Taking a cue from what Danny Meyer did for Delta, American Airlines is the latest to employ celebrity chefs to elevate its in-flight meals beyond tiny bags of pretzels.
American is tapping chef/restaurateur/Chopped judge Maneet Chauhan and pioneering Hawaiian chef Sam Choy, as well as Dallas’s Italian food specialist Julian Barsotti and Michelin-starred UK chef Mark Sargeant, to overhaul the food that's served at 30,000 feet. Chauhan will be responsible for the menus served in premium cabins on U.S. outbound flights, while Sargeant’s food will be served in the premium cabins on European flights. Barsotti is designing the domestic premium cabin menus, and Choy’s food will be served on Hawaii routes (Choy also recently redesigned premium menus on transcontinental routes).
"Airline catering has been pretty stagnant for the last 20 or 30 years," says Fern Fernandez, American Airlines' vice president of global marketing. "There’s so much we can learn from these young chefs — they bring a lot of creativity in the way they prepare food and source ingredients — and we’re bringing that on board the aircraft."
In addition to the new menus, which will be rolled out in phases over the next several months, Fernandez says the menus will feature local and seasonal ingredients when possible. This means utilizing kitchens in travel hubs such as New York, Los Angeles, and Miami to step up sourcing as well as using "products that are representative of the cities that we fly from," Fernandez says. This also means meatless options that go beyond pasta: Roasted spaghetti squash with vegetarian meatballs, for example, could be on your plate the next time you fly.
Notoriously terrible airline food has been making leaps and bounds in recent years: Daniel Boulud recently partnered with Air France to serve fancier fare like Moroccan chicken tagine and coconut curry lobster at 30,000 feet, and last year JetBlue became the first airline to pour rosé.