Three times a year, Singapore Airlines’ food and beverage executives create new seasonal menus for all its flights worldwide. These menus are sent from Singapore to about 60 inflight catering facilities around the world.
The catering kitchens source ingredients for the meals, then practice making and plating the meals in preparation for a visit from a Singapore Airlines executive chef.
On the day the executive chef arrives, the kitchen has prepared every single dish on the menus, which are laid out for inspection.
Kitchen staff gather around and watch as the chef reviews each dish, inquires about ingredients and preparation, and then plates the dish in the manner that the airline would like it served.
Once the dish is perfectly plated, the staff take several photographs of the dish. These photos are then reproduced and placed in manuals used by flight attendants to ensure that each dish matches the executive chef’s exacting specifications for preparation and plating.
This catering and menu review is a very detailed, very intense (and very hunger-inducing) process and last month Singapore Air invited TravelSkills out to a nondescript catering kitchen about a mile south of San Francisco International Airport to witness it.
When we arrived, Singapore Airlines top food and beverage executive, Chef Hermann Freidanck was already engaged with the staff from the Flying Food Group kitchen. He was inspecting first class meals for the summer season. Here’s what we saw and heard during an hour long visit.
Food is delivered to planes in “foils” that are heated in a convection, steam or microwave ovens onboard.
Singapore Airlines has two flights a day from SFO- one to Seoul, then Singapore. The other to Hong Kong, then Singapore.
Two flights per day with three classes of service means that Chef Freidanck must inspect almost 95 plates during his two-day visit.
Food is cooked about 40% at the inflight kitchen, then finished off onboard.
Chef Freidanck: “Fat is good to eat but not to look at.”
Related: Inside Singapore Airlines newest jet
It’s important to pay attention to regional differences in the Asian palate. For example, we learned that Singapore Air packs one type of soy sauce to serve on flights to Seoul, another on flights to Hong Kong, and yet another on flights to Taipei. Chef said that if they serve the wrong one, passengers will let the airline know.
Chef: “Is this wagyu beef from the US or Australia? What is the marble count? If it’s from Australia, can’t you get better meat in the US?” “What about the lamb shanks… American or New Zealand lamb?”
When flying from the US, Chef said, “we make sure our beef is on the rare side, but when flying from Asia, we tend to go more toward medium. Over there they don’t like to see pink or blood on the plate.”
“Sixty percent of our passengers are NOT from Singapore. Plus Singapore is a very diverse place, so we need to get a lot of different dishes prepared and plated just right.”
Some dishes sit for 8-10 hours before they are served.
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