How to recreate airline meals

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(CNN) — A few of Nik Sennhauser’s earliest recollections are of longhaul flights — and of consuming on a airplane.

“The primary time I bought on a airplane I used to be about 5 months outdated,” he says.

“I grew up between Austria and Thailand, so I might be on a airplane each two to a few months or so.

“It was the one place the place, asl a child, I’d simply eat the entire meal with out query.

“At house, my mother must pressure me to eat stuff, however on a airplane I’d simply eat no matter I used to be given. I keep in mind getting on the airplane and searching ahead to the meals.”

With household all around the world — his dad and mom in Thailand, his sisters in the US and Switzerland, and a brother in Spain — flying has at all times meant “house” to him.

And so a Proustian connection was made. The little boy who was “fairly obsessive about airplane meals” and flying grew up into a totally fledged “avgeek,” or aviation fan. A contract undertaking supervisor and social media supervisor till final yr, he used his freedom to journey the world, retreating after flight, and posting movies of his expertise on YouTube.

“I used to spend all my free time on Google Flights, punching in dates, locations and budgets; movies of flight studies on YouTube; making my very own movies as properly — my entire life revolved round flying,” he says.

Till the pandemic hit.

Nik Sennhauser (left) has been obsessive about airplanes since childhood — seen right here at Phuket airport in 1988.


Sennhauser — who lives in Glasgow, Scotland, and used to fly each three weeks or so — hasn’t been on a airplane since coming back from Japan in February 2020. (Sadly it was an evening flight, so his final airplane meal was a wrap and a few breakfast.)

And though he is stopped all his different former hobbies — he finds it too tough to think about how issues have been, and of how they’re now — he has discovered a brand new one.

Each weekend, he scrolls by way of his photographs of previous flights, picks a meal he loved onboard, and recreates it from scratch.

To this point, he is made every little thing from tamagoyaki (a Japanese omelet) to Austrian spaetzle and Thai curries, recreating dishes from the likes of Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Austrian and ANA.

However this is not only a query of discovering and following a recipe on-line. Sennhauser additionally plates the dishes on real airline crockery, and presents it as a correct airplane meal.

A brand new lockdown expertise

It is a time-consuming undertaking. Sennhauser has by no means been into cooking, he says — for starters, he would not have had time earlier than the pandemic.

And at the beginning of lockdown, when folks have been posting footage and movies of themselves having fun with faux airplane journeys, regardless of being a prolific poster of life on board, and selfies taken in airplane loos, he did not participate.

However then, he says, on week three of lockdown, “I used to be actually bored and simply did it,” making an airline-style meal, and posting a photograph.

He rapidly discovered a group of individuals doing the identical factor — blogs asking readers to recreate their airplane expertise, and other people posting photographs of themselves consuming off plastic trays.

“I believed, ‘Oh, plenty of persons are doing it. It isn’t thrilling anymore’,” he says. So he stopped it.

He spent the remainder of Scotland’s back-to-back lockdowns ignoring the aviation world. However at some point in January 2021, due to a mix of “boredom, being caught at house, and actually lacking touring,” he determined to have one other go.

He already owned a real airline trolley, purchased on eBay together with airline crockery and cutlery: melamine plates, champagne flutes, retro economic system glasses, and china plates and low cups from varied enterprise courses. Most of it’s purchased on-line — there is a main marketplace for it in Germany, he says — though he admits that, “In turbulence, the odd spoon right here and there has slipped off the tray and fallen into my pocket.”

So on this chilly lockdown day in January, he opened up his trolley and bought his plates out. “And I began plating once more, only for enjoyable.”

He began with a random airline-style breakfast: sausages with scrambled eggs, spinach, plus a pot of ham, cheese and gherkins.

Two months on, Sennhauser has a brand new pastime. He goes by way of his movies of previous flights to have a look at what he ate onboard, and recreates total meals from begin to end. He’ll spend the weekend engaged on Sunday dinner, in addition to throwing a breakfast or brunch into the combination on Saturday or Sunday morning.

Nik Sennhauser recreates airline food at home

His meals are recreated from scratch, together with appetizers and sides.


“The wonderful factor about it’s that I’ve really change into a greater cook dinner, as a result of I needed to go and analysis the recipes,” he says, gleefully.

“The meals aren’t only for Instagram to look good; they must style good, as properly, as a result of they’re really our Sunday meals, and I’ve to feed my husband. So it must be edible.

“So I really needed to go and seek the advice of cookbooks and the web for all these recipes, and I’ve realized to cook dinner all these various things. And I’ve realized I am fairly good at making desserts. I’ve made a bunch of mousses — chocolate mousse, white chocolate mousse, darkish chocolate mousse — and so they style significantly better than what you will get within the outlets. So it has been a little bit of a journey for me.”

Cooking the meals, he says, “helps me take care of my wanderlust”, and permits him to relive recollections of nice journeys previous.

His breakfasts and brunches are his personal invention — primarily omelets and sausages, as you’d discover on a airplane.

However the dinners are full meals that he is been served onboard up to now — not simply the primary course, but in addition the appetizers, sides and desserts.

The schnitzel that made a friendship

Though he is traveled quite a bit in enterprise class, due to a canny use of airline factors, Sennhauser is not above recreating meals he is had in economic system.

One in every of his favourite latest meals is a recreation of an Austrian Airways meal — vacationers in economic system can preorder a tray made by caterers Do&Co, that includes signature dishes together with a wiener schnitzel.

“Having grown up in Austria, wiener schnitzel is considered one of my favourite dishes of all time, so I recreated that, together with a potato salad, cucumber salad and chocolate mousse,” he says.

When he makes a meal, he plates it on airline-appropriate crockery and posts footage of the unique, plus his recreation, on Instagram.

His fellow avgeeks are enthusiastic.

“They at all times say that mine seems to be higher than the true deal,” he says. “However then, you recognize, I get to spend a complete day cooking this, plating it in my kitchen, whereas on a airplane, within the galley, there’s solely a lot they’ll do, particularly in economic system class.”

However within the case of the Austrian Airways schnitzel, Sennhauser realized that one essential factor was lacking: the signature triangular Austrian Airways plate.

He posted his earlier than and after photographs explaining that he did not have the best plate — after which one thing great occurred. He acquired a message from one other avgeek — David Pauritsch who runs channel Simply Aviation — providing him 4 of the Austrian plates as a gift.

It meant that the subsequent time Sennhauser got here to make the meal, he might serve it as the true deal.

“It reveals how social media works,” says Sennhauser, who says that these triangular plates are actually his favourite airline crockery.

“It brings individuals who have the identical pursuits collectively and lets you do stuff like this, the place anyone in Vienna picks up a few plates, places them in a field, sends them off and so they arrive in Glasgow, the place anyone else can cook dinner and plate meals from that flight, after which take an image and put it up on social media.”

It is this sense of group that he is been lacking throughout lockdown — and he says that making the meals “provides me a function.”

“The meals has helped me to consider journey and the nice occasions I’ve had with out getting upset — there is a function now to go surfing, watch my outdated movies and take a look at the outdated footage. And it provides me pleasure throughout this time once I cannot journey. It is helped me take care of it.”

Reliving a honeymoon flight

A number of the meals have reminded him of main life occasions. To have a good time 5 years since their honeymoon, final month Sennhauser recreated a meal from his honeymoon flight to New York.

He and husband Graham had flown on SWISS — “in enterprise class as a result of it was our honeymoon” — and have been served spaetzle with beef stroganoff and a aspect salad, plus chocolate mousse with a raspberry coulis.

As he does with all his meals, Sennhauser created all of it — proper right down to the spaetzle — from scratch, taking half a day to make it. “It was a pleasant method to have a good time our honeymoon anniversary,” he says.

The magic of airplane meals

After all, few persons are as keen on airplane meals as this — in actual fact, for many vacationers, it is a working joke. However Sennhauser thinks that is as a result of most of us aren’t giving it a good go.

“I feel individuals who hate it most likely have unrealistic expectations,” he says.

“It’s important to consider that you simply’re in a steel tube at 40,000 toes being catapulted by way of the air, and the flight attendant is heating up a meal in an oven — there’s solely a lot they’ll do. Additionally, I feel folks do not prefer to be given simply two choices.

“Individuals evaluate it to what they’ll get in a restaurant, however it’s a very completely different species, airplane meals. There’s solely a lot you are able to do, and I feel persons are unrealistic of the circumstances.

“I am not saying it is higher than what you will get on the bottom, in any respect — however in the event you consider the quantity of labor and energy that goes into, it from the one that designs it to the to the workforce that checks it, the cooks who cook dinner it, the individuals who package deal it, wrap it up, put it within the trolley and onto the airplane, the flight attendants who then take it out, put it within the oven and serve it with a smile.

“It is a completely different beast to what you get in a restaurant, and I take that into consideration. I imply, more often than not it is inferior to a restaurant, however you are in a airplane! And that is what makes it magical.”

That stated, not all his experiences have been good. He picks out an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Chicago in 2012 as a low level — “it was simply pasta with beef and tomato sauce that wasn’t excellent in any respect — and all I keep in mind about the remainder of the flight is that I used to be very uncomfortable having eaten that meal” — however provides that “it is most likely not truthful on them anymore as a result of the airline was going by way of a tough time.”

And earlier than you assume he is a airplane meals snob, he additionally mentions easyJet’s earlier catering as considered one of his favorites.

“I actually favored a croque monsieur that they’d, however then they modified the suppliers, I feel. And yeah, it wasn’t adequate. However the authentic was ridiculous — it was enjoyable to have the ability to look ahead to flying easyJet.”

His basic airplane meals tip is to plump for the Asian possibility, if there may be one.

“Asian meals works very well on a airplane as a result of it is flavorsome by default. One in every of my favourite meals in economic system is Thai Airways, as a result of there’s at all times a curry. The perfect meal I had was on Singapore Airways, and I had Singaporean hen curry for breakfast.

“It got here in an enormous bowl with rice and candy bread rolls, and I couldn’t cease consuming. I actually wished I hadn’t stuffed my face beforehand within the lounge.”

And though he says a basic rule of thumb is to by no means decide steak, a signature steak dish on SWISS enterprise class he as soon as had, was “not solely among the best meals I’ve had on a airplane, it was most likely the perfect steak I’ve had in my life — tender, juicy and nonetheless uncommon inside, not rubbery and grey because it often is on a airplane.”

DIY airline meals

Sadly, Sennhauser would not see post-pandemic airplane meals being fairly as particular.

“A lot has modified over the previous yr with meals on planes clearly, due to restrictions and precautions. The pre-order meals, which have been at all times nice enjoyable to reap the benefits of, a lot of them have disappeared as a result of not as many individuals are touring and airways have to chop prices.

“Austrian Airways and Swiss have now minimize their economic system class meals on shorter flights and sometimes scratch their pre-order meal service. So all of the meals that I’d at all times look ahead to are literally not obtainable anymore, which may be very, very unhappy, however it’s comprehensible.”

He would not have any flights booked proper now, though he is determined to go to his dad and mom in Thailand, who he hasn’t seen since 2019. However that journey apart, he says his best post-pandemic airplane meals journey could be to Tokyo on ANA in enterprise class.

“I’ve seen footage of their meals in enterprise and firstclass, and it is simply out of this world — we have flown twice with them in economic system and the meals was wonderful.”

For now, there’s a complete group on-line, sharing his love of airplane meals — he ideas Nik Loukas, who’s turned his love of airplane meals right into a enterprise, Inflight Feed, as one to observe.

Feeling impressed? Sennhauser suggests beginning with economic system class meals, and making an attempt a Thai curry.

“All it’s a must to do is cook dinner some rice and make a curry with curry paste, coconut milk and a few meat. And also you want a pleasant little dish to place it in, and there you go. The one subject is plating — I take advantage of a small spoon and do it very rigorously, little by little. Do not rush it — assume it out beforehand, perhaps even draw just a little image of the way you need it to look.

“It takes me three to 4 hours making these meals, however with the restrictions there’s nowhere else to go so I’d as properly spend 4 hours within the kitchen and put out a banging meal.”


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