THE GURU • February 2021
From the perfect Ploughman’s to spiced cauliflower concoctions, Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge reveals how he created the ultimate British Airways menu…
What makes a great in-flight meal?
Food that’s not overcomplicated. Even making a sandwich is very different in the air to in a restaurant. On a flight, the sensation of taste and flavour changes, so it’s important to look at water content and texture. I’d always advise on choosing the simplest dish – that’s the one most likely to be pin-point perfect.
What specific ingredients or dishes made the cut?
We were looking at lots of different sandwich options, but we wanted something that was going to resonate, as well as being on trend. At food festivals, one of our best sellers is a vegan spiced cauliflower dish. I thought it would work really nicely in-flight, so I wanted to get a wrap version on board. I also wanted flavours and combinations that everyone recognises, such as cheese and ham, but using smoked cheese and beautiful ham. The Ploughman’s is vital too – it’s unique to Britain, and I was keen to get those fresh, organic flavours on board.
Talk us through the process of one of your favourite dishes from the menu?
The steak and ale pie is a fantastic addition. We’re great at beef in the UK and the way we brew cask-conditioned ales isn’t replicated anywhere else. We didn’t want it to just be a beef flavour, either – you can really taste the infused herbs. It’s powerful and strong, catering for the way that taste buds change in the air. We don’t look for subtle choices. We want big flavours that do what they say on the tin. That’s the secret to making flavoursome food at altitude.
What was your priority when designing the menu?
I wanted to create something I would be proud of. I fly British Airways frequently, so I didn’t want to be sitting on the plane and see someone next to me order a meal and then tell me it was rubbish! I also wanted to showcase what I’ve learned over the years and offer the spoils of that experience. We’re not replicating Michelin-starred restaurants, but we are saying, “If one of the chefs at my restaurants made you a sandwich, it would taste like this.”
What limits did you face during the design?
We have to be clever with levels of acidity and balance. I’d have liked to use salad cream more, but it’s too acidic, loose and wet to work properly at altitude. We got around that by mixing the flavours of salad cream in with our mayonnaise, so you still get the same richness and thickness. Tomatoes are difficult, too. They taste best at room temperature and with salt. But if you put too much salt in something, it draws out the moisture. I’ve learned that the tomato is not a friend of sandwiches at altitude!
Click play on the video below
Why did you want to take on the partnership with BA?
I don’t work with many brands, but this was a privilege for me as I felt that the airline and I share the same core values. The staff are the same sort of warm, friendly people that work in my company. The collaboration just works well in terms of the people and positioning.
What does it mean to you being an ambassador for British Airways and British food?
It’s a huge responsibility. British Airways has a tremendous reputation and is recognised around the world. I feel the same responsibility in this partnership that I do with the food I make in my restaurants. I need to understand flavours and profiles and there’s no room for off days. The clean, crisp, well-rehearsed service you get from BA staff is no different to the standards we set ourselves in the restaurant. It’s a responsibility that we all enjoy.
To enjoy Tom’s culinary delights on board, customers must pre-purchase their meal before boarding at highlifeshop.com, where they can also order drinks and buy inflight retail items up to 12 hours before departure.