Beginning in December, business class passengers on ANA flights from LAX to Tokyo may be surprised when they wake, somewhere over the Pacific, to the smell of warm brioche being toasted, and then have it served to them along with scrambled eggs, Hass avocado, and applewood bacon. At dinner, those same passengers will face a tough choice—fillet of beef with peppery black chanterelle mushrooms or grouper, accompanied by an almond pistou, cranberry beans, and confit tomatoes. They may be tempted to book another flight later in the year, once they learn that from March to May the menu will include potato lasagna with forest mushrooms and halibut with baby leek and littleneck clams.
These are probably not the dishes you’d expect to find at 30,000 feet in the air and, with their western flavors, they are likely also not the ones you’d expect to find on a Japanese carrier. ANA has, however, chosen to go in an unconventional direction in its effort to bring gourmet fare to their business class service—recruiting leading chefs in the cities they serve, and letting their culinary talents take flight. When it came time to select a chef to represent Los Angeles, ANA turned to Joachim Splichal of Patina.
The relationship between ANA and Splichal dates from long before the recent venture. As Splichal explains, “I’ve been flying with ANA for the last seven years—to visit partners in Japan—and have been to Tokyo with them at least 20 times. For me the airline represents quality and hospitality. It’s a perfect pairing with Patina.”
The chance to collaborate with ANA also appealed to Splichal given the eclectic cosmopolitanism typical of both his approach to cooking and the state he calls home. “California cuisine has long been a mix of different ingredients and preparations from around the world,” says Splichal. “Residents of LA are familiar with Japanese ingredients.” The yuzu granita that is served with ahi tuna (also on his spring menu) reflects this embrace of Asian ingredients.
What ANA wanted, however, was not Splichal’s take on Japanese cuisine, but for the chef to present the very best of Los Angeles. For American travelers, it’s a final taste of familiar flavors before they embark on an adventure in Japan. For Japanese travelers returning home, Splichal’s meal provides a fitting conclusion to their trip abroad.
As a chef who has been acclaimed for his emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, and creative combinations of colors, textures, and tastes—and whose restaurant has received a Michelin star in the process—Splichal was presented with a new challenge. How would he create dishes that meet his high standards and that could be prepared in a galley kitchen at an altitude of 30,000 feet?
“We started the process in January,” Splichal says. “We developed around 40 to 50 recipes before beginning to eliminate many and refine the best. You are limited—the menu has to be streamlined and dinners have to be centered around beef, chicken, or fish. They also then have to be handed off to a catering company.”
Splichal’s approach included some noteworthy innovations. For example, his short ribs slowly cook in specially heated chambers so they are perfectly done when the time for meal service arrives. Passengers won’t face entrées zapped in a microwaved, and dried out, at dinner.
Splichal’s initial menu, which will be served on flights starting on December 1, includes a breakfast of scrambled eggs on toasted brioche with California Hass avocados and applewood smoked bacon. At lunch and dinner, passengers can choose from grouper with almond pistou, cranberry beans and confit tomatoes or beef with potatoes and black chanterelle mushrooms. “There will be two more cycles of menus,” Splichal says about the year-long partnership. “Travelers can expect lighter fare on the summer menu which will roll out around May.”
ANA has also partnered with other leading chefs in the cities the airline serves, teaming with the Regent Singapore, Four Seasons hotels in Thailand, and Shangri-La hotels in several cities in China. For more information on ANA and to book flights, visit www.ana.co.jp. For more information on Joachim Splichal and Patina, visit www.patinarestaurant.com.