Hawaiian Airlines gets tasting menus off the ground
today is going systemwide with its new upscale tasting menus in its first-class sections, following a March 1 launch of the service on its Honolulu-San Francisco route.
Company officials believe it was the first airline to offer such an in-flight meal program -- which allows passengers to go beyond a mere surf, turf or vegetarian choice -- although Qantas began a similar service at the end of March.
Airline food has run the gamut over the years, from feared and loathed, to comically featured in the movie "Airplane!" -- to celebrity-chef-designed -- to brown-bagged-p-b-and-j-for-a-fee.
"Our new tasting menu will set us further apart from the rest of the industry," said Mark Dunkerley, president and chief executive officer. "With other carriers resorting to selling in-flight meals or eliminating them altogether, we saw this as an opportunity to further distinguish Hawaiian's quality of service."
For breakfast, passengers will receive a plate of fresh fruit as well as two of three entree choices.
Passengers will receive three of five entrees for lunch and dinner.
Hawaiian's air fare is crafted by Hawaii Regional Cuisine Chef and restaurateur Beverly Gannon, who has served as the airline's executive chef since 1999.
She creates the menu, which is executed by in-flight caterer Gate Gourmet, a division of which suggested the small-plate concept.
"We tried to steer clear of the word tapas," or small plates, because passengers will be receiving the same amount of food, said Louis Saint-Cyr, Hawaiian's vice president of in-flight services.
It is not small bites or tiny portions, Gannon said. "We're putting a good amount of food on each plate so that if you eat three plates of food, you're full."
Folks who've already eaten will have lighter options such as fruit-and-cheese plates.
One of each entree is prepared for every first-class passenger on every flight, so passengers don't have to settle for less than their first choice.
Tasting menus are rotated to avoid repeats for passengers. That allows Gannon to spread her wings beyond Pacific Rim flavor profiles.
"It will always blend and marry well together," she said.
Some dishes are French- or Indian-inspired, for example -- and vegetarians will have options beyond rabbit fodder.
"We do a cheese-stuffed eggplant with tomato sauce and risotto," she said.
Degustation, or tasting menus, were long the exclusive realm of haute cuisine establishments which, almost sadly, never accept firstborn offspring, arms or legs as payment for their culinary finery.
Increasing numbers of restaurants are offering tasting menus with prices that don't start in the triple digits, and it is likely that more airlines will join Hawaiian and Qantas in offering a similar dining option, Saint-Cyr said.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com