passengers, inflight catering, Silver Lining, ground handler, airport locations, Mitch Amsterdam, charter operators, Professional Pilot magazine, Mike Linder, trip costs, international trip, overseas destinations, International Trip Support Services, catering services, portion sizes, change schedules, Air Culinaire, exceptional customer service, Colt International Sr VP Intl Trip Support, Executive Chef Ric Peterson, Brazil, quality caterers, ground handlers, Arvoredo, food safety, international locations, Fine wines and spirits, tasty dishes, halal catering, self-catering, local foods, Harrods Aviation, INTERNATIONAL OPS Catering advice, Joe Celentano, Patricia Lombardi, Rudy's Inflight Catering, Brothers John
INTERNATIONAL OPS Catering advice Be specific with your order. Take advantage of available local food
s. Don't overlook self-catering using area hotels and restaurants. Brothers John and Joe Celentano founded Rudy's Inflight Catering in 1970. The company continues to grow and succeed through hard work and dedication to quality and value.
By Grant McLaren Editor-at-large When operating overseas the norm is usually to source catering from inflight caterers or, in cases where such services are not available, from commercial airline caterers. At many secondary and remote locations, however, it's often SOP to self-cater from hotel and restaurant kitchens. With self-catering it's always important to pay particular attention to Food Pack
aging and Food Safety
. Make sure foods are kept below or above certain temperatures and procure order delivery from the kitchen to the aircraft with the minimal risk of contamination. Catering calamities While operator experiences with international catering are generally very positive, we hear of occasional
Rudy's Inflight Catering has grown from a 2000 sq ft kitchen to a 17,000 sq ft primary catering facility. Rudy's now has catering operations in the TEB (Teterboro NJ), HPN (White Plains NY) and DCA (Washington DC
) areas. nightmare scenarios where catering experiences can unravel quickly. This often happens because operators order specific items on short notice, change schedules at the last minute, or they simply cancel or change catering orders without enough lead time. "There may be a misunderstanding on the departure time or, on occasion, catering may arrive either missing some items or containing items the crew wants to return," explains Jeppesen ITP Account Specialist Jean Michel Sicaud. Air Culinaire Executive Chef Ric Peterson recommends, "Be prepared for the occasional catering glitch. Keep a supply of non-perishable items onboard in the event of a prob-
Always a popular catering choice for bizjet customers, Rudy's platter of smoked salmon, bagels and all the trimmings continues to be a top seller. lem or to rescue issues with delivered catering. I like to carry assorted vinegar reductions onboard, 2 to 3 different types of oils, including truffle and sunflower, and different types of flavored honeys. This provides some tools to rescue or enhance the look or the taste of a dish." Airborne cuisine trends Aviation caterers have noted a trend toward more health-conscious and more adventurous styles of catering. The ubiquitous cheese and fruit platters are no longer the norm, and both passengers and flightcrews are moving away from the traditional turkey sandwich, chips and diet cola catering requests. "Dispatchers still tend to order the turkey sandwiches and chips for their pilots, but we've noted that crew member
s and passengers are becoming more selective in what they're ordering," adds Peterson. "We're seeing a growing focus on less traditional foods
and more varied cuisine options. Requests for 2 or 3 appetizer or tapas courses--as opposed to large portions of single items--has become more popular. Street food styles inspired from assorted international locations but
Reprinted from February 2015
in Professional Pilot magazine
(LR) Silver Lining Owners Mike Linder and Mitch Amsterdam offer a wide variety of catering options from their multiple locations in Florida.
Silver Lining Inflight Catering is a favorite for corporate jet and charter operators. This is in part due to their use of only the freshest meats, fish, Vegetables and fruits
with more of a 5-star presentation are in-demand global catering trends these days." Still, there's a limit to how far most operators and passengers want to go in terms of catering experimentation. "Some passengers just want simple home-style foods after a long business trip and, at some locations, you'll have only very basic catering options," points out Sicaud. Not everyone is looking to stretch the boundaries with grilled sparrow heads or fresh duck tongues. Comfort Food
s--including pizzas and buckets of fried chicken--are frequent catering requests. "The prime objective for many flightcrews and passengers is a catering experience without surprises," says Colt International Sr VP Intl Trip Support Jeffery Briand. "A delayed, incorrect or missing catering order can easily ruin a trip from the passenger perspective. Advance planning and close coordination between the flightcrew, international support providers (ISPs), caterers and ground handlers are key to a successful catering outcome--particularly at secondary or remote airport locations. If you don't plan it correctly, issues can come up and catering costs may go out of control. What the customer wants and expects may end up being very different from what actually happens." Cost control Catering for business jets can be an expensive proposition, according to ISPs. But costs can be managed with clear specification of catering
requirements, requesting cost quotes in advance and by ordering foods and cuisine native to the region you're operating in. Specialty catering requests for hard to source items tend to drive up catering invoices. ISPs recount no end of catering cost horror stories
. For example: $100 per bag for 5 small bags of ice, $9 per piece of shrimp, over $200 for a cheesecake and $52 for a turkey sandwich. "Catering can be one of your higher price items in terms of trip costs. We've seen catering invoices topping $60,000 for a single flight leg," says Colt Intl Network Dir Nigel Harris. "You need to go through catering orders line by line to confirm exactly what you want and in what quantities. Out of season and hard to source items such as fresh blueberries in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Tahiti, will push costs up considerably and there may also be quality and freshness issues to contend with." Do you really need fresh lobster at OVB (Novosibirsk, Russia) or is there a local delicacy you may want to consider as an alternative? Such preplanning helps sidestep sticker shock at the end of the day. "A case in point was a lobster thermidor fiasco recently experienced in Europe," says Jeppesen Intl Vendor Relations Mgr Europe Mark O'Carroll. "The crew expected to receive 2 large lobster thermidor dishes but something went
(LR) Silver Lining Chefs Robert Grant and Victor Torres prepare seasonal fruit trays. very wrong with interpretation of the order. The caterer arrived with 2 large containers of 12 lobsters each, 96 side salads and a catering bill in excess of 16,000. The crew could not fit all of this aboard the Gulfstream V and had to leave some of it behind. They're still in dispute over catering charges." This, of course, is an extreme example of a catering malfunction. However, many seemingly high costs for specialty aviation catering are well justified. Specialty services Peterson, who reports seeing $120,000 catering invoices, points out that the best catering providers not only supply catering but also offer concierge services that are highly customized and particularly prized by passengers and crews. "The cost is not just in the food but the level of specialty services," says Peterson. "There's a couple of top-ranking executive jet passengers who fly out of TEB (Teterboro NJ) late December each year and they like to have a Christmas tree
onboard. We source a real tree each year, decorate it and install it in the aircraft along with stuffed toys for the children. We have clients who prefer special-
Air Culinaire has been providing 24/7 catering services
worldwide since 2000. Routinely preparing innovative catering options, Air Culinaire
Their goal is quality, innovation, freshness and exceptional Customer Service
is popular with both domestic and international bizjet travelers.
ty catering from particular high-end restaurants. We may drive into Manhattan with 2 drivers so that 1 can circle the block while the other picks up the catering, take the restaurant food to our facility, repackage it to suit the particular aircraft galley and deliver it to the aircraft." In another case, 6 Texan passengers wanted southern style BBQ for a flight out of LTN (London Luton, UK). As Texas-style BBQ was not readily available, the caterer went to a hardware store, bought supplies to create a smoker and barbecued the meat right there at the FBO. We've all heard cases of passengers requiring certain rare wines at far-flung locations, difficult to source or out of season items, and cuisine styles not common at particular destinations. Cheeseburgers at a Central Africa
n stop, pizzas in northwestern China
or fresh seafood at landlocked smaller overseas destinations may just not be practical to coordinate. It's usually best to contact a local kitchen or chef directly to discuss what the best local produce
and most in-demand local cuisine styles may be. Keep in mind that some items and cuisines do not work as well at altitude. Soufflйs can be particularly challenging to orchestrate, and maintaining a crisp sugar topping on crиme brыlйe is not always easy. "It can be hard to keep butter-based sauces together as they tend to sep-
arate when reheated. And creating a perfect crиme brыlйe may require using a blowtorch onboard," explains Peterson. "If the client wants a soufflй from a restaurant that's only open till 10 pm, but the flight is at 9 am the next day, it will not necessarily be the same experience as eating it at the restaurant. Taste sensations differ in a pressurized cabin. We often need to add more seasoning to the dishes on the ground so the food tastes just right at higher altitudes. As cabin environments are typically dry, and scents travel most effectively in air that is more humid, this impacts aromas of certain foods." Catering pitfalls "People are passionate about their food and pitfalls loom within the world of international catering," says International Trip support services
(ITPS) COO Phil Linebaugh. "In one particular case, a crew had ordered catering in Shannon prior to a flight to the US West Coast
, but the passengers decided to skip lunch on the first leg. Agriculture inspections at BGR (Bangor ME) removed all onboard catering and the crew had overlooked arrangements for a catering uplift at BGR. It was right around dinner time and the passengers--who had skipped lunch--had to fly another 5 hours without catering. It was the 6th leg of their international trip but that final leg was a total bust."
Regional considerations Preferred cuisine, style and portion sizes of inflight catering are often influenced by the nationality of your passengers. "Outside the US, portion sizes tend to be smaller," says Peterson. "We try to educate chefs at non-US kitchens on what US catering expectations and emphasize to US-based caterers what Europeans, Middle Eastern
ers or Asians may expect in terms of portion sizes and number of courses." While main course protein portions are typically 8 oz in the US, they're usually 5 or 6 oz in Europe and other parts of the world. US-style catering is often a quick meal with big portions--nothing too delicate or fancy. European passengers, on the other hand, often desire smaller protein portions on well decorated plates, with multi-course meal presentations that may go on for hours." Ethnic food presentations differ throughout the world. Indian food
styles are often fairly similar between India and the US, but Chinese cuisine preparation is frequently very different in the US and EU compared with various regions of China. Remote locations When operating to smaller and more remote locations, additional lead time is suggested for catering orders--at least 48 hours
Fine wines and spirits are an important catering consideration for many operators. Keep in mind that if you want a specific French wine vintage during a remote destination stop, such as at TOM (Timbuktu, Mali), it's important to provide plenty of lead time with your request.
Rather than having complicated catering arrangements as shown here, many passengers still stick with the basic options in terms of inflight catering alternatives and prefer tasty dishes in Simple present
times up to several days. Harrods Aviation's Will Holroyd suggests that at remote locations crews and ground handlers carefully consider not only hygiene of the local kitchen, but also how catering will be transported to the aircraft. Refrigerated transport, dry ice and even wet ice may not always be available. TAM Brazil Flight Coordination Mgr Rodrigo Arvoredo points out that catering can be inconsistent, or non-existent, at certain locations in Brazil. "There are good caterers in the south and southeast of Brazil but in the north and northeast you may be dealing with commercial airline caterers. They're capable of assisting with the basics, but don't expect anything sophisticated from them," warns Arvoredo. Going local Signature Flight Support's Patricia Lombardi, based in Greece, says they're often asked to prepare dishes that just don't work. "We've received very specific catering requests that range from the bizarre to the extraordinary. While we endeavor to accommodate as best we can, the best, most desirable and most flavorsome menus will generally result from using products that are in season and are native to our country and region." Meanwhile, VIA Aviation Africa VP Raymond Stouder recommends self-catering from hotels at many lo-
cations on the continent. "In this region it's important to deal with only the best quality caterers to avoid food safety and quality issues. Depending on the location, you may face restrictions in bringing in catering from international locations for onward legs. Be sure to order lots of ice with catering orders as there may be no refrigerated delivery trucks
or cooling facilities at the airport." "Catering options are excellent at many larger destinations in the Middle East, but in poorer countries it's always best to work with your ground handler and source catering from 5-star hotels," says Cedar Jet Center Lebanon Mgr Randa Kammoun El-Hurr. "At smaller and more remote locations, always be as specific as possible with catering orders, and carry aluminum foils, storage containers and microwaveable containers based on what best fits your particular galley storage and your re-heating and cooling equipment
." Food safety and specific diet considerations To maximize food safety and avoid food poisoning
your passengers via cross-contamination, personal hygiene and hand washing are important. Aviation caterers recommend to store your food below 41° F and to serve hot items at 165° F or above. It's always advisable to have a digital thermometer handy.
When ordering catering, it's important to plan in advance for passengers with allergies, dietary restrictions
or religious food preferences
. "If you require kosher or Halal Food
s, learn where this may and may not be available," says Harris. "We've noticed growing requirements worldwide, for halal catering. But while more and more halal kitchens are available around the world, standards are not always consistent or uniform. Sometimes they're all over the place." Winning catering options A wide selection of quality and safe cuisine options can be sourced at reasonable prices in many locations. Be as specific as possible with your catering orders and use the leverage of your ground handler's knowledge to avoid catering malfunctions. When operating to remote areas, or airports that do not frequently experience GA activity, additional catering preplanning and lead time are key considerations. Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.