Flying First Class may be expensive but once you get to have a peek behind the scenes of what goes behind First Class meal preparation and conceptualisation, then it’s easier to understand and know just exactly what sets First Class apart from business, premium economy, and economy.
As more people become savvy travellers, most passengers nowadays base their purchasing decisions on the flight experience rather than price.
Food is one of the greatest factors in making or breaking passenger experience with an airline.
I was invited to have a peek behind the scenes and see first hand how Qantas prepares their First Class Menu at the Qantas Service of Excellence Centre in Alexandria.
Chef Neil Perry of the award-winning Rockpool Group of Restaurants spearheads Qantas’ First Class Menus.
The Rockpool Consulting Team (Ms Terry Higgins , Chefs Roger Barstow & Aaron Bannister) treated us to an afternoon of First Class Menu awareness and a tasting menu for their First Class Autumn Menu. (01 March – 31 May, on flights from Sydney & Melbourne to the USA and Dubai).
One of the first dishes served was the Roast Duck & Egg Noodle Salad With Black Funghi, Cucumber, Sesame, Ginger & Shallot Dressing.
The combination of flavours were quite tangy and definitely a kick!
Whilst preparing the meals in front of us , I found out that Chef Roger Barstow took care of Ellen Degeneres and her team’s menu when they flew Qantas from the US to Sydney. Not only were the First Class meals for Ms Degeneres (and Portia de Rossi) Vegan, but they were Gluten Free too.
And this is the thing that still astounds me – It takes 11 months to prepare a Qantas First Class Menu.
This includes recipe and menu development and conceptualisation, trimming this down, then tested in controlled environments to ensure they can be translated into the catering centres around the world and on board.
The highlight of the tasting menu for me was the steak. Also known by its full name of: Rockpool Bar & Grill style Cape Grim Beef Fillet with Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin, Garlic Mushrooms and Horseradish Relish.
I’m not a big fan of beef but this steak was done so beautifully. Each slice goes very beautifully with just a smidgen of the horseradish sauce.
One thing that sets the Qantas First Class Menu apart is their usage of seasonal produce. Depending on the season, Qantas First Class passengers will be treated to a dish that is normally not on the menu.
For this season, that dish is :
Pan Fried Moreton Bay Bugs with Herb Butter, Shaved Fennel, Asparagus and Orange Salad
This will be available for all First Class passengers (from Melbourne/Sydney to USA / Dubai) travelling until 18 March 2015.
This was the absolute highlight for me (I am still a seafood girl through and through!) and lucky for me (and you), Rockpool has shared the recipe for this:
PAN FRIED MORETON BAY BUGS WITH HERB BUTTER, SHAVED FENNEL, ASPARAGUS AND ORANGE SALAD
This simple salad relies heavily on the quality of the Moreton bay bugs. The bugs are named after Moreton Bay which is 14km off the coast of Brisbane. They’re prized for their taste and texture which is akin to other crustaceans i.e. lobster, langoustine, prawns.
You can find Moreton Bay Bugs at your local fish market and even at some specialty grocers. It’s worth making a big batch of herb butter and keeping the left over in the freezer. Add a spoonful whenever you’re pan frying a piece of fish or grilling a steak for instance flavour.
Pan fried Moreton Bay Bugs
6 Moreton Bay Bugs
2 Tbsp of Olive Oil
Pinch of Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
Shaved Fennel Salad
1 bunch of green asparagus
1 large orange
1 medium sized bulb of fennel
4 red baby radishes
¼ cup of picked chervil
1½ Tbsp of olive oil
1½ Tbsp of orange juice, freshly squeezed
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
250g of butter, room temperature
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp of parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp of dill, finely chopped
1 Tbsp of chives, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Shaved Fennel Salad
Remove the woody ends of the asparagus and cut in half, on a diagonal, lengthways. Cook asparagus in a small saucepan of boiling water for 2.5 minutes, strain and transfer asparagus to a bowl of ice water. This will stop the asparagus cooking any further, ensuring that it still has some crunch.
To prepare the orange segments, first cut a slice off either end. Next, trim away the skin and pith. Remove the orange segments over a bowl to catch any juices.
Thoroughly rinse fennel with cold water. Trim away the green stalks, keep these if you’re making soup or stock, otherwise discard. Thinly slice fennel on a mandolin, starting at the top and working around the core. Discard core. Immediately toss and store sliced fennel with prepared orange. This will prevent the fennel discolouring.
Thoroughly rinse baby radishes. Trim the tail and thinly slice on a mandolin.
Pick small sprigs of chervil, avoiding any yellow leaves.
You can store all the prepared salad ingredients together but toss together with the orange vinaigrette just before serving.
Strain orange juice to remove any seeds and coarse pulp. Whisk in olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper.
Having the butter at room temperature will make mixing a whole lot easier. Once you’ve picked and chopped your herbs, finely minced the garlic and grated the lemon zest; combine with soft butter. If you’re preparing a large batch and using an electric mixer, use the paddle attachment rather than a whisk.
Pan Fried Moreton Bay Bugs and plating
Toss shaved fennel salad with orange vinaigrette. Plate the salad before starting to grill the bugs.
Pre-heat a pan over high heat. Add olive oil and sear the bugs for 2 minutes, until golden. Before turning bugs over, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Flip the bugs over and cook for a further minute. Move the pan off the heat and add a heaped tablespoon of the herb butter. Place the bugs on top of the salad and pour over all the juices from the pan.
*This First Class Autumn Menu from Qantas will be available on flights departing from Melbourne and Sydney to the USA and Dubai until 31 May*