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Dining in the sky: Inside Emirates in-flight catering

Indra Budiari

The Jakarta Post

Dubai  /  Fri, January 13, 2017  /  10:36 am
Dining in the sky: Inside Emirates in-flight catering

It takes a long journey for warm omelette and other inflight meals to reach the passengers. (shutterstock.com/Sorbis/File)

The clock almost struck 12 a.m. and I knew that I needed to go to sleep as soon as possible during a recent business class flight from Jakarta to Dubai. I had turned off the TV screen in front of me and asked for a flat bed with a mattress and blanket, but going to sleep was never as hard as it could get that night.

As I closed my eyes, I thought I was imagining the aroma of warm pastry until the famous Emirates in-flight airline food made its appearance on the aisle.

“Would you like to order something sir,” Monica, a cabin crew member, asked with a smile while handing out a dinner menu.

I was starving, and went for the sirloin steak.

I realized I was not eating at a fine dining restaurant, so I did not have high expectations about the dish. I just hoped the steak would be properly cut to ensure that the meat was tender.

As the meal arrived and I made my first cut, my tongue happily danced. The steak was tender and juicy. It was served at the right temperature along with mushroom sauce, roasted potatoes and vegetables.

Emirates offers local food on their menus to provide a personal experience to the passenger. Since I was traveling to Dubai, I was also offered various desserts including Arabic bread and an Indian treat.

Catered to you: Emirates Flight Catering offers a wide array of dishes, from steak to local dishes like Arabian bread or Indian desserts.(emiratesflightcatering.com//File)

(Read also: Why Saudi Arabia is suddenly allowing a lot more fun)

The next day, I got a chance to visit the Emirates Flight Catering facility in Dubai to get a closer look at how the company prepared the in-flight food for the airline’s passengers. “I remind you when you enter this place that most of the staffers are still working, so please try to not disrupt them,” Robert Paulus, the Emirates Flight Catering’s supply chain manager, told us when we just arrived at the facility.

The catering company is no doubt one of the largest catering facilities in the world. It prepares more than 150,000 meals every day and the number can reach as high as 210,000 meals in a single day for people traveling around the globe. The company employs more than 10,250 persons and operates a 2.55-kilometer monorail line to transport goods from one place to another. The automated transportation system is designed to transport meal carts from the vehicle-offloading bay to the dish-washing area where more than three million items are washed daily.

Spending more time here, it was easy to notice that the facility was not only cooking in the food preparation area, but there was an entire supply chain. The chain started from the receiving room where the facility received basic foods like bread, flour and meat. Paulus said while the Arabic breads were provided by a supplier, everything else served by the airline was made on site. Another part of the area was a large freezer room, where food was preserved at temperatures as low as -18 degree Celsius.

(Read also: Interesting facts about your in-flight meals)

However, despite its fascinating size, the circulation of goods in the facility was as fast as the aircraft itself.

“If you get here 12 hours later, you will find that more than 60 percent of these goods are being processed and are no longer here,” Paulus said while walking through the storage area where thousands of goods were delivered daily.

We also got the chance to meet Emirates pastry chef Peter Boos, who was experimenting for a new dessert for the menu. Peter said he always loved experimenting with desserts for his department and he believed that there was no limit for new kinds of food.

Joost Heymeijer, who is responsible for more than 100 million meals served at the airlines per year, said the airline company also takes the extra measure, such as when planes are delayed or when they experience turbulence, to make sure that the food quality is maintained.

“When the plane is delayed, we always supervise the quality and temperature. If we have turbulence, the food will be prepared individually, so we can serve it in an organized way even after turbulence,” he said.

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