When it comes to culinary programs on airlines, the rate of change is so slow it’s like trying to turn right in an aircraft carrier. That’s why you’re still seeing the same tired turkey sandwiches and hummus snack boxes on flights instead of experiencing the trends that have driven the food world for the past ten years, which are mostly focused on finding the best local ingredients and preparing them with innovative techniques. JetBlue bucked the trend with their Mint first class product and its partnership with Saxon + Parole and now Delta has jumped on-board (pun very much intended) with their new Swap Chef program.
The program itself featured chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal in Los Angeles literally swapping restaurants with Ethan Stowell and his Seattle restaurant Tavolata. Along the way, each chef exposed the other to local purveyors and producers of great local food. While the chefs aren’t creating menus for Delta (as far as I know…), it was a creative way for the airline to show that they’re moving forward into the 21st century and placing an emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients under the guidance of their culinary ambassador, Chef Linton Hopkins of Atlanta.
I love this change in philosophy. Just because you mass produce food, that doesn’t excuse it from being good — or interesting or nourishing. Airlines should be trying to create food experiences on-board that rival the best of what terrestrial restaurants are serving. Yes, there are limitations in cooking. No, that’s no excuse for what has existed for years as food on flights. If we have the ingenuity to offer wifi at 35,000 feet, we also have the know-how to innovate in the culinary arena. Just look at what some of the Middle Eastern and Asian airlines are doing. Food and beverage programs don’t have to be an after-thought and they don’t have to be stuck in 1991. Local, fresh, and seasonal is the way it should always be and I’m glad that Delta has joined the modern food revolution. I just hope United and American follow suit.
Delta Video Time!
Want to see what this whole Swap Chef thing is all about? Click on the video below to see it for yourself:
Video courtesy of Delta