Ian Rutter, Chef Proprietor of Brown Sugar Development, a company which has been working with the travel sector for 14 years. Ian has a further 30 years’ experience within the airline sector, working with both airlines and caterers around the world.
In the interview that follows, Ian answers questions asked by Onboard Hospitality‘s editor.
Stuart Forster (SF): In recent years, have you noticed any changes in the proportions of fresh and frozen dishes served onboard?
Ian Rutter (IR): It seems to have twisted in both ways for different reasons due to the pandemic. Some of the frozen entree users went to fresh due to the uncertainty in passenger movement, so only paying for what they used from their regional kitchens worked well in those very uncertain times.
Some others went the other way – down the frozen route – as they always knew they had stock of their designed dishes in those cities where again the movement was uncertain
SF: What are the pros and cons of preparing frozen dishes over serving freshly prepped food?
IR: It comes down to consistency and authenticity. We are in a strange time, where staffing – especially chefs – is a prime commodity and, at times, very difficult to get.
So if you serve a great fresh product, who guarantees the raw material is being delivered on time? What happens when the chef doesn’t turn in that day?
We have all seen situations where we have had to use chefs from different departments to fill gaps and maybe that day the product isn’t cooked to your specification.
Also, when cooking authentic recipes around the globe, not all kitchens have the knowledge to cook that dish to ensure the passenger gets what they expect. When you have a quality frozen food partner, issues like these can be eradicated as all stations across the system get a consistent product. If you want a great authentic Indian, Arabic or Easter dish in New York, Borneo or Newcastle Upon Tyne, as an example, this can be fulfilled.
Frozen can also make it easier for an airline with multiple stations. Instead of their development chefs getting pulled from pillar to post and travelling around the globe to teach kitchens how their recipe should be prepared, which is very expensive, they now only focus on their frozen food partner to ensure consistency out of one facility to then supply the system.
SF: To what extent have rises in food and fuel costs affected your provisioning, notably of fresh and frozen ingredients?
IR: When we are looking at daily buying of fresh ingredients with a possible three-day shelf life, where the smaller quantities and deliveries come at an inflated cost, it makes pricing difficult. Especially when menus for the customers have been agreed and prices set for six months or longer this becomes an issue.
At times, facilities are taking multiple deliveries and are very costly. With so much movement in these volatile times, the frozen entree, salad, dessert supplier can forecast, secure raw materials and buy produce in advance.
I know of a quality frozen manufacturer that works with the local farmers to secure complete fields of produce for their production, so offer their customers a good, stable price and a quality product.
SF: Is there anything else that you would like to say?
IR: As long as you work with a quality frozen partner that develops, cooks, assembles, freezes and handles the product with love, care and attention you can’t go far wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, fresh is great when the time is right but there is a time and place for everything.
Our team works tirelessly to design and develop bespoke products for our forever-moving sector.
You can read more perspectives relating to trends in fresh and frozen produce in issue 96 of Onboard Hospitality magazine.