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Great expectations

BY EVRA TAYLOR

 

North America’s premier private jet chefs go above and beyond to ensure top-flight dining experiences

A glint of sunlight dances off the gold rim of a delicately etched porcelain dinner plate. A tower of freshly-picked organic greens drizzled with the finest extra virgin olive oil sets the stage for an entrée of Norwegian salmon filet garnished with a pinch of herbes de Provence.

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Appetizers prepared by a private jet catering company.

Jet-setters and vendors alike know how important a passenger’s dining experience can be aboard a private jet. In the air, gourmet wining and dining marries the art of culinary excellence with practical ­concerns. Food preparation, packaging and service are a high-flying act for a uniquely trained and qualified cadre of ­aviation chefs whose commitment to ­customer service knows no bounds.

You have entered the world of haute ­cuisine. This could describe the scene in one of the world’s finest restaurants – whether Osteria Francescana in Italy, l’Arpege in France or Eleven Madison Park in New York. In reality, though, you’re flying over the Atlantic Ocean at 35,000 feet aboard a Gulfstream G550 with ONEflight International, a Colorado-based private jet charter broker with a network of 500 charter companies and more than 4,000 private jets available for travel.

 

While many intercontinental airlines have begun upgrading their in-flight dining ­experience through enhanced menus, ­polished white glove service and suites of luxury amenities that provide a touch of home, the culinary experience aboard ­private jets belongs in a class by itself. In fact, for many of these passengers, their in-flight culinary experience sets the tone for their entire trip.

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Air Culinaire chef preparing a special ordered dinner. (Photo: Air Culinaire Worldwide)

Private jet catering is no different from any other sector in its fervor to keep up with the times by introducing technology so as to speed up and enhance in-flight dining. Increasingly, the airline industry is em­bra­cing change and innovation to stay current and keep their offerings fresh. Some major carriers are exploring apps that allow passengers to order catering themselves, while others have partnered with leading restaurants for their most ­celebrated ­dishes.

 

As ONEflight’s concierge service, JetStyle has been providing private jet dining and concierge services to a wide variety of elite clients – both business and pleasure – ­including business executives, corporations and professional sports teams, for the past four years. JetStyle is a one-stop shop whose ultimate goal is to “deliver ­perfection” in every aspect of the client’s flight experience. The company uses ­hundreds of catering companies with ­locations throughout the United States whose sole purpose is to ensure unparalleled in-flight catering that surpasses the expectations of even the most discerning global travelers.

 

One of those companies is Air Culinaire Worldwide in Scottsdale, Arizona, a leading private jet catering company that caters to a number of major fixed-base operators in the Valley area. As General Manager Chris Evans knows, there is a world of difference ­between catering weddings and bar ­mitzvahs and arranging the logistics of aviation catering. Onboard service is highly personalized and accommodates every possible client ­request imaginable. Do you wish to have dinner served on your own hand-picked china service? Why, certainly. Or do you want a customized gift basket for your child’s birthday? They are happy to oblige.

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Delivery of preordered customized meals. (Photo: Air ­Culinaire Worldwide)

While private jet chefs do their utmost to maintain a “sky’s the limit attitude,” ­serving food onboard a transatlantic flight requires particular attention to detail. “One of the greatest challenges in aviation catering is serving food at the temperature requested by the passenger. What’s more, most airplanes have smaller than average ovens, making cold dishes a more practical choice. “We’re accustomed to responding to last-minute requests. In many cases we receive and process orders in as little as twenty-four hours. We go above and beyond for all our clients,” says Chris. Preparing, organizing and transporting specialty food requires talent that sur­passes typical airline food services.

 

JetStyle also collaborates with Culinary Fusion in North Salt Lake, Utah, owned by Executive Chef Wendell White, whose ­culinary experience spans nearly a decade. He sources only the highest quality food, from prime beef to Norwegian salmon flown in by his fishmonger, packed in dry ice ready for transport to the aircraft. “While we feature a standard menu, it can be customized to satisfy individual ­requests and tastes,” he notes. Wendell points out the nuances of ­aviation catering that would not be a ­consideration in an average situation. “For certain specialty dishes like bananas foster, a traditional New Orleans dessert, the bananas are sautéed in butter, sugar and cinnamon, and then bathed in rum or bourbon. To preserve their texture and freshness in-flight, the bananas are added in only at the end,” he explains.

 

Aviation caterers are equipped to comply with every type of request from the ­simplest to the most esoteric. Wendell tells the story of a client who specified that they wanted their omelet to have “no color,” meaning no touches of brown due to cooking. As a skilled chef he was able to comply with the unusual order, of course, ensuring that the omelet was white and pale yellow. For Chris and Wendell, nothing is out of the question in fulfilling every whim. When it comes to the do’s and don’ts of aviation catering, however, ­certain dishes such as soufflés and flambés are off the table for safety reasons.

 

As odd as it may sound, aviation catering is a lot like ballet in many respects. Groups of dedicated professionals work tirelessly at a fast, frenzied pace to ensure that even the smallest detail doesn’t go unnoticed. The amount of behind-the-scenes prepa­ration it takes to produce what appears to be a seamless and flawless performance is impressive. As Wendell says, “We will do whatever it takes to please our clients.”

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Amuse bouche appetizers for private client. (Photo: Air ­Culinaire Worldwide)

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