Why would any noteworthy chef get into the perilous business of airline food? The Washington Post reports that Charlie Trotter has created a menu for United Airlines, Delta is working with Todd English and Michelle Bernstein (owner of Michy’s restaurant in Miami), and American Airlines is serving food by Stephan Pyles of Dallas and Hawaiian chef Sam Choy. They must be getting paid pretty well to put their name on airline food, because all things considered, it’s just about impossible for any food to taste as good on the plane as it would in a restaurant. The Post explains:
Meals must fit specific sizes, be easy to assemble and be tough enough to survive cooking, chilling and reheating in-flight. The food must be simple to prepare in airplane cabins. Most of the work is out of the chefs’ control and in the hands of caterers spread across the globe. Budgets can be tight, requiring ingredients that may not make a restaurant’s cut.
On top of all that, food tastes different at 33,000 feet, often requiring the liberal application of spices, which is often shunned in fine dining.
Is it possible that the signature of a big-name chef attached to a dish or airline food could make it just a little bit more appetizing? Well, not for the author of the Fro Fro Blog, a food and fitness journal, who recounts an experience with Trotter’s airline fare:
When my seat mate asked what was on the plate that was put before him, our flight attendant (who wasn’t much of a ray of sunshine to begin with) responded, ‘I don’t know. You’ll have to look at your menu. Yeah, it’s disgusting. It’s the new Charlie Trotter menu. They don’t believe us when we tell them; they have to hear it from a real customer.’
That seems a bit harsh, and personally, I don’t necessarily trust the culinary opinions of a disgruntled flight attendant. Has anyone else sampled Trotter’s in-flight cuisine?