How often do we pay attention to the meals that are served in the flights ? Being a vegetarian, I usually forget to mention my preferences especially when am flying long journeys to the west and sometimes when I do remember, I nibble at the meal in complete indifference, usually half asleep. The only time I perk up is when I walk up the down the aircraft and I stumble upon the kind airhostess who usually slips in a chocolate or gives me a snack or some chips or nuts to munch. But a visit to Crawley, the headquarters of Virgin Atlantic changed my entire perspective to inflight meals.
Virgin Atlantic who serves only 12 million meals a year to over five million passengers believes that they do not just serve inflight meals but that they actually run a restaurant up in the sky, at 20,000 or more feet . And this is not just for the upper class passengers, but it is also for the premium economy and the economy. I recently flew the Dreamliner from Delho to Heathrow and got a taste of THE Virgin Atlantic Hospitality, besides just experiencing the aircraft.
I have been to a couple of meal tasting and sampling experiences, including airlines , but here there was more than just food. To begin with, I almost felt like I was flying as I was walking in and out of cabins of aircrafts rather than halls and rooms.
We started with the champagne – sipping the 120 limited edition Gardet Champagne, a blend of twelve harvests of black grapes. We moved on to wines and then cocktails. Each cabin had something new to show us . Sitting in the bar of an aircraft, I was sipping cocktails while learning how to mix a perfect mojito up in the air with fruit based mixes withour preservatives . Ever heard of a Hollywood mix – a Funkin Hollywood blends in berries with your gin or vodka or rum.
I got to meet more than ten different caterers and chefs who had been with Virgin Atlantic for years and I was told that every item on the menu was virtually handpicked and also chosen based on both cultural sensibilities of the region, besides just the flavour .One of them was a cheesemonger who procures over 1200 speciality cheeses, of which a hundred of them are served in Virgin Atlantic flights. Have you heard of the Goddess and the Pyramid ? And cheeses that are devoid of animal fat and are labelled as “vegetarian cheese” The Goddess of cheese fascinated me – sourced from Somerset and made from cows milk, it is actually 40 times in cider before its ready to eat. It was absolutely delicious as well.
There was wine, cheese, chocolates, champagne, chips, cocktails besides several other culinary delights. The entire office had turned into an aircraft virtually. We had our meals served in the cabins. A cocktail session was whipped up at the bar of the flight. Flight decks were opened up as we saw how meals were cooked and presented. We were virtually in the clouds sometimes, seeing stars.
Fair trade and sustainability were the buzz words than just delicacies and delights. And the global food trends dictated what was served up there. Every dish had an identity and style and it was created keeping in mind the customer, the region and his/her taste. Sustainability and fair trade were buzz words .
The day ended on a delicious note, with a meal on board . I almost felt like I was flying, somewhere up in the sky, tucking in the meals as airhostesses flashed their smiles and whisked past us. Our glasses overflowed with wine as chocolates and desserts were heaped on us as we finished a sumptuous meal.