Binu Krishnan, executive chef at LSG Sky Chefs, from New Zealand, with insides of the international flight catering.

Today you are the Executive Chef with LSG Sky Chefs in New Zealand. Where did all begin / when did you decide to become a chef?

It all started from love for food, a direct impact of my mother’s amazing cooking. Further to that, growing up in a city that boasted of a multicultural environment, created a sense of curiosity and excitement in wanting to know more about various ethnic cuisines and techniques of home cooking. My passion and curiosity drove me to educate myself in the field of culinary. From there on my journey has been more about focussing on learning and exploring the culinary world. I believe the title Executive Chef is part of my growth as a chef.

Which cooking school did you visit?

I completed my Hotel Management and Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) from Merit Swiss Asian School of hotel management, India. Following which I chose to specialise in food production.

Today you have more than 15 years’ experience with international flight catering. What makes this flight catering segment so special to work for as a chef?

Airline catering is a demanding operation. We have airlines from various parts of the world working towards delighting passengers with their individual inflight experiences. With multiple airlines, often flying same sectors, increases demand for culinary excellence due to competition. This then creates an exciting space for the chefs to be innovative in meeting customer expectations. Success of an airline catering is to build a team of staff from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, whose expertise and skills assist in the delivery of quality and authentic food catering to an international market. As a chef, it’s the excitement of working around extensive range of products, cuisine and the fast-paced environment.

The international flight catering has changed a lot over the years and is getting more and more sophisticated and competitive. What are the latest trends at the flight catering today?

The complexities are vast in airline catering. Airline catering is gradually moving away from classical food to fusion food mainly for premium cabins. There is also a huge focus on ethnic authenticity based on the destination and origin of the airline.
Many airlines are engaging celebrity chefs from various regions to design their inflight meals with the goal of adding sophistication and branding to their on-board meal services.
A lot of the airlines are also currently focusing on sustainably sourced produce which is challenging due to the cost as well as the volumes of consumption. Despite this, there is definitely a noticeable drive and greater initiative towards a sustainable future.
With the current fleet of aircrafts designed and capable of operating long-range flights with an approximate flight time ranging from 16 to 18 hours; many airlines are looking at designing food with added health benefits. The aim is to provide a holistic experience wherein the menu is designed to provide nourishment needed for the body, so that the customers feel more invigorated, despite having to travel for long hours.
Airlines are also providing various services such as dining experience on board which is moving away from a traditional tray service to more of a restaurant dining service. Customers can also pre-book a meal of their choice from the airline’s website which is different to the inflight meal.

As a chef in flight catering, do you have any space/ freedom for your own creations?

Absolutely! There is a lot of opportunity and potential for innovation in an airline catering menu design. Some of the airlines stipulate and/or provide us with a pre-designed menu. However, most of the airlines are open to suggestions and innovative dishes which can add value to their customer experience.

Fusion cuisine plays a bigger role today. How does this topic reflect your work as chef at the flight catering?

Future of culinary is about innovation and chefs are constantly pushing their boundaries in terms of skills, techniques and bringing together various flavours from diverse backgrounds. Nevertheless, in a production environment there is a lot of limitations as food safety is the number one priority. Customers, as in the airlines, do encourage fusion dishes to feature on their flight, provided there is no impact on food safety.

How would you describe your culinary line today?

Working in a large operation which is logistically inclined, and whilst the culinary is paramount; there are other factors that are equally significant. My current role demands more of a strategic focus and planning and hence at times, I do miss being involved hands on in the kitchen.

When I do miss it, I compensate by cooking a nice meal for my friends and family at home.
The most important aspect of my job that is most definitely satisfying, is to be able to work with my Team of highly skilled, competent and motivated Chefs. This is a two-way process whereby I am able to guide and assist them through my expertise and knowledge and on the other hand I get to keep abreast with any new learnings in the area of culinary from them.