooking equipment also affect food integrity.

Lean meats and muscle proteins need to be cooked at higher temperatures than some customers prefer, Blunt said.US Department of Agriculture Recommendation We cook all steaks and roasts at an internal temperature of 145 degrees. “Medium rare never happens,” she said.

Hot food cooked on the ground needs to cool before being loaded onto the plane and revived in the convection oven. As we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, Not all dishes are made for reheating — like French fries.

“Avoid anything that contains fried foods,” Foss said of his approach to in-flight meals.

vice versa, Umami — The savory flavors found in mushrooms, miso, and soy sauce — shine brighter at higher altitudes.

“Try to drink tomato juice when you’re on a plane,” Sophit Manny advised. “It will be much tastier than the ground.”

No cauliflower steak, no pasta

At least once a week in Gategroup kitchens around the world, the Swiss company hosts tastings for airline executives who want to update or overhaul their menus on medium and long haul flights. “The whole journey from idea to production can take him 180 days,” says Kevin Levett, the company’s head chef for North America.

Presentation comes early in the process that encourages chefs to dream big. The fall to earth occurs later.

Brandt, who has also worked on cruise ships and hotels, says: “Put it on the plate like you would in a restaurant.”

Brandt is a hunter and collector of food trends. She delves into food media inspiration, including chef-specific publications and niche publications. She eats out a lot and owns “an obscene number of cookbooks.” She uses her social media especially her TikTok. “If you don’t succeed feta pasta Or we’ll see it somehow this summer,” she said, “then I don’t know if you were alive.

She also has her own set of rules for flying. First, no green salad.

“As soon as the cover comes off, life is over,” she said. Her alternative is a salad of “cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.”, an aggressive produce that retains moisture inside.

She keeps salt to a minimum and leans into a spicy ketchup glaze to season her meatloaf spiced with Italian sausage. As a Midwesterner from Minnesota, she considers her mother’s domesticated tastes when monitoring spiciness.

Brandt sympathizes with vegetarians and vegans who are often stuck with pasta on her forbidden food list. It appeared in a rendang croquette cake next to a sweet potato puree that mimics the flavor of .

When creating dishes, Blunt not only incorporates trendy elements such as koji (the mold used to make soy sauce and miso), simple pickles, and meat substitutes, but also incorporates the culture associated with airline routes. A classic example of this marriage: Brant’s roasted cauliflower – sat in turmeric tahini sauce, served with toasted chickpeas and pomegranate seeds – for flying carriers in the Middle East and India she created

After tasting the food at Gategroup, Tim Carmana Food Reporter for The Washington Post said that the combination of ingredients “offers a depth of flavor that is often AWOL-like in vegan dishes.”

For an airline partnering with San Francisco, she paid homage to local ingredients with Point Reyes Whipped Blue Cheese with Bacon Date Relish and Sourdough Bread. The duck rillettes with pickled ratatouille, brioche and herbs were sorry French.

Carman said many of the dishes Brandt sent out were “as tempting as anything on the table in a modern American restaurant.” But it’s a time of hard truth. Most of it is directed to pampered classes before the plane.

Those of us who portion peanuts in economy are usually stuck with reheated frozen entrees, according to Jens Kuhlen, president of Gategroup North America.

But it’s likely that one day bus passengers will be able to savor these meals (or versions of them) without spending thousands of dollars on first-class or business-class tickets. Works at all altitudes.

“Think of it like fashion. If I was doing that capsule collection, eventually these things would gradually become fast casual,” Brandt said.

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