Delta culinary experiment swaps flavors, chefs

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Creating a thoughtful approach to the on-board culinary experience takes collaboration. It’s why Delta partnered with talented consulting chefs like Linton Hopkins and Michelle Bernstein as well as Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson to develop the airline’s current strategy of offering seasonally-inspired meals in Delta One.

But that collaboration extends to kitchens, farms and workshops across the country where ideas and insights can be shared. To that end, Delta embarked on a culinary experiment and brought along a few dozen key customers, media and others to partake.

Enter chef Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook from the famed Animal restaurant in Los Angeles and Ethan Stowell from Seattle’s local favorite, Tavolata—each chef a well-known force in the culinary scene in their respective cities.

But how would working in a new city, with different fresh ingredients and tastes influence their menu and their perspective?

Dubbed Delta Swap Chef, the airline, along with culinary ambassadors chef Hopkins and Robinson, sent Animal’s Dotolo and Shook to Seattle to work alongside Tavolata’s Stowell to design a one-night-only restaurant experience. Then, Stowell traveled to Los Angeles to infuse his Seattle style into a similar event there. Each of the events were captured in a series of videos and social media content.

“This is the making of a broader experiment to change the way we think about and execute on the culinary experience in flight and the laboratory is two of Delta’s key cities, Seattle and Los Angeles,” said Robinson. “The whole idea is to bring the artisanal purveyors that are the faces and the hands and the people behind real food and real wine onto the planes and into the culinary experience.”

It’s all part of Delta’s effort to rethink the culinary experience, a process that started when chef Hopkins joined the team in 2013 and has continued to evolve in the years following. That evolution has seen the introduction of new produce suppliers and small-batch purveyors of cheeses, meats and other ingredients on board.

“The idea of Swap Chef is to develop personal relationships,” said chef Hopkins. “I’ve known of these chefs but now we know each other. It’s about taking a no compromise approach to quality and freshness and delivering that to customers on a plane.”

Both events included a day for the chefs to walk through local farmers and fish markets to sample ingredients and have conversations with local suppliers which may pave the way for future menu and in-flight culinary development.

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