Mathias Sulger, Intern Online & Social Media Marketing at SWISS
There are considerable differences between preparing meals in an aircraft galley and doing the same thing in a restaurant kitchen. For the chefs involved in SWISS Taste of Switzerland, creating menus for airline inflight service is always a great challenge. Considerable time passes until their creations are actually served on dishes in the aircraft.
Many points have to be taken into consideration when it comes to food on board. For example, certain types of food and ingredients are not really suitable for an aircraft galley, due, for example, to issues with digestion. Raw food, too, is problematic. We also avoid products that are questionable on ethical grounds. The first major challenge for the guest chef masterminding the meals and for Gate Gourmet, the caterer later preparing the culinary creations in large volume, is to find the right ingredients.
The SWISS Taste of Switzerland guest chef needs to be aware that the meals are prepared by Gate Gourmet 24 hours before they are served and then cooled down to a temperature of 2 degrees Celsius before being stored until they are loaded on board. During the flight, the cabin crew members working in SWISS First and SWISS Business heat the meals carefully in a hot-air oven or a steam and hot air combination oven up to around 160 degrees. Some food items have to be ruled out as they are not suitable for this process either.
In order to meet the various other requirements by the time they are served, the meals must be tasty and capable of releasing their full flavour upon being heated and prepared within a relatively short time frame. This process demands a great deal of everyone involved.
A lengthy period of preparation take place before the meals can be consumed on board. The first step in the creation of a new SWISS Taste of Switzerland occurs about six months before the meals make it on board. During this early stage in the process members of the SWISS Inflight Product team meet with the guest chef to explain the expectations and his/her role.
Once the guest chef has drawn up the initial recipes, Gate Gourmet spends a fortnight testing them for their suitability for SWISS. Significant aspects at this stage are flavour, feasibility for Gate Gourmet and the meals’ visual qualities. Not every chef is familiar with what is involved in designing meals appropriate for the crockery airlines use on flights.
When Gate Gourmet has concluded its overall calculations, the next step is for a "working presentation" to take place, at which all of the dishes created by the guest chef and Gate Gourmet itself are sampled. Any necessary adjustments are made at this point, and one month later a final presentation and sampling together with the guest chef takes place. This occurs about three months before the first meal is loaded on board. The meals are photographed for the purpose of writing the guides which are required to ensure that the meals are correctly prepared on board by cabin crew members.
The recipes are then set aside for three months, during which Gate Gourmet takes on the task of sourcing the required ingredients. Actual menu production begins one day before the first flight with the new menus takes off, whereupon these mouth-watering dishes are enjoyed by passengers.