Articles

How Airplane Food Is Made to Be Served at 30,000 Feet — How To Make It

September 23, 2019


– We’re here in Atlanta, Georgia and we are gonna team up with their chefs to see how they make their food taste good at 30,000 feet in the air. We’re gonna start the
day off at Gate Gourmet to see how food is being
prepped and packaged, ending the day at
Delta’s training facility to see how that food ends
up on your tray table. I’m excited to get a taste of what Delta One customers have
been eating this whole time. – Welcome to Gate Group
for Delta Airlines. The partnership we’ve had with Delta has been for probably about 20 years. – So Gate Gourmet is essentially the caterer for Delta. – Absolutely. – You guys are providing the facility– – All of the production,
the menu development, all of the food and beverage, everything that goes up above. I’ll let Christian tell
you a little bit more about how he works with his team on that. – So where does this process begin? When you’re coming up with a dish you want to put on the in-flight menu, what do you have to consider? – There are a lot of things. A lot of people think that
airline food is all frozen meals, but pretty much I would
say 95% of everything is made fresh daily, it’s
just done in large volumes. So we feed about 100,000 people a day, and we transport about
a half million a day around the world. We have about 45 different menus that are flying currently. – Wow. – So Katie, today we’re
gonna work on a salad that we’re currently running on our menus. So this is a harissa shrimp,
and arugula, apple slaw. We’ve got a lot of great feedback on it from our passengers. We’re just gonna roast some shrimp. We have some 16/20s here
with the tails left on. We have some harissa. Harissa is a Tunisian pepper. One of the challenges with cooking for food that’s going to be served at altitude is the flavor. So as you go up in altitude, humidity actually reduces a little bit. And because you have reduced humidity, food doesn’t taste as pronounced. We’re gonna need a bit of some cilantro, and then we need some
salt, and some olive oil. And then we’re just gonna
take this lime here, perfect. And you’re gonna just take
these and stir that up, make sure it’s well incorporated. – You mentioned you’ve been getting really good feedback on this dish– – We have, yeah. – Are there some things
that were just a no-go? – We’re basically cooking food, we’re having to chill it, and then we have to reheat it again once we’re on the airplane. So, it’s that reheating piece that gets a little tricky with certain foods. – [Katie] Right. – You probably won’t ever have a great french fry on an airplane. – Right. So this gets roasted? – It does, yep. And we only cook it for
about eight minutes or so. We’re cooking it all the way through, and then we’re quickly
gonna blast-chill it, so the shrimp stay nice and plump and juicy so they’re
like a marinated shrimp, right on top of the slaw,
which we’re gonna make next. – Cool. So, what happens when
there’s a flight delay? I know that happens to
me relatively often. – So in airline lingo
we call that an IROP. That’s when you have an
interruption to the operation. There is a team that basically is assigned to wherever that is happening, and they’re doing an assessment of all the different things that are going on. All of our food is held
in a refrigerated area prior to being dispatched to the flight, and we have very strict timelines that that can sit there
before it becomes unusable. So the team will assess
how long the IROP’s potentially going to happen, and they’re gonna make a decision whether or no the food can be served, or if it needs to be remade. – So are delays the worst thing that could happen in this scenario? – Delays are one of the worst things that can happen in this scenario. – [Katie] This looks so good! – Super fresh, nice citrus,
little bit of sweetness. It’s gonna balance quite
nicely with the harissa shrimp. So Katie, I’ve grabbed our
roasted shrimp out of the oven, you can see how nice and moist that is. Now we’re gonna put it
in the blast chiller and cool it down very quickly. – Cool, it smells so good. – So while we’re waiting
as our shrimp to cool down, I wanna show you another fun dish that we’re working on today,
rosemary brined chicken. And then we’re gonna lay
it out on a nice sheet pan, and we’re gonna roast it in the oven, get it nice and golden brown. – [Katie] How do different
proteins get treated, seafood versus steak, versus poultry? – We partially cook proteins
that are whole muscles. So for instance, our steaks. – Ah, okay. – All of our proteins like
chicken, pork, fish, and shrimp, they have to be cooked
to the USDA guidelines. – So are you ever dealing with maybe part of your produce
order doesn’t show up, or you have to substitute an ingredient for romaine lettuce recall? Because I’d imagine every
decision you’re making is a huge decision. – Last summer we had a crab cake shipment that was coming in, as raw
material to our plant in France, and the order got held up in customs, and it took almost four
weeks for it to be released. We have printed menus
that we’re dealing with, we have folks that are
expecting to get on a plane and be able to be served
what they’re gonna be ordering from the menu. So we had to make a very quick call to find out where can we
find other sources of crab, and how can we get that all together to the kitchens that need it. Now that we’ve cooked all of our proteins, our shrimp and our chicken today, we’ve got them blast-chilled down, we’re gonna go ahead
and plate up the salads. We’ll put this on here,
you wanna put about an ounce and a half of the slaw on top. – [Katie] And we are obviously scaling everything for a reason. – [Christian] That’s it. – How much of an impact would it have if I was putting a little too much? – You’re really gonna
mess up my production, because I’m going to have
to make more product. And then let’s go ahead and
put three shrimps on there. Beautiful, and then we’ll just finish that with a nice lime wedge
on the side of the plate. – So, this is how it will go to the plane? – It is, you just put
a lid on top of that, that’ll be boarded on our tray setup, which we’ll go see in just a little bit. – Cool, it is cold in here. We are working in a giant refrigerator. – That’s it, we were in
our hot foods area earlier. Now after everything’s cooked and cooled, it’s brought here and it’s assembled into the final dish. It will be securely locked and it will go out to the airfield. So we’re gonna go ahead and build that right on our tray setups. – Over here? – That’s perfect, you can see how there’s a little non-skid on there? – Yes! – It’s a very intricate balancing act, to get all the equipment
provisioned properly. This was a salad that was done earlier. Of course we have our harissa shrimp. – Here’s our chicken setup. – Yep, so we’ve had these ones pre-built, you can go ahead and take our chicken that we’ve cooked previously, let’s go ahead and load
those into the container. We’ll just go ahead and put a lid right on top of there, squish it down. – Where are these headed after this? – So these are gonna go into our oven, and then we’re gonna stage these with the rest of the supplies, and they will go out to the airplane. So you can see we have a very
tight space to work within. So, we’re gonna go ahead and
put our chicken right in here. This is what our first
class flight attendants that are in the galley, they’re gonna actually remove these out and they’re gonna plate this. What do you say we go taste
the chicken and the shrimp? – Let’s do that, I’ll bring this. (laughing) – We have our harissa shrimp
with our celery apple slaw, and we have our rosemary brined chicken with our cheesy polenta, and brocolini with roasted tomatoes. – It looks delicious. I’m gonna go shrimp first, can I lime us? – Yeah, please do. My favorite. – Me too! It’s so good. It’s so bright and clean, a little bit of spice, a
little bit of brightness and acidity, it’s
everything I want basically. – Perfect. Let’s dig into that chicken
and see how that tastes. – I’m gonna get a little
bit of everything. It’s very tender. The vegetables are cooked perfectly, they’re not overcooked, there’s
a little bit of bite still. – Very good. – So, in the air, it wouldn’t
taste like this right? – I’ll teach you a little trick that we kind of do to see how
we think things will taste. Let’s go ahead and cut a
little piece of shrimp here. Hold your nose, eat the shrimp, swallow, and then let go. – It’s still delicious! – But do you see the difference? – It is a little muted. Holding my nose is like perfect balance. I think what most people would consider well-seasoned, that’s really cool. – That’s what the effect
of the less humidity has on your flavor profile. – Wow, it’s a big difference. – Yeah, changed your
mind on airline catering? – It most definitely has. I am impressed. – We’re gonna take you now out to one of our aircraft and let you see how the flight attendants actually deliver this experience to
our customers in the galley. – Oh my gosh, great. (funky music) – Welcome to our mock
aircraft simulator room. – Thank you, I just came from
the Gate Gourmet kitchen, and walking into this room was a surprise, to see an entire airplane. You’re gonna take me through a little bit about what goes on onboard
during meal service. – Let’s go. This is a real 767 galley,
first class galley. And these are all of our ovens. All of our ovens are convection. We don’t have microwaves onboard. When I get onboard the aircraft, our caterers have generally been on and catered the aircraft
with all of our tools, all of the food necessary for the flight. After takeoff, we turn
our meals on to cook, and by the time we’re ready to serve them, they’re perfectly cooked. – Oh my gosh, this is so cool. – So here’s one chicken. Alright, so the chefs have
gone to a great service for us as far as telling us exactly how to put everything on our plates. This is the brocolini, on the center of– – Wow, it’s so specific. – It is, it is. – Everything is intentional, I’ve noticed throughout my day today. So chicken to the left.. – Chicken to the left. – Trying to make mine look like yours. – A little bit on top of the potatoes. And then we’re gonna
just drizzle the finish, which is the thyme gravy. And voila! – It looks just as good
as it did in the kitchen. – [Beverly] You did a great job. – Thank you so much for
kind of walking me through a day in the life, really. – Well thanks for
helping me in the galley, it was such a pleasure to have
you onboard with us today. – Thanks so much. Thanks for watching, for more
how to make it, click here. (funky music)

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