The global private jet provider VistaJet has a whole department dedicated to dining aboard their aircraft. They recently launched the “Chairmans Menu” which takes the culinary experience to an even higher level. Here’s a look at the food and drink on offer, and how they go about providing it at 40,000 feet.
The VistaJet Private Dining team has 22 people, based between 3 offices in London, New York and Hong Kong. Members of this team have backgrounds in high-end food establishments and an extensive knowledge of international cuisine. SherpaReport recently met with Vice President of Private Dining, Diego Sabino, who heads up this group, and Louisa Leung the Private Dining Manager in the New York office. The team coordinates with outside caterers and restaurants to supply the food on the VistaJet fleet of over 70 aircraft. Just having a team this large, dedicated to Private Dining, is a sign of how seriously VistaJet takes its service levels.
Once the food and drink are on the aircraft it’s up to the cabin hostesses to do the final preparation and presentation. All the cabin crew are trained by the British Butler Institute and certified level 2 in wines and spirits. They also have extensive training in food preparation and service. The cabin crew also have their own internal online forums, where they share ideas on training and presentation.
Orders and Catering
The private dining menus are all available in the VistaJet phone app, but most clients prefer to speak with their dedicated customer experience manager, as they like to make small changes to the food options. From 2019 the options will include suggestions for vegan, vegetarian, seasonal, gluten free, the “Chairmans Menu” (see below) in addition to custom orders.
For clients in the VistaJet membership (jet card type) Program, a customer experience manager sets up an interview at the start of the membership and walks through all the client’s food and drink preferences, their likes and dislikes. Having this client profile makes it a lot easier to plan for their trips, and ensure the right dining options are ready and available.
While VistaJet has a very international client base, all the food ordering is done in English to minimize any language or cultural issues. Even then there are the classic cultural differences between English spoken on either side of the Atlantic, but with their international staff, and client knowledge VistaJet aims to limit any language slips. Even if the client orders too little, the team will advise clients to order more and may just put more on the plane to make sure they have some options.
Some of the world’s leading executive aviation caterers, renowned restaurants and private chefs supply the food. When selecting these partners, Diego Sabino does his due diligence, including looking into where the caterer sources their meat, fish, produce and vegetables.
VistaJet flys to hundreds of airports around the globe. At some airports, there might not be a caterer who meets the right standards, so the dining team ferry the food to the location ready for the outbound flight. In other cases, at certain airports, specific caterers have the unique “certification” to serve that airport, so the VistaJet team have to get creative and work harder to obtain food of the right standard.
The company provides a menu tailored for each and every VistaJet customer, on each and every VistaJet flight. In other words, the menu is extremely bespoke – to the extent that VistaJet will create an item to match your preferences. For VistaJet Program members this is all included in their hourly rate, and for charter customers the catering is charged at cost. Diego noted that on average VistaJet spends $210 per person across all their flights, although this can go up to $500 on long distance flights.
“Healthy food is the most common order – fruit, vegetables, (cold pressed) green juice – a lot of vegetable based meals,” said Diego Sabino. For clients flying out of London one of the signature meals includes Char-grilled Poussin Breast on Toast with Creamed Morels to start, followed by Sea Bass Provençal and a dessert of Rhubarb Parfait.
But it’s not necessarily all haute cuisine, VistaJet will provide whatever the client would like. Some people just ask for very specific food in places where it is not typically available. In the latter case VistaJet will supply this if they can order early enough in advance. One simple example was a bottle of Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido 1986, which VistaJet shipped from Italy to Paris to accomodate a client. Other examples of VistaJet’s “dedication to extraordinary service” are requests for food from a specific restaurant, which VistaJet will try its best to accommodate. Some of the restaurants that are very popular among clients, and that VistaJet has developed strong ties with over the years, include Nobu in London, Michelin starred Amber in Hong Kong, Duddell's, Milos and ABC Kitchen by Jean-Georges.
The dining team like to get regular orders for food about 24 hours before the flight takes off, although they admitted they sometimes have to chase clients to get their order in on time. But that’s where knowing the clients preferences comes in. By having that client profile, and knowing flight information in advance, the dining team can perform their magic and make the preferred food or drinks appear in places where it is not usually available.
Having said all that, there are some items that don’t fly very well. These tend to be crispy fried items, so French fries are not recommended – “the experience will be different” said Diego Sabino, in a clearly understated manner.
The private dining team also handles a lot of dietary requirements such as religious based requests for kosher, halal and jain cuisines, and also takes care of allergies and food sensitivities. The company mentioned the example of a Jewish person flying to Saudi Arabia. In this case the private dining team had to plan ahead for kosher food both ways, since kosher food is unavailable in Saudi Arabia.
Many VistaJet clients also prefer to have food from their own cultures, for instance a Chinese client who was going to Helsinki and wanted to have Chinese food. But VistaJet had to advise them that they might not experience great Chinese food in this location, and instead they made recommendations for different alternatives.
In a similar vein, American clients often like American brands, and have been known to ask for food from WholeFoods when flying in Europe, where the WholeFoods brand is only available in a few locations. On a different level, some Middle eastern cultures don’t want their meals in a standard western format of one course at a time, but instead prefer to eat family style with all courses at once.
By having a large, experienced Private Dining staff, VistaJet can cater to all these different requirements, they can anticipate needs and the staff training means they can provide alternatives if needed.
VistaJet recently launched the Chairman’s menu. This is a selection of items that Chairman and founder Thomas Flohr loves to eat. Diego Sabini sat down with Thomas Flohr’s own private chef, Paulo Gorini, to create this unique menu, which includes dishes from Italy and around the globe. The nine-course immersive menu is complimented by wine pairings suggested by the VistaJet sommelier.
A selection from each of the courses includes:
- Quail Eggs - Served with Oscietra caviar
- Langoustine - Served with zucchini velouté and crostini
- King Crab Salad - Served with Sriracha sauce and lemon dressing
- Livornese Style Sea Bass - Served with new potatoes, sweet cherry tomatoes and broccoli
- Lamb Chops - Coated in a rosemary crust, served with green beans and mashed celeriac
- Veal Medallions - Served with asparagus gratin and fondant potatoes
- Sgroppino - Lemon sorbet topped with champagne and Beluga vodka
- Paolo’s Tiramisu - Creamy mascarpone with biscotti infused in Italian espresso, served with shaved chocolate
This special menu is available at VistaJet's top airports and has to be ordered 15 days in advance. Diego Sabini told SherpaReport that he has personally flown to oversee the preparation of some of these meals, working with selected private chefs in each location. For the US launch of this menu at NBAA in Orlando, Diego had flown in 3 days beforehand, to work with the chefs at the JW Marriott, and had selected this hotel as the showcase because it has its own private farm for direct sourcing of many fresh ingredients.
This overall dining experience has been driven by Thomas Flohr who said to his team “I want to experience something incredible.” And Matteo Atti, EVP Marketing at VistaJet summed up their approach by saying we aim “to transform every minute on a plane into a beautiful minute.”
Whether your preference is just home comfort food or Quail Eggs and Langoustine, the Private Dining team at VistaJet can have it ready for you, aboard their mid-size and long-range aircraft.