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Up In The Air: Top Chefs Take Flight

You no longer have to visit the Michelin-recommended restaurants for a taste of their food.
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Airplane food has a reputation for being notoriously unappetizing, but over the past few years, collaborations between airlines and award-winning chefs have really taken off. Earlier this year, Air France announced their partnership with celebrity chef/restaurateur Daniel Boulud to develop their business-class menus, and last month, KLM rolled out starters in the business cabins designed by chef Onno Kokmeijer of the two Michelin-star Ciel Bleu in Amsterdam.

But as it does on land, Michelin-worthy food comes at a price; these meals are served almost exclusively in first and business classes. Here's where to go for a taste of the food by the top chefs.

A first-class dish dreamed up by chef Jonnie Boer for KLM.
A first-class dish dreamed up by chef Jonnie Boer for KLM.

Jonnie Boer

Airline: KLM
Restaurant: De Librije in Zwolle, Netherlands

What our inspectors say about De Librije: Housed in a former prison, this restaurant has an inner courtyard with a lounge-style dining room crowned by a glass roof. The chef focuses on high quality ingredients, which he uses to create imaginative dishes that are full of flavor.

Onno Kokmeijer

Airline: KLM
Restaurant: Ciel Bleu in Amsterdam, Netherlands

What our inspectors say about Ciel Bleu: A chic restaurant at the top of the Okura Hotel with a superb contemporary décor and a fascinating urban panorama. Experience stylish service, delicious creative cuisine with exotic touches, a fine wine list and sunset views from the lounge.

A peek into Kaiseki master Yoshihiro Murata’s first-class menu for Singapore Airlines.
A peek into Kaiseki master Yoshihiro Murata’s first-class menu for Singapore Airlines.

Yoshihiro Murata

Airline: Singapore Airlines
Restaurant: Kikunoi Honten in Kyoto (three stars), Kikunoi Roan in Kyoto (two stars) and Kikunoi Akasaka in Tokyo (two stars).

What our inspectors are saying about Kikunoi Honten: Chef/owner Yoshihiro Murata’s ancestor was tea-server to the wife of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the feudal lord who unified 16C Japan. Established two generations ago, the restaurant is named after the well from which the water was drawn. The ‘Kakure-ume’ appetizer has ume hidden under shirako, as a metaphor for winter and spring, and expressing anticipation of the verdant season. The ‘Awabi-Isoyaki’ dish is a summer tradition, featuring awabi and uni.

Georges Blanc

Airline: Singapore Airlines
Restaurant: Georges Blanc in Vonnas, France

What our inspectors are saying about Georges Blanc: The food writer Curnonsky once dubbed Georges Blanc's grandmother the "best cook in the world.” Tradition, albeit revisited, is still the order of the day at his Vonnas restaurant. The menu offers classics such as, Bresse chicken and rich sauces prepared with the expertise of a great chef. A true gourmet experience.

Kunio Tokuoka’s light meal of rice and sea bream to be served on ANA’s first-class on flights departing Japan for Europe and North America.
Kunio Tokuoka’s light meal of rice and sea bream to be served on ANA’s first-class on flights departing Japan for Europe and North America.

Kunio Tokuoka

Airline: All Nippon Airways
Restaurant: Kitcho Arashiyama Honten in Kyoto, Japan

What our inspectors say about Kitcho Arashiyama Honten: Founder Teiichi Yuki opened this famous restaurant in 1948. Built in the style of a tea-ceremony house, each of the tatami rooms has different furnishings but all face a garden. Third-generation owner-chef Kunio Tokuoka makes one appreciate the season and the colourful layouts in harmony with the beautiful serving dishes are a veritable treat for the eyes. While preserving tradition, he is also enthusiastic about creating new tastes.


Seiji Yamamoto

Airline: Japan Airlines
Restaurant: Ryugin

What our inspectors say about Ryugin: In a play on the Chinese characters for 'cooking,’ chef/owner Seiji Yamamoto says that cooking involves the “measuring out of reason”—everything has a reason, he says, and he comes up with new dishes by analyzing and figuring out the whys. He puts hamo through a CT scan to find the optimal way to cut it. It seems like he places a lot of emphasis on theory, but is actually projecting Japanese sensibilities onto the dishes.

Régis Marcon have designed one of the four main dishes on the business-class menus that are available on board Air France flights departing from Paris.
Régis Marcon have designed one of the four main dishes on the business-class menus that are available on board Air France flights departing from Paris.

Régis Marcon

Airline: Air France
Restaurant: Régis et Jacques Marcon , Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid, France

What our inspectors are saying about Régis et Jacques Marcon: The Marcons' cuisine pays tribute to mother nature, as does the superb glazed building. Autumn is their favorite season, when they go out hunting for mushrooms in the thick undergrowth covered in a carpet of ruddy leaves. Try the local reared meat, green lentils from Puy, regional cheese and hand-picked mushrooms.

Daniel Boulud

Airline: Air France
Restaurant: Daniel, New York City

What our inspectors are saying about Daniel: The stylish façade, revolving door, sound of clinking glasses—even before you reach the dining room you feel a part of something special. This bastion of contemporary French cooking epitomizes the “special occasion,” but even those with money to burn treat it with respect. Translucent Limoges-tiled chandeliers hanging from the soaring ceiling dominate the main room. If you’re at one of the raised tables, you get to look down—literally rather than patronizingly—onto your fellow diners through neo-classical arches. Yet thanks to the personable staff, such grandeur never stifles the animated atmosphere.

The kitchen is as sophisticated as the setting and reflects an obvious classical education, yet remains free from the tyranny of tradition. Behold the slow-poached sea scallops served with purple potatoes and a burst of parsley vinaigrette. Bluenose grouper is arranged atop cauliflower purée, surrounded by crispy florets, and finished with a mussel-saffron sauce for a presentation that is as theatrical as delicious. For dessert, sample the divine "Illanka"-a dark chocolate and espelette crémeux with a blackberry-orange blossom sorbet that practically upstages the season's best fruit.

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