MSN Travel talks to Heston Blumenthal about British Airways menu
Last night British Airways unveiled the first of its nine Olympic jets for the London Games, and MSN Travel got a chance to taste the food that will be served to its first class passengers. We were also lucky enough to chat to the man himself, Heston Blumenthal, about the dishes.
Before we delve into Heston's verdict on the in-flight delicacies though, it's worth mentioning that he wasn't the only famous name attached to the project. Artist Tracey Emin oversaw the new design (inspired by a dove) and Richard E Grant helped a scriptwriter to create a special in-flight movie, leaving Heston to work with and mentor Simon Hulstone to create the menu.
Hulstone, like Blumenthal is a Michelin-starred chef so the food was always going to be top-notch, but highlights included a particularly memorable chocolate and caramel dessert and a fresh salmon tartare flanked by tiny cucumber cubes.
The less said about the hake fish pie dressed with "parmesan pomme puree", the better, which (sorry Heston) had a touch of school dinners about it despite the fancy presentation.
A lemon cheesecake was delightful (and we took more than one) - fresh, fluffy with just the right amount of tang.
BA has set up a pop-up restaurant that resembles the interior of a plane, which will be open for the next two weeks, but these meals will be served to 3 million passengers in the run-up to the Games.
Blumenthal has spent a lot of time of late delving into the science of why airplane food tastes the way it does, looking into how the cabin pressure affects the nose, which in turn, affects the way we taste things.
Interestingly, the menu was inspired by the 1948 London Games and the food at the event looked and tasted great for the most part. However, as only first class passengers will experience it, I wanted to ask him about whether anything could be done to improve the dire state of economy class food served on many airlines.
Chatting to Heston, he said: "Yes, of course. All the prepping that we put into creating these dishes is important. You're essentially reducing the dish down to its essence, and that's the thing that we need to get right. You have to look at textures and the role they play.
"And imagine, you're in a plane, there are loud noises and the sound of the engine, so we have to intensify the flavours so they stand out more. There are also types of dishes that work better on a plane. The meat should ideally be braised and the fish definitely shouldn't be overcooked."
We have to hope that Heston's involvement in airplane food will somehow have a knock-on effect on food being served in economy classes across the airlines. I'll never forget the time when on an airplane, I was watching Hannibal on the in-flight movie, saw him unwrap his lunchbox of human brain and then looked down at my meal. It was no contest as to which looked better.
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I thought we'd gotten over all that poncey pretentious overpriced unidentified 'A La Carte' fun-size food stacked in the middle of the plate and drizzled with mucus by some wildly gesticulating buffoon back in the 80s, when vulgarity and austentatiousness were aspirational.
Food that is miniscule & contrived is not high class, it's a con, a deceipt, and a mark of how fame, style, vanity & novelty obsessed even the alleged 'high class' end of our 'society' is. All about show and nothing about substance.
Most professional chefs are on record as denouncing this type of food, including those famously guilty of peddling it back in the day. Proper ingredients of high quality, prepared, cooked, combined knowledgeably into a tasty, nutritious, rewarding eating experience is what ALL cooking should be striving to be whether it be commercial or domestic, not this 'pap'.
I'm afraid Blumenthal fits in the same 'cr*p-merchant' category as a lot of these 'enfant terrible' artists, for whom fashion & effect is more important than true talent.
I hope that Heston has the courtesy to include a list of ingredients with each meal. Last September I did a 10.5 hour flight without food because the air hostess said she had no list of ingredients and therefore could not tell me whether the meals included Capsicum to which I am highly allergic.
I also hope the planes have been refurbished. On ours the seats were all broken, the armrests were broken and on both flights out and back the computer was down so there was no inflight entertainment or flight information. Not good on such a long and very boring flight.
I am considering never flying BA again because of the bad experience.
Look MSN, if your not going to wipe out this obvious spam on your site then, we shall twitter away at your promotion of such crap!
Sort it or else get sorted
First class as usual, shame the airlines don't show cattle class in their ads, would probably mean that their sales would crash! Notice how the chef ducks the question about economy catering - it does not pay enough!
As to Heston spending a lot of time delving into the science of why airplane food tastes the way it does, this has been known for a very long time - the change in pressure affects the smell, the taste etc, so don't see why it would have taken more that a few clicks on the web to discover.
It never seems to dawn on chefs that their smug, pretentious, ornamentally crafted productions usually end up looking as though someone has been sick on a plate.
Reminds me of the chap who ordered bean soup. When it arrived the bloke said, 'what the hell is this?'
The waiter replied, 'it's bean soup.'
The chap says, 'I can see what it's been, what is it now?'
If i flew first class i would expect a real meal not some of the weird stuff he comes up with!
I think that the catering facilities would have to be better for me to get onboard an aeroplane.
Also that this plane should be non toxic.