Food fights become the norm in private aviation, though it’s a very different war than in the 1970s animal house battles with mashed potatoes and cream puffs. With the rapid growth of private flights, many large corporations realized that their aircraft menus lacked variety and quality, the two hallmarks of haute cuisine considered standard in five-star hotels and restaurants.
The major fractionation and membership companies are now correcting this with dishes that would have been considered extravagant, except perhaps on the converted jumbo jets of Russian oligarchs or Arab sheiks. Alliances between jet companies and large restaurateurs are becoming common.
During a recent media flight on a Bombardier 7500 Global from Miami to New York, VistaJet unveiled a great spread for several lucky journalists, based on its existing alliance with Nobu. The menu included yellowtail jalapeno, miso black cod, prime beef tenderloin, and other sushi and vegan options.
Chef Nobu Matsuhisa has also created Steamed Salmon Dry Miso, a dish exclusive to the private jet company. “We strive to provide our members with the same level of quality and service in the air that they expect on the ground,” said Leona Qi, president of VistaJet US.
“When you look at this clientele, you know which hotels they visit and the level of service they are used to everywhere else, especially when private jets cost so much more,” said Kimberly Herrell, CEO of charter operator Schubach Aviation at Carlsbad, California, which also launched a new haute cuisine initiative.
But the limitations of high altitude dining, including the effects of altitude, lower humidity, and increased noise and movement on taste buds and senses, have prompted air providers to look for more creative solutions. Some chefs prepare menus that are cooked more than 24 hours before takeoff, refrigerated overnight in the hangar and served at room temperature, while retaining the Michelin magic.
“Some dish elements such as mousses, molecular and fried foods don’t travel particularly well, so we have to reinvent them to meet our customers’ expectations,” said Diego Sabino, vice president of private dining at VistaJet.
Alliances are varied. NetJets has teamed up with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the three-star Michelin chef behind the eponymous restaurants, to create a menu for flights departing from the New York metropolitan area featuring Asian-inspired American and vegan dishes. Flexjet recently worked with chef Geoffrey Zakarian, who curated meals for co-owners leaving New York City from his Manhattan staple, The Lambs Club.
Red Savannah, a luxury tour operator based in Reading, England, is touting its onboard cuisine as a major draw for its first $150,000, 15-person Grand Tour of Europe scheduled for next September. He will serve the cuisine of London members-only dining club Mosimann’s – a frequent fixture at Buckingham Palace which hosted Prince William and Prince Harry’s wedding banquets – aboard the Embraer Legacy ER135 between jumps on along the Greek islands and the Adriatic Riviera.
Schubach Aviation teamed up with Michelin Bib Gourmand Award winner Brian Redzikowski from Waverly in San Diego. Redzikowski, who has served at Cirque, Nobu and Joel Robuchon, has created jet-friendly versions of popular Waverly dishes that don’t require “five different utensils” or reheating.
“All of our dishes are served cold or at room temperature to avoid mistakes,” Redzikowski said. Robb Report. “So if it’s a classic French dish with béarnaise and potato, no, it wouldn’t work, because we can’t reheat it and everything has to be 100% cooked beforehand.”
The smaller the plane, the more delicate it becomes. Heavy jets usually have a full kitchen with a fridge and an oven or microwave, while mid-sized jets tend to have at least a microwave. Small planes, however, have nothing but an ice box.
“When we build an onboard menu for our customers, we consider everything from toppings, sauces and accompaniments,” said Hilary Clark, director of inflight services at Planet 9, a private jet charter company and aircraft management company in Van Nuys, California. .
Planet 9, which specializes in Falcon, Bombardier and Gulfstream ultra-long-range aircraft, sends its flight attendants to train at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, Texas, where they study topics ranging from food safety to drink pairings.
Clark said factors considered when planning meal service include “time of departure, time of day food pick-up or delivery is to take place, means of transportation, the time it will take to pick it up from the restaurant until it gets to the plane to then store it safely, and of course the precautions to take to keep the food cool if customers are late for departure .
Some principles of gastronomy are not negotiable. Sushi, for example, should be kept refrigerated at no more than 41 degrees Fahrenheit. If you serve caviar, don’t forget the mother-of-pearl spoons. “You can’t serve precious caviar with a metal spoon,” Clark said, “because it might alter the taste.”