Complimentary meals in economy class are scarce these days and when they are served, they often bear the brunt of jokes. In premium cabins, however, airlines tend to invest a little bit more and one airline is offering a unique experience for passengers traveling in business or first class.
This past Saturday, I flew Singapore Airlines from New York's John F. Kennedy International
Airport to Frankfurt in business class and was able to test out the airline's "Book the Cook" option.
The service allows you to order your main course before you fly from a list of premium dishes designed by the airline's extensive list of gourmet chefs.
My JFK to Frankfurt flight served dinner and the airline's website offered the following entree selections in advance:
- Baked Chilean bass in XO sauce
- Braised short ribs of beef
- Grilled shrimps and scallops
- Pan-fried chicken in green peppercorn sauce
- Pan-fried fillet of beef in three peppercorn sauce
- Roast rack of lamb with natural jus
- Roasted seabass with wilted spinach
- Stir-fried chicken in Chinese wine
I've been flying for 30 years and this is the first time I was allowed to order a gourmet meal in advance with my premium seat.
It's an impressive selection and offers a greater variety than the three or four items typically found on the in-flight menu. Shortly before pushback from the gate, a flight attendant confirmed my choice of pan-fried chicken in green peppercorn sauce.
Passengers are offered the option to switch to one of the other menu items available on the flight if you aren't feeling keen to your reserved selection, subject to availability. While the four choices on the in-flight menu looked quite good and were different from the pre-order items, I stuck with my reserved meal. It ended up being the best chicken dish I've ever had onboard a flight.
The standard appetizer catered for the flight preceded my selection and was equally enjoyable — marinated prawn with seared tuna loin and mesclun. Service was completed with a round of ice cream or cheese cake and a selection of cheese and fruit.
"Book the Cook" options have to be reserved more than 24-hours in advance and are available on Singapore's flights departing from Amsterdam, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York (JFK and Newark), San Francisco, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei and Tokyo (Narita and Haneda).