What’s up with bland air­line food?

Blame your taste buds and palate, says Emi­rates ex­ec­u­tive chef, who takes the op­por­tu­nity to dis­pel some of the myths R395

Saturday Star - - T R A V E L - CLIN­TON MOODLEY

AIR­LINE food does not of­ten bode well with many trav­ellers, my­self in­cluded. Ei­ther it lacks flavour or looks sloppy.

Chef Ravi Nage, the re­gional cater­ing man­ager for Emi­rates in the Asian sub­con­ti­nent, Europe and the UK, helped to clear many of the mis­con­cep­tions. Here’s what he had to say:

What makes air­line food so bland?

Re­search shows that trav­ellers’ taste buds and palates are work­ing 35% less ef­fec­tively high up in the air com­pared to on the ground. There are two pos­si­ble rea­sons for this: cabin pres­sure and mois­ture con­tent.

Over the years, many air­lines have done their best for trav­ellers to en­joy their meals. The newer planes have hu­mid­ity control so the food tastes

just as it would on land.

How does the chef de­ter­mine what goes on the menu?

Menus are changed four times a year and are de­ter­mined by the pas­sen­ger pro­file and des­ti­na­tion of the flight.

The feed­back from our trav­ellers will help us know what meals worked and what did not and we then make the changes ac­cord­ingly.

What foods do air­lines not serve on­board?

We try to avoid serv­ing fried food or any­thing that needs to be cooked and served im­me­di­ately. These types of food in­clude French fries and pop­corn. We also try not to serve food with a strong smelling aroma like durian (a fruit with a po­tent stench).

How can you pair al­co­hol with your meals on a plane?

There is a ded­i­cated team who sources wines and al­co­holic bev­er­ages for Emi­rates trav­ellers. Our first class trav­ellers of­ten get to sam­ple wines with our sig­na­ture food pair­ings.

I would rec­om­mend trav­ellers pair strong al­co­holic drinks with heav­ily spiced meals. Are there any mis­con­cep­tions you hope to de­bunk?

There are many.

Some peo­ple be­lieve that we lace our fruit with su­gar to make it sweet or that our meals are pre­pared well in ad­vance and served later.

Both are un­true. These sen­ti­ments ac­tu­ally hurt as we fol­low a strict pro­duc­tion plan.

Air­lines pride them­selves on pro­duc­ing fresh food in a safe and se­cure en­vi­ron­ment.

Some of the food is tested for pathogens and bac­te­ria weekly to make sure that ev­ery­thing is in or­der.

Emi­rates ex­ec­u­tive chef Ravi Nage shows some of the food he serves on a flight.| Zanele Zulu/ African News Agency (ANA)

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