It was lunchtime on a small airline and the flight attendant asked the passenger if he would like something to eat? “What are my choices?” he asked. She replied, “Yes or No.”

It’s an old joke, but to many people it’s still relevant today … depending on which airline you fly with. Personally, I’ve had some very acceptable meals with airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and Qatar Airways: but then again I’m not expecting Michelin quality food at 35,000 feet – it’s just not possible.

When looking at the culinary possibilities, though, it must be admitted that some airlines try harder than others. American Airlines, for instance, has added two new ingredients – Chef Richard Sandoval and Chef Marcus Samuelsson – to its in-flight dining programme as part of the airline’s ongoing effort to enhance and differentiate the onboard travel experience.

On October 1st 2011, American began offering signature menu items created by Chef Sandoval onboard flights between the United States and Europe, Asia and Latin America in American’s Premium Class cabins. On the same day, American launched the New American Table menu featuring original concepts by Chef Samuelsson. His offerings are available for purchase on domestic flights more than two hours in length as part of the Main Cabin dining programme.

“American revolutionized the airline industry when it first introduced original menu items from some of the world’s top chefs more than 20 years ago. Today, American continues to leverage the expertise of some of the most prominent and well-respected chefs to help define the direction of our in-flight dining experience,” said Rob Friedman, American’s vice president – marketing.

Specialising in contemporary Latin cuisine, Chef Sandoval has developed fresh and original entrees solely for American Airlines using authentic Latin ingredients and international flavours. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Sandoval gained the attention of New Yorkers with the opening of Maya, his first modern Mexican restaurant. Sandoval has been recognised as the Father of Modern Mexican Cuisine for his blend of time-honoured Mexican ingredients and modern cooking techniques that characterise Maya’s cuisine. Since the opening of Maya, Chef Sandoval has applied his mantra of “old ways, new hands” to assorted Latin concepts, ranging from Coastal Mexican Cuisine at Pampano to Latin-Asian at Zengo. He was named ‘Restaurateur of the Year’ in 2006 by Bon Appetit and today acts as Chef and Owner of Richard Sandoval Restaurants, a leading international restaurant group with more than 20 locations around the world.

Signature entrees by Chef Sandoval featured onboard American Airlines alternate monthly and include a lemongrass marinated chicken breast with yucca puree, chayote salad with a citrus sauce and halibut with truffle corn salsa and sweet potato puree.

An award-winning chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, Chef Samuelsson enables customers to experience a unique variety of tastes and cultures through his food onboard American Airlines and also as the chef/owner of the restaurant Red Rooster Harlem located in New York City.

Chef Samuelsson draws from his breadth of epicurean know-how to integrate bold flavours and new traditions into his recipes. Customers onboard American Airlines can take pleasure in his creations as part of the airline’s New American Table menu available onboard select domestic flights. Menu options rotate monthly and vary by flight time, but include a turkey and chutney sandwich – artisan-style bread spread with apple cranberry ginger chutney, topped with sliced smoked turkey breast, crisp apple slices and romaine lettuce and accompanied by Miss Vickie’s® chips; and a breakfast biscuit – a buttery buttermilk biscuit topped with smoked turkey breast, sharp cheddar cheese and sliced tomato and served with Stacy’s® cinnamon pita chips on the side.

That’s what you get when you don’t fly ‘budget’!

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