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HIGH FLYER: Restaurants of the Skies
It can never be a case of 'too many cooks', when it comes to in-flight dining, especially when they are some of the world's best. The Luxury Travel Bible looks at the growing number of celebrity chefs adding their signature style to your first class menu.
 
Heston Blumenthal's recent mission to transform the humble shepherd's pie' into a gastronomic taste sensation at 35,000 feet up may have won him a legion of new fans flying British Airways; but he's not the first - nor is he likely to be the last - celebrity chef to try to transform plane (or should that read 'plain') food into something worthy of Michelin-star status.
 
heston and ba cabin crew photography c nick morrish
heston and ba cabin crew photography c nick morrish
qantas dining a380
thai airways food
emirates first class wine service
singapore airlines dining
thai airways inflight dining
 
One of the early pioneers of modern in-flight 'fine dining' is renowned Sydney restaurateur Neil Perry, who this year celebrates 15 years at the helm of Qantas' in-flight kitchens.
 
"Unlike many other consulting chefs to airlines, Rockpool doesn't just write recipes. The Neil Perry team work very closely with the Qantas team on all aspects of food preparation, including training crew in the art of silver service as well as food presentation," spokeswoman Amanda Bolger said.
International passengers can choose from up to 12 main courses with an opportunity to indulge in an eight-course tasting menu on selected services. Currently, Qantas First and Business class passengers can enjoy a special 'anniversary' menu featuring some of Perry's most popular and most requested dishes over the years. They include the Signature Steak Sandwich with tomato and chilli relish; snapper poached in coconut milk and Garam Masala with fine egg noodles and snow peas and Chinese style BBQ pork omelette with oyster sauce.
 
And what is a great meal without a fine wine to match?

And what is a great meal without a fine wine to match? Qantas recently claimed six out of 13 awards at the Cellars in the Sky Awards 2010 including Best First and Business Class Cellar; Best First Class White, Red and Sparkling and Consistency across Business and First Class cellars. Helping you choose wisely are the Sommeliers in the Sky, cabin crew specially trained in all aspects of wine service.

As part of recent domestic enhancements, Neil Perry has also introduced a newly designed menu, tray service, dish of the day and island dining to Qantas' domestic business lounges.

Helping to lure business class palates away from the national carrier is another popular Australian chef Luke Mangan - who famously catered for Danish royalty at Crown Prince Frederik's wedding to Tasmania's Mary Donaldson and is the first class chef for Virgin America. Mangan has now been hired to revamp Virgin Blue's domestic in-flight retail menus across Australia (and those of sibling international carriers Polynesian Blue, Pacific Blue and V Australia). The stellar recruitment is part of a major overhaul of the airline's domestic services aimed at attracting the more premium class traveller starting with this month's launch of business class seats on new Airbus A330 aircraft flying between Sydney and Perth (where Mangan's meals are served complimentary); an upgrade of lounges; and a name change to Virgin Australia.

BA's in-flight dining strategy focuses on seasonality, provenance, quality and Britishness. While Blumenthal's pie makeover was a one-off, the airline says it employs a regular 'taste team' headed up by hospitality experts: Michel Roux, proprietor of The Waterside Inn, Bray; Shaun Hill, chef and proprietor of the Walnut Tree Inn, Abergavenny, Wales; Indian chef Vineet Bhatia of London's Rasoi fame; renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson,; chef turned food consultant Liam Tomlin and former restaurateur and Financial Times food critic Nicholas Lander.

Singapore Airlines is a clear favourite among contributors of The Luxury Travel Bible's Expert Opinion pages, and no doubt a big part of the airline's popularity is its restaurant-style dining experience. Cabin crew are specially trained to 'plate up' in-flight and pair the right wine with a passenger's order.

The dishes chosen are carefully selected by an international culinary panel (who work across all cabin classes) consisting of some of the biggest names in the global restaurant business including Gordon Ramsay, Australia's Matt Moran, India's Sanjeev Kapoor, New York's Alfred Portale (James Beard Foundation winner 2006) and French Grand Master Georges Blanc (a 3-star Michelin chef).

To ensure quality each dish is tested in a flight simulator to make sure it stands up in taste and texture at altitude. Frequent flyers travelling in Suites, First and Business class can even 'book the cook' by selecting their favourite dish up to 24 hours in advance.

Fans can also make their favourite dishes at home, thanks to the airlines first cookbook Above & Beyond. Proceeds from the book's sales go to Singapore's Community Chest, a non-profit organisation which helps the disadvantaged.

SIA's accompanying wine list is compiled by Hong Kong based wine critic and author Jeannie Cho Lee and Australia's Michael Hill-Smith.

Dubai-based Emirates, which consistently rates highly for its food has also enlisted a bevy of world class chefs in the past including the late Spanish chef Santi Santamaria of Atlantis, The Palms award-winning restaurant Ossiano, who designed the three course menu for the new Madrid route - the airline's 25th destination - last year.

The rest of the best:
American Airlines enlisted the help of Chicago's Charlie Trotter to provide first and business class menus on flights to Europe, Asia and transcontinental;
Australian Surfing the Menu star chef Curtis Stone has added his flair to United Airlines inflight offerings;
Three of the biggest names in French gastronomy - Joel Robuchon (the world's most starred chef with 25 Michelin stars), Guy Martin and Jacques Le Devellec oversee Air Fance's Servair Culinary Studio advising on dishes for its La Premier passengers;
Among Lufthansa's long list of star chefs are Alfons Schuhbeck, John Besh (August , New Orleans) and New York's David Bouely;
Delta Airlines has gone gourmet with the help of popular Miami chef Michelle Bernstein.
Thai Airways premium menus feature signature dishes by Tommy Yang including Thai tiger prawn with mango salsa, and pad thai noodles with grilled salmon.
And recently Cathay Pacific began serving the best Chinese food from the Miramar Group of hotel's best restaurants including Cuisine Cuisine at The Mira, which has won two Michelin stars.

British Airways' senior cabin crew member Jackie Simister talks about the experience working with celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal

 
Luxury Links
British Airways
www.qantas.com.au
American Airlines
www.aa.com
United Airlines
www.united.com
Lufthansa
www.lufthansa.comlufthansa.com
Delta Airlines
www.delta.com
Thai Airwyas
www.thaiairways.comthaiairways.com
Cathay Pacific

Debbie Neilson-Hunter 1/8/11
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