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Tips for Sensational In-Flight Catering with Hors d’Oeuvres

Tips for Sensational In-Flight Catering with Hors d'Oeuvres

Hors d’oeuvres are usually the primary food your passengers will eat during a business flight. Hors d’oeuvres set the mood for the flight since catering is the one aspect of a flight that stimulates all five senses. Aiming to exceed expectations with catering will help ensure a good first impression with your passengers.  Beyond providing nourishment, appetizers are visually appealing and act as conversation piece to help make the flight memorable for your passengers.

Hors d’oeuvres are gourmet starter courses which can be hot or cold and include items, such as gulf shrimp canapés, bocconcini skewers and feta cheese with watermelon. The size and quantity of appetizers to have available will vary depending on flight duration, time of day and the on-board meals being served. If passengers decide not to have full-course meals during longer flights, make sure to provide a wider selection of appetizers throughout the flight.  Plan on each passenger consuming two or three appetizers, so you have plenty of food available to everyone.

When preparing to place a catering order, the first thing you will need to know is if any passengers have specific dietary restrictions, food allergies, preferences and religious requirements, such as Halal or Kosher. Additionally, passengers may prefer certain foods or flavor profiles and preparation styles, such as French or Indian. Recently, there is a big trend towards eating and living a healthier lifestyle.  Some healthy appetizer options include steamed white fish with lemongrass flavored vegetables or mahi-mahi fish tacos.

Currently, there is a shift from ordering large heavier meals, toward appetizers and tapas. For on-board meetings, your best bet is to offer a selection of appetizers that are not likely to become messy and allow for passengers to easily carry a conversation.  Many corporate flight attendants pair appetizers with main courses to ensure that the combination does not tire the passenger’s pallet. Lighter appetizers work well to enhance heavier meals. Also, when serving appetizers between courses, lighter fare salads or granitas made from fresh fruit will help cleanse the pallet. If you have room to get creative on longer flights, consider breaking down a meal into a variety starters that are served throughout the flight.

Talk with your caterer about which local or seasonal appetizers are available. Ordering an item which is not in season or is from a different region will increase in-flight catering costs.  It’s usually best to order items that are available locally so you are get the freshest ingredients.  If you’re in the Caribbean, for example, you’ll likely have better local options for seafood as opposed to steak.

Depending upon the time of day and the ingredients needed, most caterers can fulfill short-notice appetizer requests, but a 24 hour notice is ideal. For short notice catering orders there are limitations to consider, such as the fact that kosher foods are usually not available for pick up on Saturdays and fresh sushi is usually not available for early-morning departures. Also, if seasonal or regional ingredients are involved, they may need to be specially sourced and that process takes longer to accomplish.

Appetizers must be kept refrigerated to 40 degrees F (4.4 degrees C) or less until delivered.  Always use a private aviation caterer that you trust and who will make sure your food is handled in a controlled and safe manner within the kitchen and during delivery to the aircraft.  To maintain the highest quality experience for your passengers, sometimes ingredients may be delivered separately in order for appetizers to stay crisp or fresh.

In conclusion, appetizers and starters set the mood for the entire flight.  Use the opportunity to make a big impression and create a memorable in-flight experience. Make sure to provide the caterer with food preferences and requirements, think locally when ordering appetizers and use the chef’s expertise in sourcing new appetizers.

Questions?

If you have any questions about this article or about in-flight catering, contact me at richardpeterson@airculinaire.com.

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