Here's How Airlines Actually Choose Their Menus, According To A Chef

Food on an airplane may not be the most appetizing and rarely is something to look forward to. And while some airlines do mealtime a bit better than others, the altitude affects your taste buds' abilities to taste food correctly and makes them numb, causing food flavor to dull and making the airline chef's job a bit more difficult. Major airlines don't have an easy feat in choosing what to serve customers in order to make sure they can not only eat their food but enjoy it under these bland circumstances.

Mashed recently got a chance to find out exactly how the magic happens from Chef Ryan Hardy, the chef/owner of Delicious Hospitality Group, and the Executive Chef chosen to curate JetBlue's new Mint menu. The menu, inspired by some of Delicious Hospitality Group's other spots like Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones, will roll out onto their flights starting August 1st and include exclusive menu items like Crab Fregola Salad, Roasted Chicken, and Cavatelli. Chef Hardy spoke to Mashed about how the team got these flavors to thrive in the sky.

Making the menu take-off

Some airlines lean into luxury in the air as they would at any normal restaurant, like Singapore airlines which, as you can see by this Instagram post, serves up a decadent-looking meal. But others are not known for their ability to do the same, which is why you may never see Martha Stewart eat plane food

However, Jetblue's new Mint menu, which Chef Ryan Hardy says is meant to embrace menus from his restaurant group's other menus, has a focus on quality and consistent seasonality in order to elevate food in flight.

The trick to keeping foods from getting bland in flight, says Hardy, is "EVOO, salt, and a dash of chili oil," which he says can fix any dish. As part of the new menu plan, they "put a pinch pot together with these three ingredients on board in-flight and we include lemon on the side," giving fliers the choice of how to season the dish to their liking so the flavor continues to pop.

Keeping ingredients fresh

The Mint menu is arranged in a way that embraces seasonality. Chef Hardy explains that this means doing things like roasting tomatoes, which they use in their frittata, "to get them at their peak to stabilize performance," and avoiding fruits and vegetables that have flavors that are not always consistent, like "melons which even when in season can be flavorless." Instead, the focus is on bold flavors like berries from brands "we can source across the country" and spices/seasonings, like the rosemary and mint they use in their roasted chicken dish.

Embracing spices, both well known and lesser, as well as texture and seasoning are "integral parts to make any dish successful," says the chef. Each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) offers five options so the team did not have to be pigeonholed into a menu that caters to specific dietary restrictions or preferences, but instead allows for a variety large enough for fliers with any restrictions or picky palates to choose from. Time will tell if this process was worth its weight, but in the meantime, those looking for specific menu items can check them out here.