Friday, December 30, 2011

The Pride of Portugal

It hardly seems like nearly year ago that I visited the captivating city of Lisbon just a few days before the start of last year's International Travel Catering Association event in Nice. 

The weather was warm and I was happy to escape a long winter that would last until late spring. During my days in the city I visited the TAP Air Portugal's Cateringpor operation and talked with the airline's longtime Chef Consultant Vitor Sobral about his philosophy for airline cuisine over  din of evening diners at Sobral’s Tasca da Esquina  (The Corner Tavern) restaurant in the capital city. 

Chef Vitor Sobral and
TAP head of inflight product
Isabel Alves outside Sobral’s
restaurant Tasca da Esquina
in Lisbon
Now, as the year comes to a close, the airline is again tapping the culinary talent of Portugal. Starting in November, and continuing through the year, TAP Executive Class passengers will have the chance to taste the veal, salt cod and octopus culinary creations of six Portuguese Chefs: Luís Baena, Henrique Sá Pessoa, Ljubomir Stanisic, Leonel Pereira, Marco Gomes and Miguel Castro e Silva.

It's been a year of accolades for TAP and its dining team. Earlier, the airline was recognized by a major travel magazine for its Executive Class selection of domestic wines. 

To find out more about the chefs, the dishes they have created for TAP and the months during that they will be served on board, check their background and menu creations in the online version of the airline's fine inflight magazine, Up. 

-- Rick Lundstrom


Friday, December 9, 2011

Watching the Detective

While he may not be saying all the things the airlines want to hear, Charles Stuart Platkin, aka, the Diet Detective deserves some credit for doggedness in his pursuit of healthy airline food.

Last week, the Detective released the results of his annual survey of airline buy-on-board offerings in economy class for North America. The results have popped up in media around the country.

For both the level of cooperation and menu, our neighbors to the north, Air Canada (I can hear the cheering the the Toronto office of PAX) scored the highest for its Onboard Cafe. He was impressed with the airline’s approach to its food service offering and the information it provides to the passenger about each of the products. The Detective was also impressed with Air Canada's association with Food With a Conscience

In the survey, Platkin breaks down airline offerings piece by piece with calorie counts, best bets for healthy snacking and the amount of exercise needed to burn off each of the meals.

He gives high marks to Virgin America, and a few props to US Airways, while chiding most of the other carriers for one transgression or another.

What I noticed in his extensive research was the amazing variety that can now be found in the carrier’s buy on board offerings. They all serve a few items that could appeal to the health conscious. The choice is there for the buying. For as much research as the Diet Detective undertook, airlines undertake more. Before boarding any of these products, they are thoroughly vetted and focus-grouped.

Airlines also have to deal with something that the Diet Detective and his readers do not – that is waste. Healthy, fresh offerings are an important addition to the menu. They also have a shelf life that must be closely followed.  If they don’t get sold, the airline loses money and the product is wasted. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Flying Food Group's Chicago distinctions

Sue Ling Gin
Flying Food Group found itself in good company recently. The 2011 Crain’s Chicago Business  ranked Sue Ling Gin’s Flying Food Group the second largest minority-owned business in the area.

Flying Food Group is behind MAT Holdings Inc. a diverse group of manufacturing and distribution companies and ahead of television personality Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo, Inc.  

The airline catering and food distribution and supply company posted 2010 revenues of $333 million — an 11 percent increase over 2009. 

The company has 3,300 employees worldwide, providing over 270,000 meals and snacks daily to leading airline and retail customers from its network of 18 U.S. production kitchens, plus one in Shanghai. 

 Flying Food Group is also the Chicago area's third-largest woman owned firm.