Singapore Airlines takes food seriously, as both the New Yorker and I found

"Meatballs are all the rage in New York, although I don’t know if they’ve made it to Singapore yet.”

So said the celebrity chef contracted by Singapore Airlines to come up with first and business class meals, as quoted in a recent issue of the New Yorker.  The chef was Alfred Portale, a co-owner of Gotham Bar & Grill in New York City, and he was talking about a new creation -- a pork roast soap. 

Singapore Airlines representatives try to try every dish served on board during special tastings. I attended one recently. Photo: Brian Sumers

Singapore Airlines representatives try to try every dish served on board during special tastings. I attended one recently. Photo: Brian Sumers

We've read airline food stories before -- in fact, I just filed one for Skift.com that will be posted soon-- but the New Yorker is the New Yorker, so this one has some flair. We learn typical factoids about in-flight food, such as that "the air inside a typical commercial passenger jet at cruising altitude is extremely dry, and the atmospheric pressure is approximately that of Park City." But we also learn that Singapore Airlines, at its headquarters, has a tasting chamber in which it can match atmospheric conditions to those found in flight. 

“It has the same heating elements and ovens that they use on the aircraft, and there’s this big door that they can crank down, like you’re in a vault,” Portale told the New Yorker. “And you can clearly taste a difference if you try something inside and outside the room.”

One other tidbit Portale shared with the New Yorker: He drinks champagne, rather than wine, on board an aircraft. Apparently it holds its taste better. 

As I found during my tasting, food tends to look better after it is plated. Photo: Brian Sumers.

As I found during my tasting, food tends to look better after it is plated. Photo: Brian Sumers.

Having attended one of these Singapore Airlines tastings, I can tell you it's a spectacle. The all-business sessions are not technically media events, though the airline does know of their public relations value and often invites journalists. At the tasting I attended earlier this year in Los Angeles, Singapore Airlines representatives tried just about every dish, making recommendations on many of them. They wanted everything to be perfect. 

Below is a video I took in Los Angeles of a pastry chef explaining her creations. 

And here, another chef describes what I believe is a crab starter.