Ian Dryburgh, founder of Acumen Design Associates, appeared on the BBC's Inside Track news program to discuss aircraft seating innovation. This was a great chance to introduce a wider audience to the industrial design involved in aircraft cabins, and to offer a little insight into how they work.
What’s your background and how would you describe your signature style? I’ve spent the last 20 years in Spain – hence my philosophy and my kind of food is very, very Mediterranean. I don’t cook with cream and butter and I try to keep things light and natural. I’m all about ‘clean cooking’ – clear flavours and simple presentation so people can actually see what they’re eating. It’s all very different from my classical ‘French’ training I undertook back in the UK and what I was doing when I first started in this business. I think you should try and look after your customers by making sure your food is healthy, light and enjoyable. That way they will keep coming back and won’t die of a heart attack!
How many dishes are you preparing for Lufthansa? The dishes I have created for Lufthansa are mainly taken from my ‘Simply Fosh Restaurant’ and the new ‘Tasca de Blanquerna’ menus, which both feature contemporary Spanish influences. We originally prepared and presented 32 dishes to Lufthansa, which we then scaled down to 21 dishes – 11 in first class and 10 for business class. What was the greatest challenge overall? The sheer scale of the program – we have quite a small infrastructure as we are a 70-cover restaurant – so it was mind boggling when we realised up to 600,000 passengers will get to taste our food on board! It’s obviously a challenge to get the correct consistency across so many flights.
Will the food be the same as that in your restaurant? No – if you’re honest, that’s impossible. It’s not really viable for an airline and its catering partner to cook and prepare everything exactly the same as we can in the restaurant. There isn’t a team of ten chefs on the aircraft preparing these dishes – instead everything has to be prepared in advance and obviously there’s a big difference in how we plate up at the restaurant. Instead the aim is to ensure the flavours really come through so that passengers get a feeling for what you are about. In this sense the menu should convey the philosophy of the chef and where he or she is from and his or her particular flavour combinations. Hopefully it will give passengers a reason to visit next time they are in Mallorca and they can compare for themselves!
What were some of the constraints involved? In Spain the pig is ‘king’ – there’s lots of pork or ham but Lufthansa wanted to steer away from those ingredients. Fish, particularly shellfish, is also difficult to do well on an aircraft. So there were a few restrictions, but they were fairly easy restrictions once it was all made clear – you just sit down and start writing the menus and think about what you’re going to do. Cost wasn’t an issue in itself, although there were a couple of ingredients they asked us to avoid for this reason – caviar and oysters! The biggest cost is actually labour – so you always have to bear this in mind – for example, adding an orange segment has a far greater labour cost than the actual ingredient cost. It’s not so much about the ingredients, it’s the cost of how each meal is produced.
How does the process work? LSG Sky Chefs sent a team to the restaurant where we presented our original 32 dishes. They then went away and worked on them to adapt them to the necessities of onboard catering. We then had a final presentation of the dishes at LSG’s headquarters in Frankfurt, where we inspected the results and made a few adjustments where necessary. LSG is very experienced and I have been very impressed with the results – working with star chefs from all over the world helps LSG to grow and to get new ideas and to see different things. I’m now looking forward to actually going on board and tasting the food – that’s the real test.
How do you compensate for a lack of taste at altitude? When I’m writing recipes and thinking about food for my restaurant, I try to incorporate at least three different senses upon first tasting: salty, sharp or sweet. I think that’s even more important on an aircraft where a passenger’s ability to taste is diminished. Otherwise it can get very one-dimensional and boring very quickly. Hence the chocolate and olive oil truffle we’ve included, which features just a little bit of salt on top to help jump your taste buds back to life and keep it interesting. At the same time there is no point having a menu where all the flavours are totally shocking and challenging to people.
Is it fair to say you have an obsession with salt? Well, yes, a little bit! A very long time ago I started to make salts for every dish that I had on the menu. So if I was doing duck with eucalyptus, I’d make a eucalyptus salt to accentuate the eucalyptus flavour; if I was making scallops with beetroot, then I’d make a beetroot salt to accentuate the beetroot, and so on. And then about 10 years ago I started working with a company in Mallorca that hand harvests the first layer of the salt crust. I add different flavour combinations to their salt and there are now a dozen combinations available commercially. For me, good salt and good olive oil are fundamental – if you have good olive oil and good salt, you’re half way there.
Lufthansa began production of Marc Fosh’s menus in November 2010. Passengers in first and business class on flights from Germany to nearly 200 international destinations have been able to sample some of his signature dishes, including sea bass a la Mallorquina, and chocolate and olive oil truffle with a red pepper-raspberry jelly.
Marc Fosh was interviewed by Anthony James
24 August 2010
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