On the 5th of November, 2015 – Pots and pans were put to heavy use, when the final contest between the three Danish top restaurants, Kiin Kiin, Dragsholm Slot and Maarbjerg, had everything sizzling and bubbling at Gate Gourmet in Kastrup, Denmark. Which is also what the three chefs, who were competing on taste, did. The winner, who will create the airline menu for March 2016 for Singapore Airlines, was found, and the food will then taste of Maarbjerg.
In July, Singapore Airlines and Gate Gourmet invited a number of Danish top restaurants to participate in the competition. In August, Gate Gourmet held a workshop, where the restaurants got an insight into which requirements that are applied to airline food. The selected restaurants then had to submit ideas/recipes before the 5th of October. A panel of judges evaluated and chose the winning recipes and restaurants, and the selection of the restaurants, that moved on to the final, was announced on the 7th of October. November 4th, the final competition was held, and the winner was announced.
The Danish chef, Mikkel Maarbjerg, who is the one half of “Kirk + Maarbjerg”, just received the fine honor of creating the new in-flight meals for Singapore Airlines’ Economy Class and Business Class on their routes between Copenhagen and Singapore – concrete on the flights from March 2016 being served for the following period. Mikkel Maarbjerg has earlier won great honors with his specialty for Danish cuisine and gastronomy, including a seventh place at the Bocuse d’Or in 1999, becoming the chef at the two-star restaurant Kommandanten, after which he himself opened Ensemble and got two Michelin stars there. Kiin Kiin and Dragsholm Slot also delivered very exquisite food, and it was not easy for the panel of judges to make the final decision.
“There are a number of practical things, that you have to take into account, when you create airline food, because our palate is reduced in high altitudes, and simultaneously the airline food has to be able to be prepared hours ahead of take-off and be reheated onboard. There are also a number of hygiene requirements that complicates the process. But today, all three chefs have served palatable food that were mouth-watering, they had been extremely perceptive of the challenges related to working in the airline kitchen, and it was margins, that lead to Maarbjerg carrying off with the prize”, says Casper Vedel Jensen from Gate Gourmet, which is also the airline kitchen that normally prepares the food for Singapore Airlines’ guests.
Mikkel Maarbjerg was a very happy man, when it was announced, that he was the winner:
“It has been quite interesting to participate in a competition about creating the best airline food for Singapore Airlines, and I’m very much looking forward to being part of the realization of it in the air in collaboration with both the airline company and Gate Gourmet. It will be exciting to see how much we can raise the bar for airline food in general, and I’m proud of being part of the process”, says Mikkel Maarbjerg.
“Singapore Airlines is already awarded for the food, that we serve our guests onboard, and with this competition, we wished to develop airline food to an even more palatable level. By choosing Maarbjerg today, we believe that we are aiming for the stars and Nordic gourmet food of the finest kind. It has been an exciting and worthwhile process, and we are very much looking forward to hearing what our guests onboard the first flight from March 2016 are going to say”, says Tim Lee, Singapore Airlines’ general manager for the Nordics.
Kiin Kiin, Dragsholm Slot and Mikkel Maarbjerg, who is part of the partnership “Kirk + Maarbjerg”, have for the last couple of months been preparing for the competition on developing the most tasteful airline food. The first step was a workshop at Gate Gourmet back in September, where requirements and insight into airline food were assessed. Then the three chefs submitted recipes and menus that were evaluated by a panel of judges consisting of representatives from Singapore Airlines, Gate Gourmet and the gastronomic scene. Wednesday, November 4, the three chefs presented their menus in public in front of the panel of judges, with an elected winner in the end.
The newly developed food will be served for Singapore Airlines’ guest from March 2016 on the route Copenhagen-Singapore. In the long term, the dainties will perhpas be served onboard the airline’s other flights, but an exact plan for this has not been determined yet. Mikkel Maarbjerg will be present onboard the first flights, when the new food is served in the air.
The Danish Michelin-star restaurant Kiin Kiin, which is the only Thai restaurant with a star in the Michelin Guide, also participated in the competition, as well as Dragsholm Slot, who delivered delicacies from the acclaimed gourmet restaurant Slotskøkkenet.
The challenges, that the three chefs have had to take into account, are amongst others, that loud noises block good taste. Studies show that sounds can block our ability to taste sweet and sour, whereas good music by way of example can create a more generous atmosphere for tasting. Likewise, the salty flavor is reduced up to 15 per cent due to the cabin air pressure, that effects the glands/taste buds. The umami taste is the only taste, that is immune to the suppressing effect of sound, including aircraft noise. This is why, so many enjoy a Bloody Mary in high altitudes. A lot suggest, that this is not a coincidental choice of beverage, even though the passengers might not be conscious of the reason behind their choice. A lot of knowledge and techniques have to be implemented, when you create food, that are consumed in the skies, and all three chefs managed to do just that in an elegant manner.