Culinary Highlights above the Clouds
Lufthansa and LSG Sky Chefs have been in a long-term business relationship for many years, not only as mother and daughter company, but also as customer and service provider. Thousands of meals are produced daily in the LSG Sky Chefs facility FRA ZD at Frankfurt Airport before they are loaded onto Lufthansa flights with destinations all across the globe. How are these menus, which eventually end up on an inflight tray, created and selected? And who is behind the culinary highlights that are served to Lufthansa first class passengers on long-haul flights? The men behind these decisions are Herbert Huber, Head of Inflight Services Lufthansa, and Volker Eisenmann, Lead Chef LSG Sky Chefs for Lufthansa.
Mr. Huber, what is it that has made the inflight service concept of Lufthansa unique for decades and still does so today?
We nurture an intensive exchange with our customers. That happens both through classic market research and through the feedback we get from our colleagues at Passenger Guest Relations. We then translate this knowledge into high-class, culinary experiences for our customers along with LSG Sky Chefs.
With the caviar service that we offer on all first class flights, we have a USP in the airline industry. In addition, we serve seasonal menus, such as asparagus as a German classic in May and June, or the goose from Dithmarschen in Germany, which we have been flying for 20 years, traditionally in November and December.
Mr. Eisenmann, you have worked in leading restaurants in high-end gastronomy. To what extent is airline catering different?
First of all, the production is different. We blanch inflight menus on the ground to a certain point and store them before they are loaded on a plane. On board, they are then fully prepared in convection ovens. There are also differences in the selection of meals: Deep-frying inflight is not yet an option; reheating a crispy crust is also difficult. And careful with the seasoning! The pressure in the plane cabin is lower than on the ground and our taste buds perceive food differently on board. If we use more salt for inflight meals, this has nothing to do with the chefs being in love… Generally though, high-end gastronomy and airline catering have more in common that you would think at first: In both areas, the service concept is a top priority. It is crucial to fulfil the highest standards and quality guidelines. Consumers are much more mobile and well-informed – in airline catering just like in high-end gastronomy. They travel widely and compare mercilessly. We can respond to this by giving our best – every time and in everything we do.
Mr. Eisenmann, since last year, the star chefs are no longer cooking for the Lufthansa First Class menu. How have the menus changed since then?
Over the years, Dieter Müller (Bergisch-Gladbach), Daniel Boulud (New York), Paul Bocuse (Lyon) and many other international star chefs have spoiled our passengers in culinary terms. It was an attractive concept that corresponded to the zeitgeist! Today, we focus on the essentials: the product and an honest cuisine. We want to win over our customers specifically with the highest product quality. If you look around the luxury industry, you will see a similar trend: Even ahead of the label, consumers care about the material, its processing and the cut.
Mr. Huber, how is the feedback of the Lufthansa First Class passengers regarding the new food concept?
The feedback of our passengers has been very positive! We go great lengths to fulfil the promise on our menu and want to ensure that the high-quality products end up with our passengers one-to-one. This honesty goes down well with our customers.
Which products can Lufthansa First Class passengers look forward to in autumn?
Before the days become shorter and the first snow falls in Germany, vegetable patches and fields are going full speed once more! We make use of this variety of crops and crunchy vegetables for our customers. They can, for example, look forward to hazelnut pannacotta with tartar of sweet potato and trout, as well as sea trout and potted pumpkin. Apart from that, the following is on our menu in the coming weeks: Beet root ravioli with vinegar-pear-puree, farmer’s duck with braised carrot-onion-vegetables, roasted filet of beef with carrot-root-vegetables or turbot with saffron. An autumn-inspired delight for dessert: Iced kaiserschmarrn with plum compote, or white chocolate cake with liquid center, cranberry chutney and praline ice cream. Bon Appetit!
Mr. Huber, what does the process of selecting the menus look like?
Beforehand, Volker Eisenmann and I align upon the objective and the motto of the new menus. Volker and his team develop these suggestions from the culinary side. It is then my task to take into account different aspects from a customer’s perspective: Do the menus fit in the overall concept? The offering should not be too ‘exotic’, but still provide culinary highlights.
In the menu presentation, we jointly agree on an overall concept including the suggested menus together with Volker. If something does not match the overall picture, the recipes are adjusted as needed, served and examined again. Once we are satisfied with it, the final menu sequence will be adopted. This is a collaborative process, which we both equally develop.
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