No one has ever written an ode in praise of American airplane food. More often than not, it's inedible and eating it can be as risky as sitting in the emergency exit row. But two major American airlines are looking to change airplane food's unfortunate reputation.
✈ Delta Airlines has this fall partnered with Food & Wine magazine to launch The Cabin Pressure Cook Off. This culinary competition video series (seemingly in the style of Top Chef) will result in Delta's new corporate chef, to be based out of Atlanta. Four former Food & Wine Best new chefs winners will compete: Hugh Acheson of Empire State South in Atlanta; Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta; Kelly English of Restaurant Iris in Memphis; and George Mendes of ALDEA in New York.
Delta kitchens prepare over 100,000 meals daily. Currently, chefs Michelle Bernstein, Michael Chiarello, and master sommelier Andrea Robinson consult on Delta's menus. The Cabin Pressure Cook Off will air on Delta's in-flight entertainment system, delta.com, and foodandwine.com. The winning chef will be picked in October.
✈ Virgin America is taking a hint from popular restaurants around the country and releasing a menu of seasonal small plates. The small plates trend continues to thrive in new, single unit restaurants around Los Angeles, but its premise—to allow diners to share tastes of food with each other—doesn't seem to translate to the average airline dining experience. No matter. These meals, now available on flights between L.A. and New York, actually sound tasty! Here's a sample:
Marinated Mozzarella with Roasted Tomato Ciliegine mozzarella marinated in olive oil and basil tossed with roasted tomatoes and capers
Edamame and Ginger Tartar Salad of fresh tomato, edamame, green onions and ginger tossed with a ponzu dressing
Lebanese Chickpea Salad Chickpea salad tossed with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil
Chili-Rubbed Shrimp Seared Shrimp marinated in arbol chilis and served over a vegetable ceviche
Spanish Chicken and Artichoke Salad Grilled chicken breast tossed with artichoke hearts, peppers, green olives, basil, oregano, capers and fat free balsamic vinaigrette
Butterscotch pudding Traditional butterscotch pudding served with a bourbon-vanilla mascarpone topping