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Airplane food can make you happy: Singapore Airlines and Gotham Bar & Grill

We’re always on the lookout for things that make you happier inflight. And one of the ways to happiness, we know, is through your stomach!

That’s why inflight food is one of the Happiness Factors we’re thinking about adding to Routehappy. We already track aircraft type, seat type, seat layout, entertainment, power, Wi-Fi, duration and connections, plus a flyer rating from real travelers just like you.

Read more about Routehappy’s signature Happiness Factors!

As part of our research, the folks at Singapore Airlines suggested that we come watch new dishes for their onboard menus being developed by the team at Gotham Bar & Grill, a New York institution.

Chefs at Gotham Bar & Grill work with Singapore Airlines to create innovative inflight food.

Three of the Gotham chefs were cooking and plating up potential options for the three chefs on the Singapore Airlines side.

The trick for food in the air is to aim for umami. That’s the rich, savory taste that you’d find in soy sauce, parmesan cheese, soup stock, and so on.

That’s because taste buds don’t work the same at 8,000 feet of altitude (that’s the equivalent to what you’d find inside most planes these days) as they do at sea level.

Singapore Airlines' chefs take great pride in figuring out how to translate food from kitchen to plane.

But, as British chef Heston Blumenthal explains in his work helping British Airways with their food, adding umami makes food taste much better in the air.

The food we tasted with Singapore Airlines was very umami-rich — a stuffed veal with marsala wine reduction and roasted (nearly caramelized) vegetables, for example.

Singapore Airlines' veal with marsala wine looks delicious.

Or a skin-on chicken breast with onions and a crispy polenta cake. Yum.

The key to keeping chicken tasty in flight: the skin.

And let’s not even talk about the desserts. If the pineapple cremeux with Thai green curry ice cream (yes, really — it was insanely great!) doesn’t make it on board then there’s no justice in the world.

Yes, Thai green curry ice cream. Sounds insane, tastes insanely good.

Yep, this is very much food for the front of the plane. But the principles of adding umami are the same for those of us who travel down the back too.

And as we tasted and chatted with the Singapore Airlines chefs, one of the most interesting things we observed was how much thought they were already giving to assembling each dish on board.

Singapore Airlines' chefs are careful to ensure that the dishes can be replicated on a plane.

A professional chef is just fine with eight to ten steps from pan to plate. But when your chef is a flight attendant, with just convection ovens, steam ovens and a microwave to make your restaurant-quality dinner — and serving dozens of other people in the cabin too — it’s clear why the team at Singapore Airlines are so keen to make the food elegant, delicious and simple.

The phone camera: tool of choice for today's modern airline chef.

Our favorite part of the process? Chef Chan taking pictures with her Galaxy Note tablet-phone. No, she’s not Instagramming this — it’s so that she can teach her crew how to replicate each step of the process.

We’ll be bringing you more on inflight food and other Happiness Factors we’re developing for Routehappy. Keep in touch with us here on the Routehappy blog, join the conversation on Twitter, or follow our Facebook page. We’d love to hear what makes food on a plane great (or gross!) for you.

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Posted in Food, New York, Routehappy favorites, Singapore, Singapore Airlines
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