It’s not easy to eat well on airplanes. Despite the obvious disadvantages—like not possessing kitchens—most airlines settle for terribly boring, terribly ‘cooked’ plates of food that never quite feel, well, edible.
And then, of course, there are private jets.
In spite of their size, these seem to be the singular route to eat well in the sky. Over the last few years we’ve seen Cardi B chowing down on crab legs in hers, Kanye West bingeing on Chick-fil-A in his, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson sharing an enormous hand-crafted birthday cake—a gift from his flight crew—on Instagram.
According to a Page Six source, Diddy and Pharrell Williams even ordered a 35-person in-flight feast from New York’s Delicatessen restaurant in 2014, including pan-roasted salmon, kale salad, tuna tartare, shrimp-and-crab cakes and more.
A move which Diego Sabino, Vice President of Private Dining at VistaJet, says is now more common than ever.
“The nature of what we do is managing detailed requests all over the world,” he says, “and we have been on a journey to transform the private dining experience in the air — to make it something to savour.”
VistaJet now works with more than 7,000 trusted suppliers around the world to source the freshest and highest quality ingredients and dishes, but many customers have specific requests in mind before they board.
“Our customers often have favourite restaurants, whether that be those they have accumulated from their global travels, or a restaurant from their hometown which delivers a taste of nostalgia,” he continues.
One of his most memorable happened on a flight of seven, all of whom craved the pizza from a tiny, ancient spot in the Porto neighbourhood of Naples.
“On the face of it, a pizza might seem like an easily accessible meal, but to them this wasn’t like any other pizza. Everything from the water used for the dough to the richness of the tomatoes, or the fact that the place has been family run since 1870, made this pizza something of a delicacy for them,” says Sabino.
Unfortunately, the restaurant—L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele—does not offer delivery or takeaway under any circumstance. It’s so popular every pizza has to be ordered, queued for and consumed on-site.
“In the face of a nigh-on-impossible task, a member of our private dining team remembered he went to school with one of the chefs down at Da Michele—and after a short period of reminiscing, they managed to negotiate the arrival of seven pizzas to the airport, to the open arms of our clients!”
Typically catering for ultra-high-net-worth individuals, VistaJet works with over 100 of the most sought-after private chefs and Michelin-starred restaurants in the world to deliver restaurant dishes and custom, seasonal menus.
Its Private World partners include Nobu Matsuhisa, Michelin-starred chef Alex Dilling from his eponymous restaurant at Hotel Café Royal in London, the legendary Zeffirino in Genoa, the Origin Grill at the Shangri-La in Singapore, and a partnership with Taj Hotels around the world, including their Michelin-starred Chef Sriram of London’s Quilon.
When these partners are selected, food is typically prepared in the chef’s restaurant or home, par-cooked, blast-chilled, transported to the airport in refrigerated vehicles, then prepared in-flight by a VistaJet Cabin Host (all of whom are trained by the British Butler Institute and trained to plate by expert chefs in a range of cuisines).
But it’s not always about the Michelin stars.
“We had one lovely customer who was 97-years-old, and every single time she flew with us she’d ask for a tiramisu,” says Sabino. “One day I decided I was going to give my own personal tiramisu recipe to our chef. I taught him how to make it, step-by-step, based on the instructions that my grandmother had taught me.”
The chef not only made a single portion for the passenger to enjoy on her next flight, but a huge, family-sized portion for her to take home.
“I wrote a little note that explained that this was my family recipe, and how grateful I was to be able to serve it to her. As soon as she tried it, the client asked the cabin host to lend her her phone, so that she could call me immediately. She was crying. She told me that it was the most thoughtful thing that anyone had ever done for her and the finest tiramisu she’d ever had. I was thrilled!”
And it’s not just her. Sabino says the majority of VistaJet members are happy with seasonal, healthy menus—the company’s quinoa salad with avocado is a firm favorite.
Either way, whether they’re opting for fast food or fine dining, most private jet customers are enjoying quite the culinary experience.