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Delta Air Lines is again bringing new meaning to the slow food movement — at 500 miles per hour and 35,000 feet. Beginning Dec. 1, customers flying in the Delta One cabin on all transoceanic flights across Delta’s global network will enjoy seasonally rotating, regionally-influenced menus featuring ingredients sourced at the height of flavor, often from artisan, small-batch producers.

As part of Delta’s move to offer more chef-created menus in flight, the airline will further its partnership with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and feature menus artfully developed by Nick Anderer, Executive Chef and Partner of New York restaurant Marta and Maialino, on select trans-Atlantic routes departing from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for the next three months.

Anderer’s in-flight dishes feature fresh, seasonal ingredients and draw inspiration from the rustic Roman cuisine that he creates at Marta. The menu includes an appetizer of white Balsamic-marinated beets with DiPalo’s ricotta and purple watercress, a white bean and sage soup, and a main course of braised lamb shoulder slow cooked with white wine, rosemary, and polenta alongside wilted chard.

Food on a plate

“Who says you can’t source great local ingredients for an international flight? The meals we’ve created for Delta challenge this notion,” said Anderer. “In collaboration with the Delta team, and many of my favorite suppliers, farmers, and artisan producers, we’ve created a menu that highlights some of the classics from Marta’s wood-fired kitchen.”

A culinary evolution

The Marta collaboration marks the next step in a broader evolution in Delta’s culinary partnership with USHG. In the coming year, Delta will feature new menus inspired by USHG’s other restaurants on a rotating basis and introduce customers to fresh and innovative dining options on select trans-Atlantic flights out of New York. In 2014, Delta previously featured dishes and signature cocktails inspired by Blue Smoke, USHG’s barbecue restaurant, on select routes departing JFK to Europe. The airline also collaborated with USHG to open the first airport locations of Shake Shack and Blue Smoke on the Road in Delta’s new JFK Terminal 4 in 2013.

Partnering with Marta also builds on Delta’s system-wide chef-curated food programs, including chef Linton Hopkins, winner of the prestigious James Beard Award on select Europe-bound flights departing Atlanta, Michelle Bernstein to destinations in Latin America and Michael Chiarello on flights to Asia. Those menus, as well as meals created by Delta’s in-house chefs, will be similarly developed with regionally-sourced ingredients and feature Delta’s signature global spin on traditional local cuisine on all transoceanic flights across its network.

The airline’s in-flight dining partners at international stations have also created dining options from seasonally relevant ingredients that take advantage of local harvest, including those flights departing the southern hemisphere where the growing season is reversed.  

“Through delicious food, exceptional service and a new approach to how we develop and source our menus, we’re bringing to life — in ways no other airline has — innovation to the on-board experience,” said Allison Ausband, Delta’s Senior Vice President – In-Flight Services. “We want to take our customers on a culinary journey when they travel with us. A journey built on a no-compromise philosophy that says every aspect and detail of the travel experience be carefully considered. It’s a philosophy that extends from our unparalleled operational performance all the way to the distinctly human touch of serving unique and authentic fare made from seasonally and regionally-inspired ingredients.”  

The airline also continues to tap the expertise of Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson who carefully curated a 2016 wine selection that complements the seasonal meal selections across the airline. The medley of vintages she’s chosen provide customers with a sense of wine discovery as part of their in-flight experience and follows a similar strategy of sourcing locally-made wines from, in some cases, small, artisanal wineries who bring to the tray table a flavor and body uniquely their own.

Food on a plate

Seasonality in the skies

Delta first experimented with a seasonally-focused meal program in 2014 when Chef Linton Hopkins began creating menus on select flights departing Atlanta with the same locally-sourced ingredients he used in his award-winning restaurants. Together with the airline, Chef Hopkins worked with purveyors and artisans throughout Georgia and the Southeast to sustainably scale up their operation to meet the need of what quickly became thousands of in-flight meals daily without compromising on quality and taste.

“Delta is effectively changing the way we think about and execute on the culinary experience in flight,” Hopkins said. “We’re not just bringing wholesome, real food to customers while they fly, but also supporting local businesses in the communities where Delta serves. We’re redefining the on-board culinary experience with menus that celebrate timely, local harvests while taking advantage of bold, unique flavors and ensuring customers are treated to regularly refreshed menus.”

Delta has for years taken innovative steps to improve the quality and authenticity of its food program — from purchasing to cooking and serving on board — by engaging in direct relationships with chefs, farms and artisan producers.

Along with in-flight dining options in the Delta One cabin, the airline’s meals for Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin on transoceanic flights will also feature regionally-inspired fare that will change with every season.

Delta’s industry-leading move to seasonal menus on its flights is part of the airline’s strategic approach to improving all aspects of the customer experience, with a special focus on food. Last week, Delta completely revamped its domestic First Class lunch and dinner menus on flights between 900 and 1,499 miles, further enhancing food offerings to include chef-developed meals refreshed more regularly to give greater variety to even the most frequent of fliers. Additional enhancements to domestic First Class as well as EATS food-for-purchase offerings, including Delta’s partnership with Luvo, will come in 2016.

The airline also recently announced its plans to elevate the customer dining experience in its premium cabins with all new serviceware created by the global design expertise of Italy-based Alessi.  

“We’re committed to delivering to our 170 million annual customers a distinctively thoughtful and innovative travel experience, with no detail overlooked,” said Ausband. “Our menus deliver on the exciting opportunity to create menus that cater to those customers seeking something more traditional while bringing to the tray table flavors that meet the expectations of the more adventurous, globe-trotting foodie. Offering seasonally rotating menus with ingredients picked at the height of flavor is just one of many ways we’re bringing that commitment to life.”

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