Nasty. Inedible. No, thank you. These words and phrases are often equated with airline food. If you're lucky to actually be offered any food on an airplane. But Alaska Airlines is slowly turning their airplanes into Seattle restaurants in the sky. Their cheese plate includes Beecher's Flagship and a Seattle Chocolates Truffle, there's a burger dressed with Skillet's prized Bacon Jam, and fancy flyers can sip on Chateau Ste. Michelle wine.
Never one to miss a dinner party, Tom Douglas has created a flight-friendly meal for Alaska that he's designed to withstand over-cooking and to combat high altitude hunger.
"My biggest concern about airplane food is that if I crash somebody's going to say, 'What was his last meal?' And it's going to be who-knows-what in gray gravy with gray vegetables. So this is my opportunity to make my last meal better," he cracks.
Alaska describes Douglas' Cascade Brisket Chili as "tender, smoky chunks of brisket in a mildly spicy ancho chile tomato sauce. It's topped with melted cheese and a charred [padron] pepper, served over a baked Yukon Gold potato." The dish is available on flights longer than 2.5 hours departing Seattle after 9:30 am and costs $8.
But most important of all, does the food taste good? What chef would want to put their name on an airline meal, knowing it will most likely bomb? Armed with low expectations and the courage to criticize, Eater met up with Douglas for a taste test. Alaska Airlines personally dropped off two plastic bowls, covered in foil, just like it's served in the air, and Douglas threw them in the oven to heat.
The verdict: the chili is good. Really good. Better than anything I've tasted in an airplane. The meat is shockingly tender, the sauce bright and flavorful and the potato comforting and creamy. Lick the bowl clean good. Douglas says this isn't the last you'll taste from him.
"In January, to Hawaii, we start red miso glazed chicken with garlic fried rice and sesame carrots. I tested a cold salmon, like a salmon Niçoise plate with them, and they like it so we're going to try and get that on. We've tested some oatmeal, for breakfast, and some new omelettes."
Oh, and if you think the words 'chili' and 'airplane' don't belong in the same sentence:
"It's no beans so you don't have to worry about that on the airplane."