The words nice and plane food just don’t go together. I can’t recall enjoying a meal onboard a flight, whereas I could list the number of bad dishes served to me on a nine hour plus flight, as if that wasn’t torture enough.
But if anyone can improve plane food then Heston can, as he proved on last night’s Mission Impossible on CH4, oh if only there was taste-a-vision.
His first hurdle was to get head chef Steve from catering company Gateway on onboard, who cooks the food before it is dispatched onto an aeroplane where they heat the meals up. Perhaps not the best decision then to phase him out and suggest cooking meals from scratch on a plane?
However Heston’s ambitious salt soaked salmon and parsley crusted steak just didn’t cut it. A lack of space in the plane’s galley kitchen, no sharp instruments and primitive ovens with two temperatures, low and high, left business class passengers waiting an hour longer for their food.
Back to the drawing board. Heston then explored how the change in altitude and dry atmosphere affects taste buds. Steve wasn't convinced.
Round two- a bento box, a cold menu of smoked mackerel with lemon, green tea and lime gum, wine gums made from real wine, gazpacho and beetroot and orange jellies- designed to fool the sense with the orange flavoured one coloured purple and vice versa. His task to serve the meal, which comes with a nasal douche and introductory video, on a night flight with only 40 mins before lights out.
The passengers loved the food, despite delays, but the BA tasting panel weren't so sure, the nasal douche definitely wouldn’t work they say.
For his final attempt, Heston continues to try to win Steve round to his way of thinking and takes him to a research unit with an altitude room for a tasting session to prove food really does taste different at thousands of feet above ground level. Steve is given five tastes including salt and sweet. At altitude his taste is reduced by half, but two tastes remain the same savoury and emami.
A breakthrough? So Heston creates a shepherd’s pie using emami rich products, soy sauce, seaweed, Worcestershire sauce and horseradish. ‘It taste good on the ground’, says Steve, ‘but I’m worried it’s too many flavours.’ Passenger’s feedback prove him wrong. ‘It tastes like home-mad’, says one woman. ‘A tasty dish’, agree the BA panel.
At last a solution, but Heston says there is still a long way to go.
Next week the Michelin starred chef tackles the food served to the navy submarine crews.