And fascination with airline food
The first flight I ever took was with SunAir, which was from Joburg to Cape Town. I was so excited; I didn’t sleep for two days before the flight. The day before the flight, I insisted on my monthly haircut that was at the local Barber in Middelburg (you know the ones with the red and white stiped pole outside that offer either a number one or two cut). This cut was super special, but because I was so nervous and excited, I got sick all over the barber chair and the mirror. As my poor mother cleaned it up, she must have thought that her Jan would not be such a good flyer. But to her relief, it turned out that I’ve never gotten sick on a plane – only from excitement before or after a flight. My fascination with flight, and airline food in particular, was born!
MY FIRST AIRLINE MEAL
I remember thinking on that first flight to Cape Town just how incredible it was that one can move – through the air in a giant metal cylinder – from one point to the next at such speed!
I will never forget my first airline meal. It was a sandwich served with crisps in a smart, labelled box. I found it all so thrilling – this entire world peeking at me from behind the curtain of an industry I had never heard about. I kept all the packaging for years afterwards, displayed in my room, which I painted the same colour blue as that of Sunair. (The things you do!)
At that time, I thought that was the most incredible little sandwich of my life! The mere fact that I can eat and drink something in the air was already riveting enough for me. The experience that was faultless.
Every time after that when I walked past the travel agency and stared into the window looking at the posters of Europe, I knew I was hooked. One of the biggest moments of my life was when I bought my very first plane ticket I had saved up for all by myself. It was encased in a plastic folder, with each ticket printed in four layers. So glamourous! I worked on our dairy farm every day to earn the money I need for my annual trips to Cape Town. A trip a year since I was 13 was my highlight of my life at that stage!
MY VISIT TO AN AIRLINE KITCHEN
When I was still in high school, I created a cooking club to experience and explore other places. One of them was an airline kitchen. The mass production behind every meal blew my mind, especially the consistency and the way they operated. I was only 16 at the time. Imagine seeing a pot of scrambled eggs the size of a table, which then gets carefully plated onto punnets floating by on conveyor belts. I was fascinated, for better or worse.
A LOOK TO THE FUTURE
I would never compare that type of kitchen with what my teams and I do at any of my eateries – nor any other restaurant for that matter. One thing that I learnt from the experience, though, was how important consistency is. In airline cooking, flavour development is so important, especially since food tastes different at varying altitudes, but in the end, creating good food dictates everything you do as a chef, no matter at what altitude. The one thing ~I would say to any chef is, drop the egg powder. We’ve moved on. Wholesome, healthy food is the future everywhere you go.