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Airlines turn to celebrity chefs to win and hold custom

September 10, 2013 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Air France has begun serving sumptuous delicacies to select business class passengers. Since February this year, it has served up pan-seared scallops, artichoke sauce with white truffle, crisp polenta, sugar snap peas and similar delicious fare.

It’s part of a campaign by the airline to deploy some of France’s best chefs, and their cuisine in a bid to win over high-yield customers.

Michel Roth, the latest Michelin-starred chef working with Air France to provide cuisine of such standard, is following in the footsteps of fellow French cuisine masters Joel Robuchon and Guy GOOGLE_DISPLAY_WEB_ADSMartin.

Godwin Mak, marketing and communications manager for Air France and KLM, told CNN recently that the airline’s latest culinary moves were “not about a gimmick or outdoing your competitors. It’s about keeping your customer satisfied.”

Airlines are going to ever-greater lengths to attract and keep their most valuable passengers.

KLM World Business Class has employed top international chef and culinary director at Amber restaurant in Hong Kong (which bears a coveted Michelin star), Richard Ekkebus.

Ekkebus told CNN that while everyone has a strong opinion about airline food, few are aware that 20% of human taste buds become inactive when eating a meal at over 10,000 feet.

“These challenges are what makes it so interesting to get involved; to try to find a way to overcome them.” Concentrated flavours, herbs and spices are among the techniques Ekkebus uses.

Other airlines are following the celebrity chef trail as well. Qantas has consulting chef Neil Perry. As well as its meals, the Australian carrier, in its first class section, serves two of Champagne’s prestige cuvees from the celebrated 2000 vintage, the Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Blanc De Blancs 2000 and Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2000.

Last year, British Airways launched an in-flight menu for first and business class created by two celebrity chefs: Heston Blumenthal and Michelin-star chef Simon Hulstone.

British Airways menu design manager, Mark Tazzioli, says customers are becoming increasingly discerning when it comes to in-flight food. He told CNN that travellers “expect the very best from airlines, particularly full-service carriers like us”.

CNN considered that the concentration on top chef talent and cuisine could eventually benefit economy class.

KLM and Air France, for instance, provide some attrctive options for their economy-class passengers. On most intercontinental flights, customers of those airlines can order from an a la carte menu before travelling – including a three-course meal including entrée, main and dessert.

Written by : Peter Needham

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