Chef Wan partners with airline to bring Malaysian cuisine to the skies


Chef Wan has created a menu that celebrates the rich of heritage of Malaysian cuisine. — Qatar Airways

Dining in the sky was once associated with mushy food or being served something that looked (and tasted) inedible. But now airlines – tired of being a punch line, no doubt – have upped their culinary game.

These days, it’s not uncommon to hear of partnerships between carriers and celebrity chefs or gourmet restaurateurs.

Many of these culinary big names often have huge followings, bringing with them not only taste, but also glamour, to the airline.

Closer to home, Malaysian celebrity chef Datuk Redzuawan Ismail – popularly known as Chef Wan – has created a commemorative menu with Qatar Airways.

To Chef Wan, the partnership gave him an opportunity to showcase uniquely Malaysian culinary heritage to a global audience.

“Our food has such history and diversity from different parts of the world, especially Asia, and it’s something that we are able to showcase to the whole world,” he said during the launch of the menu at his restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.

The banana fritter is given a contemporary spin by the chef. — CHESTER CHIN/The StarThe banana fritter is given a contemporary spin by the chef. — CHESTER CHIN/The StarChef Wan drew on his Peranakan heritage to create some of the dishes on the menu. Since Peranakan cuisine requires a lot of finesse to prepare and serve, this translates to food with exacting standards.

“From the early years of my culinary experience (learning) from my grandmother, I realised how important it was to pay attention to detail and the quality of the food,” he said, adding that much effort went into curating a quality menu for the airline.

The main course that will be served onboard include ayam percik with lemon rice pilaf, charcoal-grilled fish fillet with spicy Portuguese sauce and lamb kuzi with Terengganu-style rice.

The Malaysian-insired meals, according to Qatar Airways, will give passengers a taste of Malaysia’s illustrious food heritage.

For certain, airline food has improved in leaps and bounds since its mushy days. Many of these chefs would need to consider the science behind food tasting differently at a high altitude.

Being at a high altitude, according to experts, has a very real effect on our sense of smell and taste.

In a pressurised cabin, our blood oxygen levels are lowered. This reduces the ability of our olfactory receptors. Adding to that is the constantly circulating, dry air of the plane cabin that directly affects the nose.

The aforementioned certainly lends a better appreciation for food that is created for aeroplane passengers.

We track down some other exciting past and present partnerships between airlines and celebrated chefs.

Most of these specially curated menus are only available for First Class and Business Class passengers.

But there are also some collaborations that extend to the menu on Economy Class.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore’s national carrier roped in not one, not two, but seven world-renowned chefs to curate its in-flight food menu. Dubbed the International Culinary Panel, these chefs are constantly creating new dishes for passengers. Some of the names of its roster today include Australian celebrity chef Matthew Moran, Michelin-starred restaurateur Carlo Cracco and kaiseki master Yoshihiro Murata.

All Nippon Airways

Like Singapore Airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA) also has a team of internationally renowned chefs. Collectively referred to as “The Connoisseurs”, the team’s speciality lies in a range of cuisine – from Japanese to French and fusion. Some names on its current roster are Toru Okuda, Yoshihiro Takahashi, Ryuta Iizuka and Hideki Takayama.

Air France

Being the flag carrier of the culinary capital of the world, Air France has roped in many celebrated French chefs over the years. Anne-Sophie Pic, Francois Adamski, Guy Martin and Michel Roth are among some of the big names that design the meals onboard the airline. These signature dishes are occasionally renewed to give passengers a taste of more wonderful culinary creations.

Qantas

Australian celebrity chef Neil Perry and Qantas have partnered up since 1997, making it the longest partnership of its kind. As the chef behind the revered Rockpool restaurants in many major Australian cities, Perry has brought to the airline many innovative dishes over the years. His culinary creations are designed around seasonality and artisanal producers.

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