High Flyers

High Flyers

The new age of airline cuisine is marked by collaborations with celebrity chefs and five-star hotels, as well as input from renowned wine connoisseurs. With designer plates, white linen, and decadent ingredients, it's almost like you're dining in a fancy restaurant at ground level.

Airline cuisine used to be synonymous with bad food: think gluey peas, steaks as tough as a dog's chew toy and unidentified mound of mash masquerading as potatoes.

All that has changed in the last few years. In-flight dining has seen a dramatic uptick in quality thanks to collaborations with Michelin-starred chefs, award-winning hotel restaurants, and celebrated wine authorities.

Even with the challenges presented by being 30,000 feet up in the air, airlines are not only expanding their menus, they are also going all out to bring the dining experience to another level.

For example, Garuda Indonesia in February upped the ante by bringing trained chefs onboard to personalise passengers' meals throughout flights.

There are no sweeter words to a frequent flyer than "new menu". To bring more options to passengers, All Nippon Airways (ANA) teamed up with chefs from Regent Singapore, part of the Four Seasons hotel group.

The hotel's four restaurants will take turns to showcase a new menu that changes every three months for business class flights to Japan from December.

Not only are airlines bringing in the expertise of Michelin-starred chefs, they are also trying to create an haute dining experience. Case in point: Air France's new luxurious La Première suites make passengers feel like they are in an actual restaurant. Singapore Airlines, meanwhile, introduced a new wine consultant to curate vino that is perfect to enjoy up in the clouds.

All Nippon Airways

Hotel restaurants are not limited to serving their cuisine on land. Regent Singapore has signed on to design in-flight meals for All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan's leading airline.

The year-long partnership will see the chefs from Summer Palace, Basilico, Tea Lounge, and Manhattan, take turns to craft menus for ANA's business class passengers travelling from Singapore to Tokyo. Summer Palace, the doyenne of Cantonese cuisine, will be the first to kick off the culinary partnership on Dec 1.

Passengers can expect appetisers such as marinated jellyfish with poached prawn, celery and black fungus, and steamed fresh scallop topped with wasabi mayonnaise and mango cubes.

Summer Palace's executive chef Liu Ching Hai showcases his signature black olive fried rice with oven-baked cream snapper.

Quintessential elements of Cantonese food such as yu tiao (fried dough sticks) and creamy yolk of the pidan (century egg) are also incorporated.

Regent Singapore's executive sous chef Angelo Ciccone, who is spearheading the Basilico menu collaboration, is keen to "showcase signature items that made Basilico so popular such as the fresh mozzarella and sweet Italian tomatoes as well as ingredients that are distinctly Italian such as fregola from Sardinia and black truffles".

ANA is also working with Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok and Shangri-La Hotel in China. Mitsuo Tomita, general manager of Singapore office and vice-president of marketing & sales Asia at ANA, explains: "Patrons at hotel restaurants are similar to our passengers. Hotel restaurants understand the dining needs of the customers, and they're able to transfer that knowledge to our passengers. When we collaborate with them for our in-flight menus, we strengthen our food services."

Mr Tomita adds that collaboration is advantageous to hotels too because "they have an opportunity to reach out to ANA's passengers and grow a following".

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