The holidays are a time for connecting with family and friends, and in the global society that we live in, this often means traveling on or during the festive season. While many travel to be with loved ones during the holidays, some, traveling for work, miss out on such opportunities. Connecting people around the world through memorable culinary experiences from the ground to the sky is what inspires gategroup to Create Culinary Connections. All of this is incorporated when collaborating with our airline customers to create special menus for the Christmas holidays: from traditional regional holiday dishes to classic regional recipes, all recipes bring familiarity, warmth, and comfort to passengers. We create meals and moments that ignite the feelings of belonging, nostalgia and tradition, in the only way that food can. From the aroma to the presentation as well as the taste, seasonal Christmas menus let passengers remember all the fond and pleasant memories from this special time of the year.
Developing innovative festive menus can be challenging, but our talented chefs take inspiration from local cuisine, global trends and traditions, as well as their own past festive meal experiences. What dishes do they remember from childhood? What flavors and aromas instantly take them back to family gatherings and conversations around those special events? The sharp, woody spices of mulled wine? Fruity bouquets of cranberry sauce? Filling, indulgent desserts? They try to incorporate the ingredients that trigger these memories into the meals that are served so that passengers are transported from their seat on the plane, to the cozy, comfort of their homes to celebrate Christmas with the people they love. These different experiences of a Christmas away from home can have a lasting and impactful impressions and can still bring about the wonderful emotions of the holiday season: whether heading home, or leaving home, when they take a bite of these delicious delicacies, they are instantly transported home for Christmas.
Chefs often look at the traditional turkey dinner when brainstorming meals for these special days. Turkey has been a staple of Christmas menus for over a century, epitomized in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, when Scrooge delivers a turkey on Christmas day to Bob Cratchit’s family, after farmers diversifying, bred turkeys as an alternative to beef or goose. It is believed by some to symbolize the levelling between the upper and lower classes of society – a truly inclusive dish, because when we look at it, the turkey dinner symbolizes the Christmas holidays in so many parts of the world, with each place putting their own spin on it with different seasonings, sides, or desserts.
To help their passengers feel this culinary connection, some airlines will put together a festive menu for flights on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. These menus will only run for those two days (or three in the case of UK based airlines), but for the passengers on those flights, they are a wonderful treat that makes them feel a little more special, and a little more in the holiday spirit. For Gate Gourmet’s chefs it’s a wonderful opportunity to head into the kitchen and begin to cook up ideas to share with our airline partners so that, coming together, they can also create an innovative twist on the traditional festive meal.
Air Canada will offer their passengers a traditional Christmas meal for flights on December 24t and 25th. This meal includes sliced roasted turkey breast with a turkey gravy, Yukon mashed potatoes with chives, bread stuffing, roasted Brussel sprouts, and baby carrots – the traditional meal served in Canada and the US. “We’re delighted to offer a delicious holiday meal to our customers this year, adding festive cheer and the comforts of home to the Air Canada experience,” says Jacqueline Harkness, Managing Director, Products and Services at Air Canada. Large turkeys are roasted up during the day with all the fixings cooked up alongside them, waiting for the whole family to gather round the dinner table, sit down and indulge in conversation and laughter between each delicious bite. The familiar smell of that roasted turkey and gravy, the bright colors of the Brussel sprouts and carrots, and the soft, pillowy pile of potatoes bring back memories of childhood, family, friends, and those Christmas evenings of togetherness.
LATAM Airlines will be serving a dedicated holiday menu as well for passengers flying on December 24th and 25th in all LATAM regions. Their menu selection aims to embody the warmth of home, delight of family, and like others, the joy of celebrating the holidays with loved ones. The dishes are infused with traditional holiday spices and ingredients used throughout the world that will send floods of flavor and nostalgia through each passenger as they enjoy their meal. The main dish LATAM offers is roasted chicken with a spice and almond crust, orange and whisky sauce, potato purée with old style mustard and sautéed vegetables with prosciutto. Business class passengers will also have the option of a dessert which includes caramelized spiced apples, ginger biscuits, and crème anglaise with whiskey and meringue. For certain flights, passengers can also choose sautéed turkey with old mustard and vegetables with couscous, raisins, almonds and lemon. By using cinnamon, star anise, cardamom and ginger, and citrus fruits delivers a warm feeling with a zesty flair, truly integrating LATAM Airline’s desire that their holiday travelers enjoy traditional Christmas dishes with nods to North American cuisine and an undeniable Latin American essence.
Over the holiday period of December 24th, 25th and 26th, Virgin Atlantic will be offering festive meals for their passengers in Upper, Premium, and Economy cabins. As Hari Ghotra, F&B Manager at Virgin Atlantic says, “When our customers travel over the festive period it’s important to us that we give them a little touch of home comfort to make their experience fun and festive too.” The main dish in Upper Class is a roasted, sliced turkey breast with rosemary gravy and chestnut stuffing served with glazed baby carrots, cranberry grenadine relish, red potato wedges roasted with rosemary and parsley, roasted Brussel sprouts, and pigs in a blanket on the side. It is truly a full festive meal with all the trimmings. For dessert, there are two traditional holiday offerings: The delectable chocolate yuletide log and the quintessentially classic, fragrant mince pie. Both are often set out on the dinner table during the holidays across the UK. Virgin Atlantic want to make sure everyone feels included so there will also be a vegetarian meal option of a Roasted Vegetable En Croute that will be served with a pumpkin puree, as a nod to the North American passengers, reminding them of their traditional side that accompanies their holiday turkey dinners. For a final bit of festive cheer, Virgin Atlantic Airlines will also give each passenger a golden chocolate Lindt reindeer as they exit the plane. It’s a charming little reminder of the season and a way for every passenger to feel included in the holiday season.
Though these meals will only be served for a few days during the holidays, they will have a meaningful impact on the passengers of these airlines. We often forget that it’s the simple things that can make us truly happy. A piece of chocolate, a warm smile, a little joke, or even a simple fond memory of the past. With these festive menus, we at Gate Gourmet and our partners Air Canada, LATAM Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic, hope to give passengers that little something that makes their journey that much more special, fills them with holiday cheer, and makes them feel better about having to travel during the holiday season. And on that note, Happy Holidays, and may every meal be magnificently merry and delicious.
gategroup is the global leader in airline catering, retail-on-board and hospitality products and services. gategroup provides passengers with superior culinary and retail experiences, leveraging innovation and advanced technology solutions. Headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, gategroup delivers operational excellence through the most extensive catering network in the aviation industry, serving passengers from over 200 operating units in over 60 countries/territories across all continents. For further information, please visit www.gategroup.com.