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United Airlines FOCUS ON


Merging ideas


Bringing together two very different concepts in passenger food service can be quite a challenge. Jeremy Clark talks to Gerry McLoughlin, United’s senior manager F&B planning and executive chef about his involvement


Gerry


McLoughlin Gerry’s culinary background began in Ireland at The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. Following his move to America he worked at various establishments including The Drake Hotel and The Metropolitan Club in Chicago. He has over 30 years' culinary experience with 23 years in airline management between United and Continental.


Expert Chefs United’s Congress of Chefs is a group of carefully selected culinary experts who continually evaluate the ever-changing food trends in an effort to bring the best inflight dining experiences to United customers.


T


he teaming of Continental Airlines and United brought together a number of exciting challenges. As United’s senior manager F&B planning and executive chef, Gerry McLoughlin was given the task of working on the onboard food experience, taking the best from both and creating something new that would be acceptable to both airlines' loyal and future customers. “In a way, this was a perfect opportunity to start over and reinvent a concept and product for the new United,” says Gerry. The first task in redesigning the Business and First menus was to recognise the various regions of operation and to address the expectations of passengers around the world.


To assist with this task, Gerry engaged the support of many culinary experts including the Cuisine Solutions team led by Gerard Bertholon and J. Hemmer. The original concept of


Continental’s ‘Congress of Chefs’ has been retained to back up this team and includes top chefs Jimmy Canora, Bryan Caswell, Michael Cordua and Paul Minnillo.


The airline's route network is split into main regions consisting of Asia, Europe, Latin America and South America. United also offers service between the United States, Australia, Dubai, Kuwait, India and Israel. The initial focus was to plan the First and Business long-haul menus. This is where a significant number of the high revenue and loyal frequent flyers are to be found, and also where the strongest competition exists with other international carriers, so a very logical place to start.


The menus are in four cycles, each 44 WWW.ONBOARDHOSPITALITY.COM


featuring four main entrée choices. Each cycle repeats three times in a year. The choices are designed so that at least one is a healthy option – usually this is the seafood choice plus one dish addressing regional sensitivity and representative of local cuisine. An example of this is a new twist on tamales for the South American routes. This innovative dish has the tamales 'inside out' with a stuffed chicken breast on a corn leaf base served with a specially-created spicy and tangy corn sauce. To manage this major change, Gerry ran four workshops during which the menus were tested and specified to


the last detail. The first of these, for the South American menus, was in Houston. Chicago followed for the trans-Atlantic outbound menus and Guam for the Micronesia menus. The last of the workshops was held in September, in Paris, to work on the new trans-Atlantic inbound menus. Gerard and Gerry were very excited about the final stages of what was a long and deliberate process. Commenting on the involvement of Cuisine Solutions in the process Gerry explained: “What Gerard and his team bring is not just an ability to realise our chefs’ ideas, but innovations of their own design. Also, their involvement allowed us to retain an element of consistency throughout the network and over the timespan of the menus.”


To ensure a consistently high quality product for United, Gerry works not only with collaborators and suppliers on the product but with the many catering partners around the world


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