Chris Staines, head chef at the Michelin-starred Foliage restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London, was recently appointed by Lufthansa as the German airline's first British "star chef". He spoke to Kerstin Kühn about cooking for air passengers.
Caterer Why did you team up with Lufthansa?Chris Staines Lufthansa has been running its "star chef" programme for 12 years and for the first time it was looking for a British chef to take part. Its people came to have dinner at the restaurant and then approached me about getting involved and, of course, I was delighted to. Previously it has had really high-calibre chefs involved, including Paul Bocuse, Daniel Boulud and Dieter Müller, so it's really exciting for me to do this.
Caterer On which flights will your menus be available?Chris Staines They will be available on all of Lufthansa's long-haul flights going out of Germany in January and February. I'm doing the catering for first- and business-class passengers, which over the two months works out to about 250,000 meals.
Caterer What new dishes have you created?Chris Staines We were keen to dispel the myth of English food being rubbish and wanted to create a menu of modern British classics with a bit of a twist. I initially came up with a menu that was too "cheffy" for the volume of dishes that need to be done, so we sat down together and developed a different menu. The menu now includes fish and chips with sauce remoulade and mushy peas and fillet of beef Wellington with truffle jus, carrots and broccoli for first-class travellers, as well as fettucine pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce and white Cheddar for passengers in business class.
Caterer What has been the biggest challenge?Chris Staines The sheer volume of the food was definitely a challenge but also the fact that, at 30,000ft, your taste-buds work differently than on the ground. Luckily, Lufthansa has been doing this for a long time so people were on hand to help and tweak dishes in certain areas. For instance they asked me to make the sauce for the beef Wellington a lot more intense. To be honest, they made it much stronger than I would ever make it at the restaurant but, in the air, it needs to be.
Caterer The Michelin guide for Great Britain and Ireland is published this month. What are your predictions?Chris Staines It's difficult to know exactly what will happen but I'm confident that 2009 will be much more successful than last year in terms of Michelin stars being awarded. My one prediction would be that Tom Aikens will gain his second star. Of course, I wouldn't say no to a second star either but I'm not too worried about these things and the most important thing really is to please your customers.
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