Tapas at 10,000 meters high, is it possible to eat well on a plane?
For seven years now, the third Thursday of June has been World Tapas Day, an event that tries to highlight the importance of this way of eating so characteristic of Spanish cuisine. As gastronomy is one of the main motivations of travelers who visit our country each year, Iberia Express has been supporting this event for three years by offering passengers on one of its flights by surprise the opportunity to try some tapas on board served to 10,000 meters of altitude. But, given the limitations of in-flight kitchens, can you eat well on a plane?
Chef Luis Bonastre, executive chef of the Gategroup company, in charge of catering for the Iberia Group and the world's No. 1 company by volume, was in charge of designing a container with some salty and sweet snacks that he also personally served to the passengers of the Rennes flight -Madrid today.
On the outward journey, Madrid - Rennes (France) we were able to speak with him so that he could tell us how they prepare the menus that are served on the planes and afterwards we enjoyed those tapas with the surprised passengers, mostly French, who tasted the gastronomic surprise with a vermouth.
Food on airplanes
Luis Bonastre told us that after passing through some prestigious restaurants in our country, he embarked on the GateGroup Catering project, which arrives in high season to serve up to 35,000 trays of breakfasts, lunches, brunches on board, and that is great difficulty, taking into account the limitations they have for space and for the food regeneration system so that they are served in perfect conditions to passengers.
Every month, they buy more than a ton of chicken, 500kg of fish, 600kg of beef and many other products, all of them quality and from well-known suppliers such as Pescaderías Coruñesas, Los Norteños, among others. To make their preparations, they attend to the requests of the airlines, which make annual forecasts that are updated according to changes and needs that are adjusted each month.
It is a very attractive kitchen system, which is based on the Make and Pack, which causes food to be cooked within a maximum period of 24 hours before being served on flights. The limitations are great, since the trays must use the dishes of each airline, adapting to their different formats, and they cannot have a great height since they are stacked to be able to travel in the carts that move through the aisles.
The process is to cook the food, lower the temperature to preserve it, and then regenerate it in flight through hot air ovens - some aircraft also have ovens with a steam function - to serve customers at the ideal temperature.
According to Bonastre, the dishes that work best are stews such as cheeks or oxtail, which with the sauce are almost as if they had been served at a table. Fatty fish like salmon also work well and in general, any dish that has a certain humidity so that in the process it remains tender and juicy.
The rations come to about 120 g of main protein already cooked, which means about 150 to 160 g of raw product, which are served with side dishes of vegetables, rice or pasta, although each company has its own set standards. .
We were struck by the fact that the breakfast omelettes, made with roe for sanitary hygiene reasons, are curdled by hand, like at home, and are made in the afternoon to be served during flight hours in the morning. The one I took on board the outbound flight with breakfast had nothing to envy, neither in format nor in texture to a freshly made at home.
Cap day in the clouds
Presented inside an original egg cup, were the bites chosen by chef Bonastre, to serve some classic Spanish appetizers: olives with three different fillings, chorizo and salami accompanied by some "peaks" of bread and three almond bonbons with three chocolate coatings .
Gordal-type olives had three different fillings: salted anchovy, pickled anchovy and a Martini investment, that is, an olive stuffed with a gelee or vermouth gelatin. These are the most classic aperitifs or the most common tapas served in our bars when we order a drink.
On the other hand, two pieces of choricito and another two of salchichón, accompanied by a crusty bread like the peaks, since the Spanish sausages are a habitual preference of the travelers who visit our country.
Finally, three caramelised marcona almonds covered with three different chocolate toppings, one with white chocolate, another with darker cocoa and a third with lime powder and citrus notes that the passengers liked very much.
The experience on board
Travelers are no longer used to receiving a free bar service in flight courtesy of the airlines and therefore, the surprise of finding themselves on board with this package with such appetizing content is very pleasant. Since the commander announced that the Day of the Tapa was being celebrated and the carts driven by the Flight Attendants began to leave the corridors, the expectation has grown in the passage.
It was fun to see how the heads were poking out, how the collars were stretched to see what the chef, uniformed with his work jacket, was delivering row to row to the passengers. The pack with the tapas was served with a vermouth, with a glass of grape must or water, as the passengers chose.
After a few minutes, the faces were more cheerful, pleasantly surprised and the experience they had just lived was appreciated, in an unexpected way. I had the opportunity to speak with two passengers, one Spanish and one French after they tasted the tapas served on board and these were their impressions.
The Frenchman, Didier Blanc, commented that he did not know that a World Tapa Day was celebrated and that he had been delighted by the surprise, especially when he asked how much it cost and was told that he did not have to pay anything. The Spaniard José Carlos Rodríguez commented to Directo al Paladar that this experience made the experience of flying more human and thanked the Flight Attendants for the detail and surprise.
Assessment of experience
The participation of Iberia Express in support of the celebration of World Tapa Day, apart from being a wonderful action to promote and disseminate its quality of service on short and medium-haul routes, is very pleasant for passengers traveling to Spain, being a way of approaching tapas, one of the flagships of our gastronomic heritage.
Logically, given the limitations of a flight, they could not do gastronomic wonders or serve or prepare tapas on board. That is why we opted for an attractive packaging, an assortment of sweet and savory snacks, all very easy to eat and, judging by the faces I saw during the flight in which they were served, which the passengers on the Rennes-Madrid flight really liked. noon today.