On Singapore, Boyd said, it typically opens with an on-ground welcome drink, followed by another after takeoff, then a serving of satay, a six-course meal with wine and, finally, handmade chocolates. Each stage gives the crew a chance to make customers feel pampered, he added.
"You can't compare it," Patina's Splichal said in an interview. "[The food] stays in heating ovens. Sometimes the plane is delayed."
Such vagaries can rule out ingredients such as raw tuna. You can also scratch any item that's not readily available in Denver, Kansas City, Mo., or other gateways, because the food is prepared locally — in Lufthansa's case, by LSG Sky Chefs, its allied catering company.
What premium fliers feed on, Splichal said, are often streamlined versions of recipes served by his on-ground restaurants and catering services.
The current Lufthansa menu underwent four cycles of adjustment in consultation with Bern Schmidt, Lufthansa's executive chef. Afterward, Splichal flew to Dallas to show 14 LSG chefs how to prepare his dishes.
For American, Pyles, who founded the celebrated Star Canyon restaurant in Dallas a decade ago, spent two days in Dallas working side by side with catering chefs from 11 gateway cities, said Timothy McMahan, the airline's manager of menu planning and development.
American's new menu, introduced on transatlantic first and business classes in August and September, includes Pyles' signature cowboy steak.
"Knowing what the competitive environment is," McMahan said, "we decided to totally redesign our food service in premium cabins."
The pressure came from well-financed foreign carriers "who have changed all aspects of their in-flight experience," he added.
But American isn't limiting its updates to international routes. It's working with chef Nancy Brussat Barocci, of Convito Italiano in Wilmette, Ill., to revamp premium food service on transcontinental flights.
McMahan wouldn't talk about the changes, but he said he hoped to introduce them early next year.
Is the foreign food fight spilling over into domestic service?
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