The Divine Secrets of a Michelin-Starred Chef Who Makes Airplane Meals

Rule no. 1: ‘Aggressive seasoning.’

November 22, 2016 9:00 am

You don’t need a reservation to score a meal from a four-time James Beard Award winner and head chef of a Michelin-starred eatery, but you do need a ticket — on Singapore Airlines.

To let first-class passengers enjoy five-star meals at 30,000 feet, Singapore Air relies on Gotham Bar and Grill executive chef Alfred Portale to develop new dishes every six months.

Featuring dishes like classic lobster thermidor, chargrilled soya-flavored beef and sliced grouper congee, Portale’s original selections are pared down with help from other world-class chefs during a selection process that occurs on a semi-annual basis at his restaurant in New York.   

In addition to evaluating the dishes — including appetizers, soups, salads and entrees —  for taste, the panel also evaluates how they’ll stand up to cabin pressure changes during flight. As Portale told Quartz, the key for mile-high dishes is simple: “Aggressive seasoning.”

“At 35,000 feet there’s extreme dryness … which also dries out your taste buds, so I tend to punch up the flavors, the salt and sugar, whether it be sweet or sour,” Portale explained to Forbes. “Moist cooking methods work best. Sometimes, too, we add some heat, spice.”

If you’d like to try Portale’s fare without paying for a first-class one, try the airline’s cookbook.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.