The butt of countless jokes, airplane food is usually ranked somewhere on the culinary scale between hospital and prison food. While coach dining, for the most part, remains fairly depressing (think rubbery chicken, limp pasta and sketchy seafood), airlines are making considerable investments in their business-class offerings. Airlines are partnering with the world’s best chefs to build adventurous and delicious dishes, and are bringing in sommeliers to source quality wines to pair with their creative menus. The best ones might even make dining on an airplane something to look forward to.
Beating up Air Canada is a national pastime, but the company wins awards for its meals. Recently its Nutri-Cuisine program, which includes nutritional data for each dish, was recognized as offering the healthiest in-flight meals of any North American airline. This might include grilled sea bass, roasted fingerling potatoes and grilled vegetables. Food this healthy justifies a second glass of Doña Paula Malbec from Argentina.
You know that an airline based in food-obsessed Hong Kong isn’t going to disappoint. Flights offer Chinese (sauteed prawns with kung po sauce, for example) and western dishes (grilled beef), but it’s the snacks that many love best. Save room for Shui gaw (pork and shrimp dumplings) in soup.
Air New Zealand
Working with celebrity chefs and award-winning sommeliers, the airline might offer such modern, fashionable fare as New Zealand snapper on yuzu braised fennel with potatoes, green beans and red pepper, caper and macadamia salsa, paired with a fresh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
The Australian carrier has a 15-year partnership with renowned Chef Neil Perry. His menu might include toasted focaccia with grilled eggplant, goat cheese, semi-dried tomatoes and pesto. Quantas also collaborates with Gourmet Traveller to produce an entire magazine dedicated to Australian wine and food.
Twice a year, Air France employs a different chef to create a business-class menu. Currently, it’s working with Joël Robuchon, the chef with the most Michelin guide stars in the world. He’s offering Basque shrimp and turmeric-scented pasta, and lemongrass and crayfish pasta with Nantua sauce.