A foodies guide to: The Sky
Do you ever look at the food served on board a plane and wonder why these particular dishes were chosen, and by whom? We’ve spoken to the experts about exactly that, and the results may surprise you.
We spoke to On Air Dining who creates á la carte meals for use aboard aircraft and their CEO took us through the complex processes involved in creating the food we eat whilst airborne. What we learnt was enlightening, and goes to show why you’re best off leaving it to the experts.
What a lot of people don’t know, is that food does not taste the same in the air as it does on the ground. That’s because our sense of taste, especially when it comes to salt in particular is roughly half in the air what it is in the ground. Because of this, we have to do things like add extra sea salt to every dish or pay closer attention to other flavours that suffer less in the air. Flavour is paramount, so to make sure we pack as much in we always try to fill every dish with Umami, which is also known as the fifth sense. Umami stimulates the palate, the back of the mouth and the throat, so is ideal for ensuring flyers get the most out of their food. You’ll find Umami in foods looks mushrooms, tomatoes, and parmesan and soya sauce, amongst others.
We incorporate these flavours into our dishes using the ‘sous vide’ process (French for 'without air’) which allows for perfect cooking of the product from edge to edge. We use this technique for all the proteins and vegetables we use. Unlike with a conventional oven, where the outside of the product is cooked more than the inside, meaning there is a much higher risk of over cooking and drying out or under cooking and being raw, the sous vide process means it’s cooked equally throughout. The product is sealed, the flavour and colour is kept and it even enhances the flavour. This is hugely important in an aircraft where 50% of your taste is lost through altitude and dryness.
But it’s not only the food that plays a vital role in dining on board an aircraft; the packaging is equally as important. In fact, a lot of time and money go into researching and creating packaging that is both safe, time and space efficient, aesthetically pleasing and in line with our corporate responsibility guidelines. Because of this we do not use traditional foils but instead plastic dishes that have been created from plastic that has been recycled at least twice. They must also be able to be used in both ovens and microwaves. We also take considerable time studying aircraft tech sheets to ensure we choose the most suitable container size for use on that aircraft. This means the flight attendant doesn’t have to decant it into other dishes.
One of most important things is safety, and our chefs must ensure they use ingredients that are not prone to contamination. For example, when we deliver raw fish based dishes such as sushi we always ensure it is blast chilled right after preparation and use refrigerated vans. Whilst our food is in transit it is never kept at more than 3 degrees, ensuring it remains fresh and chilled.
So, next time you’re looking at the mushroom omelette they’ve served at breakfast, or at those little packets of peanuts, you’ll know why they were chosen.