We spoke to Singapore Airlines’ Food and Beverage Manager, Hermann Freidanck, about ‘flying restaurants’ and why selecting the right food and wine is an integral part of creating the perfect in-flight experience for passengers.
In partnership with Singapore Airlines
We take specific care for our menu planning. Singapore is unique because in Singapore we have three, maybe four major food cultures including Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures that produce different types of food. So we are actually quite lucky. And this is also a speciality of Singapore Airlines.
You have other airlines that are much more single culture, like in Japan and Germany where their food product is very one stream only. But we have the luxury of having special people working here that represent these different types of food.
And then we go out and we look at what the people do, in terms of local food, and we take it into our kitchens and recreate this food. Because not everything is possible to do on the plane. So it takes some time to move from one side to the other. That’s one way.
The other way is, of course, there have to be some traditional foods that are in every cookbook like Hungarian goulash or something like that. Those are standard specials that we have all the time.
And the other way is because we are centralised in terms of quality control here in Singapore, we can go out to our major destinations and there we have our culinary panel star chefs. And they give us, two times a year, a set of menu creations, ideas of what’s new there, what’s happening. We go there to have a look and then we come back to make it airline friendly. Because one of the things that we cannot do on board is really cook. What we try to do on board is give the food a bit of a fresh touch, for instance, we keep the sauces apart, we have a little garnish that’s added right before serving and the crew is plating each dish instead of reheating like other airline food.
Yes, that’s what we’re trying to do.
It depends on the length of the flight. For a long-distance flight like New Zealand, there are two individual menus. There is a starter, four or five main dishes, two desserts plus fruits and cheese.
Of course. We do not do one-menu-fits-all. I mean there are the standards, the chicken rice. What we do, of course, we always have a destination dish, a Chinese or Asian dish, a culinary panel dish and something that is popular or seasonal at the time.
We invented ‘Book the Cook‘ to make sure we don’t run out of a particular meal a passenger wants. If you want a steak or a lobster you can pre-order in your reservation. You can do this within 24 hours of flying. Our top sellers are obviously the lobster, but also Singapore chicken rice and the steak.
It is. It’s the service and the attention that makes us different. A dish has to be right from the beginning. If someone is flying to Auckland, that’s about 12 hours, if the dish isn’t right that’s a long time to compose a complaint letter.
That really depends on where we are flying to. For holiday destinations it’s less. But we have local stations where we have frequent travellers that we change weekly for. But mostly it’s bi-monthly for really top destinations like London.
Dessert is very important. We always do two desserts and one is probably ice cream which is always a challenge. You try to keep ice cream looking like ice cream for six hours. In the aircraft, we don’t have freezers because everything is weight and space.
And then we have a cake or mousse or something like that. We pay attention that there is always something that can be done fresh by the crew. The sauce is usually put on last minute by them.
Well, obviously wine is an integral part of the on-flight proceedings. I’m involved in selected and tasting the wines. Twice a year we select the wines for our selection on board – it’s a terrible job. We have directional wines, so when you fly to Australia you’ll get Australian wines and when you fly to France we serve French wines. And it’s my opinion – and it should be everyone’s opinion – quality before quantity. Especially in the air.
We also have champagne on every flight. Two types in First Class. The top level we have Dom Pérignon and Krug and in Business Class, we’ll always have a world-wide recognised brand. It’s always champagne you get first. It’s not sparkling wine.
People send the samples to us. One of the things in our business is that we do a lot of the same same. We do something like 500 cases of Bordeaux wine a month. And because they’re limited by vintage, not everybody has a lot of the same level. It is a logistic problem.
We actually have trained sommeliers on board. They can recommend a wine to go with your meal. They interact with the passenger so they get a different experience.
“It makes it more like a flying restaurant.” – Hermann
Images courtesy of Singapore Airlines
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