Eating Well at 30,000 Feet

Photo by Frank Brownie via

I don’t know about you, but I have enough trouble finding good restaurants when I go out to eat locally. (I know I wouldn’t be saying that in New York City, but that’s because there are SO many to choose from!) Bill and I have a few reliable favorites–Everyday People Cafe, The Green Well, and Salt of the Earth–but most places in West Michigan still aren’t offering what they could in grassfed or pastured meats and locally sourced ingredients.

When we take long roadtrips, we have our routine down for eating lunch: We pack our own from home. But what about air travel?

One way to deal with it is to fly direct on short flights and eat at home before departure, but that only works if you’re on a short flight with no connections.

And if you’re a business traveler on a return trip, the advice I’m going to share probably won’t help much. But with airlines now providing no food, or processed food at a cost, and the airports capitalizing on our famished stomachs, it seems we’re at the mercy of the segment of the restaurant industry that isn’t focused on local, sustainable food sources.

Michelle Higgins from The New York Times can help. She consulted with a number of chefs about what they would bring onboard. Here’s some advice for your next flight.

Freeze It

  • Chef Josh Capon of Lure Fishbar brings shrimp cocktail onboard. He freezes the shrimp and packs them in a plastic container, along with separate two-ounce to-go cups of sauce that can clear security. “By the time you get to the airport and go through security,” he said, they will be ready to eat.
  • Freezing meats and cheese will make them last longer.
  • Melissa d’Arabian of the Food Network freezes Go-Gurt and YoPlait yogurt and has no problem getting them through security she says because “they can fit in the required one-quart zip-top plastic bag for security.”

Heat With Hot Water

  • For a hot meal, you can pack cooked pasta, grated cheese (in a separate plastic bag) and some chopped vegetables. This is what Melissa d’Arabian does onboard: “I ask the flight attendant for half a cup of tea water. I pour it over my pasta, close it up and let it sit for a minute or two and drain it back into the cup. Now my pasta is warm.” Add the veggies and cheese and you’ve got a real meal in coach.

Pack a Picnic

  • You can pack a whole grain salad such as quinoa or tabbouleh, in a container with olive oil or dressing at the bottom. Once onboard, simply shake it all up.
  • Marco Porceddu, executive chef for Asellina, suggests bringing a sandwich made with crusty bread, charcuterie and a little olive oil.
  • To save space and seal in any sandwich juices, wrap your sandwich in plastic wrap first, followed by aluminum foil, recommends Mr. Capon. Grapes, carrot sticks with hummus, and vegetable-based sushi like California rolls are also a staple.
Stash Healthy Snacks
  • Stick to a formula of “protein plus complex carbs” for in-flight meals. Melissa d’Arabian carries raw unsalted almonds at all times, which can be combined with a fruit cup for a healthy snack.

Eat Before You Go

  • Eric Ripert, executive chef and an owner of Le Bernardin in New York, avoids airline food  altogether by eating before he gets to the airport. If he’s pressed for time he seeks out the best option at the airport. “I know where Wolfgang Puck Express is in L.A.,” he said, referring to Mr. Puck’s restaurant outpost at Los Angeles International Airport. Since he travels frequently he knows his way through the airports.
Grab and Go
  • Cesare Casella, the executive chef and a partner at Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto, flies frequently so he take burrata, an Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream, onboard. “By the time I start to eat it, the burrata is the perfect temperature, especially on skinny Tuscan bread, toasted,” he said.

2 responses to “Eating Well at 30,000 Feet

  1. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing.

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