Sneak Peek at the New Catering from American Airlines!

The LSG Sky Chefs building near DFW Airport didn’t look at all like I imagined as I pulled into the parking lot.  I double-checked the text message with the address and it turns out I was in the right place.  I walked into the building and approached a security officer, looking confused.  He asked “American Airlines event?”  I said “Yessir,” and he pointed down the hallway to my left.  The first face I saw was one of my favorite people in the world, who also happens to work at American Airlines.  She was all smiles and welcomed me as she handed me my Media badge.

Where was I?  At an exclusive sneak peek of American Airlines’s new domestic catering!

A select group of media were present (including a few BoardingArea bloggers) along with some of American Airlines’s most loyal customers, among them some personal friends.  Before us lay an amazing spread of new food items that you will start seeing in domestic and transcontinental First Class on July 1st.  The entrees will not be rolled out on all routes at once so you may not see your favorite item quite yet, but all items will eventually make their way through the network.

The event began with a quick briefing (making us aware of the official hashtag, you can search #goingforgreat on Twitter and Instagram for more pics from the event) and then Fern Fernandez, VP of Global Marketing for American Airlines, addressed the crowd.  With him were a number of American Airlines executives covering everything from inflight services to Flagship lounges.  Fern spoke honestly about American’s “missteps” in catering and was excited to premier the new catering options for us.  Saying that a “great experience in the sky starts here on the ground,” he emphasized that in addition to new food items all pursers were being cycled through Dallas for more training.

American Airlines Food

Fern Fernandez, American Airlines

As he was speaking, a few servers were walking around with trays of champagne.  We all grabbed a glass and joined Fern in a toast to the new items.  Then we got down to business, with pictures and interviews galore!  American Airlines said that all entrees were in flight-ready state and hadn’t had anything added just for the event.

(a special touch for the event was a lightbox for people to take well-lit pictures of the new entrees, as a photographer I really appreciated the extra light)

Wine

I first made my way over to the wine area where Ken Chase, American’s long-time wine consultant, was pouring glasses for everyone and walking them through zee flavours.  I had been to a wine tasting he did like 8 years ago and remember it like it was yesterday.  Ken’s a ball of energy with a passion for wine and it shows.  He knows his stuff and explains it in a way that doesn’t come off pretentious or snooty in any way.  Inevitably when he pours you a glass and explains it to you you’ll likely end up with a new favorite wine.

Ken Chase describing one of the new wines

Ken Chase describing one of the new wines

American Airlines Food

Domaine Rene Lequin-Colin Clos Devant Chassagne-Montrachet

American Airlines Food

Aaldering Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Stellenbosch

Here are the new wines, available July 1st.

American Airlines Food

International First Class

American Airlines Food

International Business/Transcontinental First Class

Flagship Lounge

Per American’s handout they distributed, they’ll start offering new snacks in the Flagship Lounges starting in mid-July.  They’ve taken a regional approach, with new snacks from around the world.

South America:
Peruvian Causa Yellow Potato
West Coast Dungeness Crab
Aji Amarillo
Basil
Cilantro Oil

American Airlines Food

South American Flagship Lounge Snack

American Airlines Food

South American Flagship Lounge snack

Europe:
Ricotta whipped with Lemon and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Ciabatta Crostini

American Airlines Food

European Flagship Lounge snack

American Airlines Food

European Flagship Lounge snack

Asia:
Cool Sesame Soba Noodles
Chicken Satay

Ok, full disclosure here, I didn’t get a good picture of the satay, it was out of focus.  I’ve since given my camera a stern talking to and I don’t expect it to happen again.  Gary Leff from View from the Wing was also there and succeeded where I failed, here’s the link to his post, complete with satay pics.

North America:
Classic All American Macaroni and Cheese Fritter

American Airlines Food

North American Flagship Lounge snack

(as a clarifying point, these snacks should be available at every Flagship Lounge, the regions I note are where the food comes from, not where it will be served)

My favorite?  The mac and cheese fritter.  It was flavorful and surprisingly light.  While some mused about the need for a meal in the lounge, I agree with American’s approach here, it looks like they want to give you just enough food (and variety, for that matter) to tide you over until your flight.

Transcontinental First Class

The transcontinental market (JFK-LAX, for example) is one of the most competitive markets in the air, with American, United, and Delta all going head-to-head.  American is trying to set itself apart from the pack, especially as United just announced a recent revision of their catering to good reviews.

Sam Choy, a chef, restaurateur and TV personality, helped American revise their menu for this important market.  Here’s what we saw.

Appetizers

Spicy Crab with Sushi Rice, avocado, and Wasabi Aioli

American Airlines Food

Spicy Crab Appetizer

Burrata Cheese with Oregano and Capers (didn’t get a good pic of this, reference Gary’s post from earlier)

Edamame Hummus with Toasted Garlic Baguette (wasn’t available for tasting today)

Entrees

Beef Oscar
with crab, asparagus, bearnaise sauce and smashed potatoes

American Airlines Food

Beef Oscar

Steamed Sea Bass
with Soy Glaze and Ginger Cilantro Pesto Rice

American Airlines Food

Steamed Sea Bass

Lobster Risotto
with shaved Brussels sprouts, lemon oil and parmesan crisp

American Airlines Food

Lobster Risotto

Wagyu Meatloaf
with Sriracha ketchup, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and candied onions

American Airlines Food

Wagyu Meatloaf

American Airlines Food

Wagyu Meatloaf

American Airlines Food

Wagyu Meatloaf

Pan Roasted Coconut Lime Chicken
with olives and garlic mashed potatoes

American Airlines Food

Pan Roasted Coconut Lime Chicken

Turmeric Paneer
with red Tikka curry, jeera rice and roasted two-color cauliflower

American Airlines Food

Turmeric Paneer

Some summer seasonal vegetables will be available as well.

My favorite was definitely the Wagyu meatloaf.  While I’m not sure how much of the meat is actually Wagyu I thought it was very flavorful and the mashed potatoes were excellent.

What I noticed most is that American was reducing the number of heavy sauces that currently plagues its premium menus.  I also asked Chef Choy about the steak and he said it’d be a marked improvement over what is being served now.

Domestic First Class

This is one that I was looking forward to, since I fly domestic First way more often than transcontinental First.

Yes, they started us out with mixed nuts as a starter (it made me feel like I was on a flight).

The entrees looked great!

Beef Filet
with lobster mac n’ cheese

American Airlines Food

Beef Filet

American Airlines Food

Beef Filet

American Airlines Food

Beef filet sample serving

Shrimp & Grits

American Airlines Food

Shrimp & Grits

American Airlines Food

Shrimp and grits sample serving

American Airlines Food

Shrimp & Grits

Lasagna

American Airlines Food

Lasagna

Lentil Chili
with polenta cakes

(dang it, the picture was out of focus here too, sorry)

Asian Slaw Salad
with teriyaki chicken

American Airlines Food

Asian Slaw Salad

American Airlines Food

Asian Slaw Salad

For dessert, they’re switching to a premade salted chocolate caramel sundae

American Airlines Food

Premade sundae

My favorite was definitely the beef filet.  The lobster mac was fantastic and I was so excited to have a medium rare cut of meat.  Time will tell as to whether or not that can be replicated in the air but on the ground it was excellent.

So, what did I think?

American has something special here.  Many noticed a downturn in catering after the merger with US Airways and American heard the feedback and did something about it.  They’re emphasizing lighter foods with fewer heavy sauces and I think they pulled it off well…on the ground.

There are many wild cards that can affect catering.  As an example, American said they use 68 different kitchens in North America alone!  Not to mention that it can be catered properly, loaded onto the plane properly, but a rushed flight attendant can shortchange the plating and affect the meal.  Or, since all of the food must be reheated on board, items like the Wagyu meatloaf could come out dry as a sponge if overcooked.

Time will ultimately tell.  I will say this: if American can pull off in the air what they did on the ground, its passengers are in for a treat.  The hashtag for the event was #goingforgreat and American had some truly great entrees.

The food was great, but the part of the event that I liked the most was after we all had a chance to sample the entrees Fern Fernandez asked the loyal American customers what they thought.  It seems like they really took the feedback to heart, and I love seeing when mega-corporations listen to their customers like that.

So, what do you think?

[Disclosure: American had a gift bag for us as we left with a bottle of red wine in it.  I accepted the gift but in no way did it affect any opinions here]

6 Comments

  1. Going to have to second your comment at the end, its will be the FAs and the oven temp/time which will determine if the new meals will be better. I almost always go for the steak when in international J, and 85% of the time it has come out dry and tasteless. I know most FAs like to err on the side of caution and have the steak more well done than rare. Then again I did have the beef tenderloin on a recent LHR-JFK flight. It was rare, just the way I like it; however, the center was cold as ice. Sadly, it made the entire tenderloin inedible.

    I am happy that they are moving forward with the meal salads. Was the teriyaki chicken served warmed or chilled? What was the dressing for the salad?

    I do love the new selection of wines. Im a sucker for a good cab.

    Lastly, booooo to the sundae. I loved the “make your own” dessert option with the ice cream. Im not a huge fan of caramel. Just my two-cents.

    Reply
    • I was a bit bummed about the sundae as well, but the improvement in the entree will I think make up for the “give me everything and a lot of it” sundaes that I typically order.

      Reply
    • Food allergies were not taken into consideration when creating this new menu. There are fish, mushrooms or nuts in almost every dish ruling out eating at all for many folks like myself who have various food allergies! I fly first or business class more than once a month and opt out of American whenever possible because of this as I shouldn’t have to brown bag it when paying thousands to fly first/business class. Sort of funny their amazing Sundae’s were one of the things most people I know looked forward to during the flight and now it’s been replaced by the worst tasting ice cream. I know it’s hard for the 10% foodie population that not everyone is into eating weird combinations and by-products but most people would be appreciative to while they’re stuck in a plane on the air to have enough options to not have to starve mid air. This is without mentioning our kid whom we pay full fare for in first/business class can’t eat anything on these menus. British Airways, Air France, and Lufthansa seems to have figured it out and always serve amazing meals and desserts.

      Reply
      • Leslie, I agree with your sentiment. Previously when there were special dietary meals it typically ended up just being lots of fruits/vegetables, since there’s no gluten or nuts. What I can appreciate from this unveil was American’s introduction of Lentil Chili as a vegetarian option. I’ve since spoken with numerous folks who have had the chili and they prefer it even when provided with non-vegetarian options!

        As in all things I try to look at steps being taken rather than the end result, there’s just not a ton of speed to decisions like this. Have you contacted Customer Relations? I’m sure your feedback would be very valuable to them, especially given your spending profile.

        Reply
  2. Looks like a nice improvement. I can’t wait to start serving these new items to our customers! Efilon87, I promise not to overcook your steak. Andy Luten, I believe the premade sundae is on regular domestic flights, while Transcon and International will continue to have the create-your-own-sundae product. AA is spending over 2 billion to improve our customer’s service experience (in the Admirals Clubs, International Premium ticketed passenger clubs, better food and wine, improvements to the entire airport experience, enhancements to Business and FC seats, more WiFi equipped planes, more entertainment options onboard, etc. Of course, in addition to the 2 billion dollar enhancements listed above, other money has been shorn up for a new fleet of aircraft – the youngest U.S. fleet by 2017. Although one can never please everybody, and there will be kinks to work out as these new programs are rolled out, I’m very excited to be part of the American Airlines team right now.
    Chris
    DFW- Safety Instructor and Flight Attendant

    Reply
    • Thanks for chiming in Chris! I’m looking forward to trying the new items in-flight.

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 2015 Combined AA/US Domestic Meals - menu / photos / etc. (Consolidated) - Page 100 - FlyerTalk Forums - […] those options in transcon F look pretty incredible. Also pictures in this blog post. Looks like even…
  2. A321 Transcon / 321T / "32B" 3 class began service Jan 2014 (consolidated) - Page 139 - FlyerTalk Forums - […] seems to be part of the new menu for the Transcon First cabin. If domestic FC had a similar…

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