How Singapore Airlines Now Serves Fresh Fish on the World’s Longest Flight | WSJ

How Singapore Airlines Now Serves Fresh Fish on the World’s Longest Flight | WSJ
Singapore Airlines operates the world’s longest flight, during which passengers can now get fish. It might sound risky, but it’s fresher than you might expect. Singapore’s Food and Beverage Director Antony McNeil explains how and why he brought trout to travelers plates.

(soft intro music)
– [Antony] What we have here is the Hudson Valley Fisheries
cold smoked steelhead trout.
– [Narrator] The site of fish on a plane
might be worrying for some,
especially on a flight that’s going to last 19 hours
– [Antony] Just layering this up nicely.
– [Narrator] But not for Antony McNeil.
– [Antony] I’m okay with it
because the product’s super fresh.
It’s super tasty.
– [Narrator] A chef with a background in hospitality,
McNeil is now
the Food and Beverage Director for Singapore Airlines
where he oversees the creation of the 280 unique dishes
the airline offers each month.
– So that’s our first class salad.
– [Narrator] But how does this smoke trout salad
get to this tray table exactly?
McNeil is here to explain the logistics
behind flying this fish and how he uses it
to create a recipe
made for some of the world’s longest flights.
Singapore Airlines operates four ultra-long haul routes,
including two 19 hour trips
from JFK, or Newark, to Singapore.
Getting food prepared for these long journeys
is no small feat.
– [Antony] From Newark to Singapore,
we feature around 450, 460 different meal combinations
from the meals which are supplied on board.
So whether it be the starter,
the three, four choices
that you have for the main course option,
desserts, dinner, cheese.
So this is Singapore Airlines’
first class caviar service.
– [Narrator] Sourcing the ingredients for these options
is a balance of both timing and taste.
This salad tells that story.
First, timing.
To see why McNeil calls this steelhead trout fresh,
it’s best to look at a map.
This is John F. Kennedy Airport.
This is Newark.
Both have daily Singapore Airlines flights
that carry trout raised here at Hudson Valley Fisheries.
The fish farm is located about 130 miles from each airport.
– [Antony] Some catering partners or suppliers
may fly the steelhead trout from Norway or from Chile.
So you’re talking
three and a 3,500 miles to 5,000 miles
from these points of destination into the country.
– [Narrator] McNeil estimates that journey
could add days to the fish’s total transit time.
Whereas, the trout from the Hudson Valley
doesn’t have to fly to fly.
– [Antony] And again, very simply,
we’re just gonna layer that into the salad.
– [Narrator] The trout used in this dish,
which McNeil is assembling in a test kitchen,
goes from tank to plane in under a week.
It’s first harvested at the farm
and sent to a smokehouse nearby.
After that, it’s sliced and packaged,
which is when the clock
for Singapore Airlines really begins.
– [Antony] It’s sent off
to our catering partners in JFK and Newark.
So within receipt of the goods into the catering facility,
generally, you would see that flying onboard the aircraft
within 24, 36 hours of that product
arriving from Hudson Valley Fisheries.
Topping this off with a spicy watercress.
– [Narrator] The greens used in this salad
are on the plate in even less time,
around 24 hours from when they’re harvested.
That’s because they come from AeroFarms,
an indoor vertical farm in Newark,
less than five miles from the airport.
– [Antony] We’re really maximizing
the freshness and the closeness of the supply
to the finished plate.
I’m just gonna finish that off, around, and over the salad.
– [Narrator] But getting the ingredients to the plane
is only part of the process.
Next, is taste.
– [Antony] We’re just gonna take the trout
and we’re just going to pull it and so that it flakes.
– [Narrator] Creating a travel ready recipe
is different from building a restaurant ready meal,
because it’s being served in a pressurized cabin,
which changes how passengers taste and feel when they eat.
Take the smoke steelhead, for example.
Singapore Airlines worked with Hudson Valley Fisheries
to get the flavor right for flight.
– [Antony] When we initially reviewed the steelhead trout,
the feedback that we gave the team
was that it was slightly too salty for our needs.
– [Narrator] Salt is something
airlines tend to load up on to give food more flavor,
because travelers taste buds dull in the arid, dry plane.
But too much salt can also lead to dehydration,
making for an uncomfortable trip.
So the flavor comes from elsewhere.
– [Antony] This is the dressing.
So this is a tomato vinaigrette with a ras el hanout spice.
So the tomato is giving us some umami flavor
and then the ras el hanout
will give us a little bit of heat.
– [Narrator] Of course,
McNeil isn’t the one assembling travelers’ meals.
Once the recipes are set,
they’re given to airport catering companies to prepare.
– They’re detailed line-by-line.
Each ingredients clearly identified
where the weight requirement
and we have a photograph depending on the cabin class
that you’re flying for the caterers to work to
in terms of, you know,
where to put what ingredients and sauces where.
– [Narrator] Meals could be dished
six to eight hours ahead of the flight,
after which they are held in chilling fridges
before being put on carts and lifted onto the plane.
From there, the crew is given plating instructions.
– Now this is on a first class plate.
– [Narrator] The order of the ingredients,
radicchio, beetroot leaves, trout, radishes,
and their placement on the plate are all predetermined.
– [Antony] Here we have the roasted beetroot puree.
Just add that in at the end of the dish.
– [Narrator] Properly plated, the meal is ready to eat.
And that chain that started in the Hudson Valley
is finally finished somewhere at 30,000 feet.

 

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