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By emma Gipi on February 20,2012

Airlines are improving their meal service with gourmet menus by famous chefs and restaurants. Discover the best foods served on airplanes

Haute cuisine at high altitudes: until a few years ago, this combination was considered unlikely at best – but today it’s the latest fine dining trend. The world’s major airlines are in a supersonic race to acquire famous chefs as consultants for their on-board meals, paying close attention to ingredients, innovation and variety.

Especially – but not exclusively – for business and first-class fliers, fine dining will be part of the flying experience despite the fact that, at 10 thousand kilometres above ground, there are no kitchens, stoves, and the human palate loses 30% of its ability to taste. But this is what makes haute cuisine on a plane an particularly surprising experience.

Airlines are putting themselves in the hands of great chefs like Darren McGrady, the English chef who worked for years under the employ of the British Royal Family and is now overseeing the business and first class customers of American Airlines. The private Indian company Jet Airways has turned toYves Mattagne, chef at the two Michelin-starred restaurant Sea Grill in Bruxelles, where some of his menu proposals include Belgian caviar and smoked salmon with minted yogurt, or sea bass roasted in fish broth, served with saffron vegetables.

Didier Schneiter, the starred chef at Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland, has leant his skill to Swissair with a menu featuring dishes like lamb filet mignon with autumn vegetables in a cremolata sauce. For a limited time, Cathay Pacific flights paid tribute to the best chefs of Bejing and Hong Kong, serving dishes from the menus of restaurants like the The Opposite House in Bejing andCafé Gray Deluxe in the Upper House in Hong Kong.

British Airways sent chef Heston Blumenthal on board on an impossible mission: to find the perfect menu, one that would be as delicious in air as it was on land. And thanks to the focus on umami, the meals on British Airways are now an opportunity to enjoy truly unique flavours and tastes. And their bread, always served warm, is produced by a famous Canadian baker.

Beginning in November 2011, Estonia Air has begun a culinary tour of 12 famous restaurants over 12 months: every 30 days, they give the reins to a different famed Estonian chef, who serve their most renowned dishes. Moving to Abu Dhabi, since last autumn, Ethiad Airways has been offering their Diamond Class passengers the option of ordering specific dishes before departure, and having their meals then delivered on board right before take-off. For some first-class flights Gulf Air and Austrian Airlines have the chef actually on board. Last summer, American Airlines one-upped the competition with an on-board sommelier, there to suggest the best wines for its first-class passengers.

But even for those airlines that aren’t employing Michelin-starred chefs, all carriers are beginning to focus more on the quality of in-flight meals – and not just in first class.
Continental Airlines has created its own “Congress of Chefs”, made up of 18 American chefs likeMichael Cordùa, owner of the Houston restaurant chain, or Paul Minnillo, chef at the Baricelli Innin Cleveland.

For 6 months, these chefs have worked together to study the best menus to feature in flights, choosing four personalized menus that can be alternated according to season and geography. For European destinations, for example, the proposed menus might feature a veal marrowbone with saffron risotto,or else grilled Escolar fish with rosemary shrimps accented with bouillabaisse sauce, artichokebarigoule and steamed sugar snap peas.

British Airways also has gathered together a “Taste Team” made up of journalists, critics and chefs (like the starred Indian chef Vineet Bhatia, owner of Rasoi in London): they have the responsibility of studying menus, tasting them and suggesting variations, season after season.


The Father of American Cooking. One of Several Culinary Superstars in our Galaxy
by Muguette Goufrani

There have been many well traveled experts on fine wines, good food and great restaurants in North America's media, but the standout person is James Beard , an icon of the past century. We salute Portland's native son, who some have called "The father of American Cooking." Beard spearheaded the food revolution, converting a gastronomic wasteland, making North Americans aware of their bountiful heritage and the joy of cooking. An acceptance of all kinds of foods, of every ethnic origin, launched him on a remarkable lifetime voyage.OOriginally attracted to the stage, Beard gained fame by making theater out of cooking. Traveling in New York's posh circles, he taught cooking hands-on, and gave dramatic demonstrations. He invented the role of Food Consultant, crisscrossing the USA like a country doctor, on call to everyone, from the Jolly Green Giant to major restaurants. Beard authored many cookbooks, including America's first best-selling paperback, which inspired generations of fledging chefs.

His magazine features and newspaper columns spanned the world. Above all, he influenced the careers of many of today's master chefs, fostering an American style of cooking. In Delights and Prejudices, Beard wrote about his first gastronomic adventure, "I was on all fours, as I crawled into the vegetable bin, settling on a giant onion, and eating it skin and all." A native of the Oregon Coast James Beard made his radio debut with a local station. He also began catering part time, and soon found his way into the homes of Portland's rich and famous, teaching them how to cook with an international flavor. To Oregonians, this was something totally new -- not just a local boy who could cook, but a man of the world, who could make a catered party into an entertaining event by his gift of conversation. James Beard showed the finer points of French cooking at a time when the highway version of fried chicken had crucified the image of poultry. In wartime, he was assigned to the US Quartermaster Corps, touring the world with the USO.

Travel with Taste Tours

In Puerto Rico, he roasted a forty-five pound pig, letting the juices drip on a bed of plantains. The cracking skin became an hors d'oeuvre. His Caribbean tour resulted in a love for barbecued pork and a Brazilian banana dessert. From Morocco, he learned to eat hot food with his fingers, and in Naples, he discovered an uncommon Neapolitan pasta sauce, made from the juice of pine trees. In Marseilles, small eggplants, fragrant rosemary, and a plethora of garlic were transformed into a memorable luncheon dish. After World war II, James recognized that many amateur cooks, through often far removed from the country side, have never lost their love for the taste of food grilled in the wild. Beard's Cook it Outdoors was popular a generation before the fast food craze arrived. A basic American delight, the Hamburger was not left out. The book features a dozen variations on the ground meat theme, from the Gourmet Burger, nestled in an English muffin, to the Baghdad, with eggplant and Escoffier sauce.

Fireside & Outdoors Cook Books
In 1946, television was in its infancy, and had an insatiable need for fresh ideas and unusual talent. Being an experienced actor as well as a cook, Beard was hired by NBC, and his cooking show spawned many followers. Beard's Fireside Cook Book established his name nationwide. In it he states, "American cookery is as straightforward, honest, and delicious as the fish that swim off our shores, or the cornmeal dishes that were the mainstays of our earliest settlers. "James Beard became recognized as a pioneer champion of campfire and barbecue cooking via his earlier volume, Cook it Outdoors, and articles for Argosy and House and Garden on the same topic.

Opens a Cooking School
Averaging at least one round trip to Europe each year, James Beard established a cooking school, represented brandy and wine producers as a restaurant consultant, served as a judge of cooking contests and contributed to European magazines.

Representing France's National Association of Cognac Products, he showed American cooks for the first time, how spirits could add to home menus. This traveling act was called Cooking with Flair. He also organized a vineyard tour by forty food professionals, sponsored by the San Francisco Chapter of Andre Simon's Wine and Foods Society. In Paris Cuisine, the subject of ordering French wine in Paris is addressed. It is a guide to local wines, to be drunk young as a rule, from districts such as the Rhone, the Jura, and the Loire, which are lesser known to Americans, than Bordeaux and Burgundy. Writing about wine in popular magazines with upward mobility readership, he reached more Americans than anyone else in his field.

Food as Art
Beard had no tolerance for those who can't understand that all food deserves creative effort. He was convinced that potatoes, cooked with love and respect, could save any meal, and was one of the first to widely extol the virtues of garlic. He took to heart the French penchant for making even the most meager food into something appetizing -- and of course, good wines were high on the list. In James Beard's mind, food is very much a theater art. "Designing hors d'oeuvres is like designing sets and costumes", he commented. He used baby tomatoes, a novelty in the 20s, and stuffed them to create attractive hors d'oeuvres. That simple item has been a world-beater ever since. Another delight, featuring rounds of brioche with mayonnaise, and an onion slice, has been copied by generations of caterers.

James Beard's Fish Cookbook was the first to reflect his early history, visiting Meccas like Seattle's Pike Place Market, where giant crabs and shrimps and fish lay on beds of ice. He cites his good fortune to have grown up in a region that's remarkable for its range of both salt and freshwater fish. "Many American eat fish regularly without knowing what kind of fish they are eating", he states. In a booklet called Recipes for Cuisinart Food Processor, Beard tells the story of how that French kitchen tool became a necessity for American cooks. The immediate success of this tool caused Beard to say "I realize that there are still some kitchen snobs who will not accept the fact that modern technological perfections are to be used and talked about."

James Beard frequented the finest continental hotels and restaurants, and was a personal friend of Charles Ritz. He taught American cooking in Venice's Grutti Palace, led tours of British inns and German spas, and discovered how Northern Italians make and embellish their pasta. This enriched his own book Beard on Pasta. "But we are American", he told his readers, "we don't have to do things the classic way. We can do as we please."

In art, there was Picasso; in science, Einstein; in food , James Beard was the trailblazer of American cooking. His peers saw him, not only as the one person who had contributed most to a new era of gastronomic awareness, but as a human being in a class by himself. His championing of wine on America tables, and his continuing encouragement of French Standards in American kitchens, earned him the Medaille d'Ordre du Merite Agricole, a unique honor. James Beard was exactly what the new wave of American cooks was looking for; a grand vintage superstar who had instant rapport, a role model with the sort of style which permeated the ideas most of them held. Many consider James Beard as the true father of American cooking............................

 Superstar Chefs of the Future
Air Highways editors had the privilege of attending the first graduation ceremony for the New millennium at Dubrulle in Vancouver. Talk about a United Nations affair - this was it - virtually every race and nationality, from Japanese to West African, was represented in their graduating class of 1999. After the certificates were handed out and awards given, we were treated to a grand buffet prepared by Dubrulle student chefs. Gingerbread Family (below) served as a centerpiece for the dessert table.

 About Muguette Goufrani: Muguette is a professional travel counselor who has travelled and worked around the world. She is Associate Editor for Air Highways and Africa Travel Magazines, with a focus on Francophone topics and destinations.

Flying Gourmet continues with a feature on
... Airline food and one of Canada's original caterers.


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