Fine dining in the air vs fine dining in a restaurant
Date Published : 01 Mar 2018

As continental air travel becomes more accessible, many airlines have recently shown a great interest in making the perfect in-flight cooked meals to make up the perfect in-flight experience.  We sat down with Etihad’s Airways’ In-Flight chef, Gerhardus Reneyke, in Abu Dhabi to talk about his experiences of cooking in the air. Check out our interview with him hereQ: What are the challenges of in-flight cooking?
First of all, space is an issue, as we don’t have the same equipment that we use on ground. Working with our different colleagues can be an issue because of our language barriers but we still deliver the same 5 star dining experience to our guests as they would on the ground.

Q: Are there any similarities between cooking in a restaurant and on board?
A: The similarities.. we deliver consistency on every single flight. So the similarities would be the quality. Differences would be the cooking technique. For instance, we cannot have an open flame on the aircraft but we do have very highly specialised equipment that can produce the same results.

Q: What if your guest wants a healthier option?
A:  The chef has a whole pantry of ingredients that he can use for the healthier options that we have on board. Fresh ingredients like cucumber, tomato, fresh lettuce and herbs, as well as some fresh vegetables and fruits. In addition to this, we have our protein box. The protein box has a variety of fish and meat ingredients. They are all from our catering unit in Abu Dhabi, where the items are sealed and vacuum-packed. On board, the chef can then create something for the guest using the variety of ingredients. To come back to the question of a healthier option, if a guest would like to have a salad with chicken, that can be done.

Q: The air pressure and humidity affect our sense of taste, so how do you accommodate this?
First of all, we are flying in 40,000 ft in the air so you’re stuck in this metal tube. Air pressure and humidity affect our sense of taste, some senses are heightened and some tastes are lowered. When we design the menu in Etihad catering, we use an exact amount of salt, pepper and spices to balance out the flavours. For instance, something that is very salty on ground, might not be as salty in the air and vice versa. It takes a unique balance for the chefs in Etihad Catering to get this correct. 

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