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How to reinvent airline food

February 19, 2019

Virgin Atlantic claims it is reinventing inflight dining through a new collaboration with food writer and TV host Donal Skehan. Eloise Bain discovers more

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As Virgin Atlantic strives to become the “first airline that doesn’t serve airline food” its latest launch aims to take catering up a notch. New menus have been developed with Irish born, LA based Donal Skehan, an avid foodie and TV personality – regularly hosting the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and Junior Masterchef – and a best-selling food writer.

Aim high
Inspired by the carrier’s global destinations, and aiming to reach restaurant standards in the sky, the recipes were taste-tested by Donal inflight. Recognising that altitude can dull taste by around 30%, the menu prioritises punchy flavours and textural impact. They are full of fresh, healthy ingredients and combine hot and cold, creamy, crunchy and spicy culinary influences.

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Overseen by Momentum in collaboration with Eurostar Business Premier Culinary Director, Raymond Blanc OBE, the catering is supplied by Jeanie Marshal in the UK, Festin in France, and Fonteyne in Belgium. Menus can take six months to evolve from concept to delivery.

Control the noise
This was Donal’s first venture into inflight meals and he admits it was a steep learning curve. The collaboration took 12 months and combined Donal’s culinary expertise and restaurant standard recipes with the Virgin team’s knowledge of the onboard challenges. The goal was to create restaurant quality food at 38,000ft and the new menus included starters, mains and breakfast options. Skehan said: “Together, we’re turning the industry upside down by creating stunning, delicious and healthy food at 38,000 ft.” Daniel Kerzner, vp customer experience at Virgin Atlantic said: “We continue to raise the bar by looking outside our industry for trends and innovation. Donal is the perfect partner to help bring game- changing food to the skies, and give our customers an elevated experience they won’t find anywhere else.”

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Donal’s dishes are now being served in Virgin Upper Class cabins and club houses but will next year also be featured in Premium Economy and Economy too. Already onboard is an aromatic Thai vegetable stew; and charred cod with spicy mango salad and nam jim dressing. In the club houses passengers are offered Spanish inspired spiced chorizo, fennel and tomato stew, a Vietnamese beef and mango salad and a super- greens omelette with goats cheese.

FACT FILE
• The carrier operates a fleet of 47 aircraft serving 25 destinations

• A “Mile High Tea” launch earlier this year was created by patisserie Eric Landlard

• This project builds on Virgin’s partnership with the Sustainable Restaurant Association

• Virgin carries 5.5m customers annually