Behind the Scenes: Swiss Inflight Catering

Swiss Airlines business class meal tray

Ever wanted to know how an airline goes about the mammoth task of creating a first-class inflight meal? During a recent trip to Zurich, I had the chance to take a behind the scenes look at how first and business class meals are created by Swiss International Airlines and their catering partner Gate Gourmet.

RANDOM FACTS

For a newly hired flight attendant at Swiss to work in First Class they must first complete a minimum of three years of service with the company, but due to the popularity of working in first-class the actual wait time for a training slot can be up to seven years.

138,000kg of cheese.
15.5 million pieces of those delicious Swiss chocolates handed out at the end of each flight.
1.6 million Movenpick ice creams.
256,000 bottles of wine in business class.
69,000 bottles of wine in first class.

Four times a year wine expert Chandra Kurt comes to the headquarters of Swiss to select the wines for first and business class customers.

THE PROCESS

NINE MONTHS BEFORE LAUNCH

First-class airline meal planning can take up to nine months, and it usually starts with a briefing from the airline to the caterer. Once the brief is received, selected chefs will begin to research, get inspiration and create menu ideas.

FIVE TO SIX MONTHS BEFORE LAUNCH

Six months before the first meals are served, the chefs will start to cook the first ‘sample’ dishes of their ideas. At the five month mark the airline will see first hand the menus created, and the Swiss product team will taste all the options.

THREE MONTHS BEFORE LAUNCH

Another inflight meal tasting session is hosted to ensure everything is perfect and to iron out any potential problems.

THE DAY BEFORE LAUNCH

Before the very first meals are served inflight, everything on the menu is yet again created to specifications and taste-tested. The meals that took nine months to develop will be served inflight for about 12 weeks, and during this time, chefs will continually check and taste meals regularly.

THE TASTE TESTING

Currently, specialities from Appenzellerland in Eastern Switzerland are featured in First and Business class. I sampled some dishes during the tour and the one item that stood out was the blueberry slice with chocolate crumble and Appenzeller beer ice cream. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such intense amazing flavours in a dessert, and the beer ice cream was delicious.

Swiss Airlines First class dessert

Swiss also offers Quollfrisch, beer that’s served directly to passengers from the keg on flights to San Fransisco and Los Angeles.

A big thanks to the product team at Swiss and the lovely folks at Gate Gourmet for allowing me to film and take photographs of their facilities at Zurich Airport.

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