They say a lot of things in life are mediocre and love shouldn’t be one of them. Being a chef and foodie I believe the word love can easily be replaced by food in this context. Food should never be mediocre – even when you are on a flight. Being on the panel for Singapore airlines for more than a decade I can assure you that serving food 30,000 feet above ground level is a different ball game all together. There are a number of challenges you need to prepare for to make sure every flyer has a great experience – and this struggle is something a lot of people are unaware about. So here are 5 first hand inside facts about the fascinating world of inflight food.
Your taste buds are almost 30% less sensitive at that altitude than at ground level and that is the main reason why in-flight food doesn’t taste as good as regular restaurant food. To overcome this chefs have been known to taste food for an in-flight menu in pressurized cabins, similar to how it would be on a flight and rework the dishes till the desired taste is reached.
Process and protocol
Inflight food has way more processes and protocols than restaurant food. The production base, location, mass production facility, portion sizes, cooking techniques, storing and reheating temperatures, transportation, flight destination, kind and number of passengers and the types of meal options – are all factors that need to be considered. For an in-flight service, everything needs to be planned down to the T. Since all these processes are interlinked, one small glitch could blotch up the entire flying experience for the customer and you definitely don’t want that!
There is always a big gap between when the food is made and ultimately reaches the passenger. So you need to think about the food being on flight for a couple of hours before being served to different passengers at different intervals. Menu planning involves carefully selecting ingredients and techniques that will remain delicious and look good even after going through all the processes and procedures.
Not much cooking actually happens inside an aircraft, mainly because you can’t reach that kind of temperature with an open flame inside an aircraft. Nothing that will change form, when reheated or needs extreme high temperatures to cook, will work. For example – Leafy greens like spinach won’t retain the bright green colour, prawns might get chewy and deep-fried food like potato chips etc. won’t be crisp like they are supposed to be.
This one is probably the most fascinating fact – pilots on a flight are served different meals and aren’t allowed to share. This is done as a precaution to prevent food poisoning, allergy or sickness from the food. Even in the times of auto pilot mode, at no point in a flight you want both your pilots to be unwell.
The next time you are on a flight these thoughts will definitely cross your mind and make you look at airline food in a whole new light!
Lastly I must add that if you ever fly Singapore Airlines make sure you try the Ruchithali which is something new we have come up with for economy class flyers to experience the fabulousness of Indian food the way we do in India – even when they are 30,000 feet about ground!
Till I write again
Happy flying, happy cooking and happy eating!