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Redefining In-Flight Catering

Bryni van der Merwe – Corporate Flight Attendant in Africa

Bryni van der Merwe

Cape Town, South Africa is a gorgeous location established by the Dutch East India Company in the 1600s. Since then, it has evolved into a real estate and tourism haven. One look at the landscape, and there is no question why! To find out more details, we interviewed Bryni van der Merwe, a corporate flight attendant based in Lagos, Nigeria.

Bryni currently flies on a Falcon 900LX and alternates working six weeks in Lagos, Nigeria; and six weeks in Cape Town, South Africa. Previously, she has operated on B777, A340, A330, and A320. Her initial training was performed by Qatar Airways, where she worked from 2009 until 2011. She has since switched from commercial aviation to private aviation and has four years of experience. Before starting her career in aviation, she received a bachelor of arts degree in performing arts and a one-year City & Guilds patisserie qualification, and she says that baking keeps her sane.

When asked about her career highlights, she responded, “Being promoted to first and business class after only a year at Qatar Airways. Receiving numerous letters of gratitude/complimentary letters from passengers and entering the private aviation sector. Being a private flight attendant is a career highlight!”

Before discussing Cape Town, we wanted to find out more about Bryni’s preferences on where to travel and what to eat. When talking about her favorite destinations, she said, “I hate to be cliche, but New York, New York. There is just something about that city. Every layover there feels like career highlight. I love that wherever you are in this huge city, Central Park is just a short walk away. My other favorites are Seychelles and Maldives, for a slice of island heaven. Also, I love European destinations during the festive season, like Vienna and Munich, for Christmas markets and beautiful old buildings covered in snow. And don’t get me started on Spanish hot chocolate!”

Bryni is an avid seafood lover, and says her favorite food is “sushi sushi sushi! I also eat fruit by the bucket-load, love chocolate, and am a complete tea-aholic.” She added that her favorite meal is “fresh salmon sashimi and seared tuna roses. I’m also a sucker for a well-executed Eggs Benedict.” Since Bryni is an on-the-go world traveler, she shared that “last week I enjoyed lovely seafood, shawarmas, and baklava in Istanbul. If I have a busy week of flying, I try to eat a lot of fresh salads and fruit platters to stay hydrated. But I generally eat a lot of grilled/poached salmon and grilled chicken, as chicken is widely available here in Lagos.”

Focusing on South Africa, Bryni shared her tips on local cuisine and restaurants. “Cape Town is such a food and wine haven that my list of favorite places to eat there is extremely long. To satiate a quality gourmet burger craving, I go to Royale Eatery on Long Street for their Sweet Petunia (a beef burger with arugula, grilled wild mushrooms, and mustard mayo), and their sweet potato chips are the best in the city. I also love the Woodlands Eatery in Vredehoek for its warm atmosphere and neighborhood feel. The Neighbourhood Goods Market at The Old Biscuit Mill in Saltriver on Saturdays is also a must for foodies, but I recommend that you go on an empty stomach. The artisan food stalls there have everything from paella to macaroons.”

If you are going to be visiting Cape Town for the first time, you may be looking for a few things to do between flights. While in South Africa, Bryni enjoys connecting with nature since “Cape Town has such a lovely mix of ocean, mountain, and city. On summer days I love to visit the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Packing a picnic basket and lying under the trees there is one of my favorite things to do, and the views are breathtaking.”

In-flight catering is an important piece of the overall passenger experience in private aviation, so Bryni shared some of the challenges she has faced in this area. She says that “catering and menu planning for flights can be stressful, as flight times are often subject to change, and it’s a nightmare to have to redo your entire menu only hours before a flight so that you’re not serving breakfast at lunch, etc. I try to stick to the same catering company at each destination because there is a level of standards people expect on a private jet, and it’s important to know the quality and reliability of the company you’re ordering from. Bad food reflects directly on you as the passengers don’t see the chefs preparing it.” She added that “the worst catering situation I have experienced was my food arriving seconds before the passengers – over an hour late – during which I thought I would have no food on a seven-hour flight. Panic is an understatement!”

For some advice and inspiration to anyone considering becoming a corporate flight attendant, Bryni share her opinion that “to be a good flight attendant you have to be friendly, adaptable, and level-headed, and you have to have an insatiable love of travel (and food!). When I am tired or jetlagged, I just look out of my hotel room window or look out at the clouds from my jumpseat, for a quick reminder that I have the best job in the world.” To contact Bryni van der Merwe, e-mail braai.knee@gmail.com.

This article is part of a series of interviews we are conducting with contract cabin crew members; individuals who are not employed by Air Culinaire Worldwide. If you would like to be considered for an interview, which is posted on our blog and all of our social media accounts, please contact socialmedia@airculinaire.com.

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