A Career In Airline Food Production
When it comes to finding a job in the food industry after culinary school, it’s important to consider all the options. Yes, working in a restaurant is the most common goal, but the hours are long, hard, and contribute to a high rate of burnout—and the competition to get the jobs can be fierce.
That’s why more and more graduates are turning to alternate food careers, which fall somewhere along the line between the hospitality industry and more hands-on food production. One such career is working in airline food production. Whether you work on the production lines or work with nutritionists and chefs to design the meals, airline food is a booming industry with room for growth.
How Is Airline Food Produced?
In-flight meals were first offered in 1936, when aviation was a new experience associated with luxury and prestige. The meals offered then were much like the fare served only to first-class long-haul flights today, with several courses and the type of cutlery you reserved for special occasions at home. Today, however, airline food runs the gamut of a bag of peanuts to more gourmet meals.
The food supplied to airlines is typically done via an independent catering company contracted to the individual airline. This company develops a menu (oftentimes with several different types of courses for dietary and religious restrictions), prepares the food, loads it onto the airplane, and might even assist in cleanup once the plane lands. Some airlines contract with big names as a way to boost sales, while others go local or try to cut back on food services. Either way, a job within these catering companies can put you at the forefront of developing airline food.
One of the biggest challenges to creating high-quality airplane food is that the food is rarely prepared fresh and on-site. For example:
- Chefs must develop dishes that can be prepared and frozen ahead of time, and that one or two airline attendants can heat and serve to an entire plane full of passengers.
- There are changes to food composition and taste once you reach higher altitudes. In addition to the pressurization of the plane, food (and taste buds) tend to get dried out the longer passengers are in the air.
- Food safety is the most important consideration. Food poisoning on a long flight and out of reach of medical care could result in the type of situation with disastrous consequences.
- Allergic reactions are always an issue. Some airlines prohibit the use of egg, dairy, and peanut products on board.
Although airline food doesn’t have a very good reputation these days, it does represent a large portion of the food and beverage industry. After all, as long as people are flying around the world, they’ll need to be fed—and in some cases, fed well. A career in the food industry that focuses on airline food could be a great step towards a long and fruitful career.