Simon Hulstone, head chef at the Michelin-starred Elephant in Torquay, will create the London 2012 Olympic menu for British Airways (BA) under the one-on-one mentorship of Heston Blumenthal. He tells Caterer and Hotelkeeper about the BA Great Britons programme
What are the highlights of the BA Great Britons programme so far? I went to Los Angeles with BA and Heston to look at how chefs can produce high volume but high quality dishes. I worked with the teams at Thomas Keller's Bouchon and Dogtown Dog (a top quality hot dog van) - two very different experiences sharing a passion for using the best, local ingredients.
What have you learnt from Heston? Heston's knowledge of ingredients is second to none - he's been helping me to identify natural flavour enhancers, because our job is to create the best meal that customers can enjoy on a plane. We need to take into consideration that taste buds and senses are affected by altitude and that the dishes will need to be reheated on the flight.
What is the biggest challenge in creating an on-board menu? The biggest challenge is the conditions in which the food will be served. Aircraft don't have professional kitchens; they don't have chefs on board. It's not going to be easy, but it's a massive learning experience for me and I love a challenge.
Are you looking to create dishes that are traditionally British? Yes, we need to create a menu that celebrates ‘Britishness' and shows off our culinary talents to international visitors. We want to source all our ingredients from British suppliers. As soon as the menus have been agreed we'll work with BA's procurement team to ensure we can order enough to cater for the huge numbers - around 80,000 meals a day.
Will the London 2012 Games have a major impact on hospitality? Yes, but less so for businesses outside the Olympic Games' villages. That said, many visitors to the Games will also take the opportunity to see more of the country. Britain has the perfect opportunity to showcase itself on a world stage and attract tourists who might not normally visit.
Great food and service at reasonable prices, can make sure these visitors come back for more.