Executive Traveller exclusive
Fine dining at 35,000 feet is how Fiji Airways’ Executive Chef Richard Cross describes the airline’s latest international menus, which combine local staples such as kava and cassava with fresh techniques and presentation that’ll have diners rethinking the meaning of Fijian cuisine.
Available now on all international flights, Cross’ debut business class menu – his first since joining the airline in December last year – is inspired by the islands of Fiji, his New Zealand heritage, and decades of experience at the helm of resorts across Asia and the Pacific.
“We are constantly looking at ways to sustainably elevate the business dining experience for our passengers,” Cross tells Executive Traveller. “To blur the boundaries of airline catering and fine dining.”
Fijian produce will take centre stage within the business class and economy menus, with fresh seafood, succulent lamb and indigenous vegetables sourced locally wherever possible.
Among the business class dishes are grilled tiger prawn cutlets with sriracha mayo and crispy noodles on a bed of caramelised pineapple, grilled tenderloin in a creamy peppercorn sauce, and beef kofta kebabs with pumpkin chutney, seasoned broccoli and tzatziki dressing.
Travellers with a sweet tooth can enjoy cookies and cream banoffee parfait, and the signature kava and cinnamon ice cream – a unique twist on the palate-numbing, ceremonial drink.
One of Chef Cross’ favourite dishes is the beef tenderloin, smoked in a tobacco leaf, better known as suki in Fiji, for up to four hours, and paired with maple syrup, herbs and thyme.
Although originally from New Zealand, Cross has lived in Fiji on and off over the last 12 years, working at the likes of Mana Island Resort and Vomo Island Resort. Throughout that time he’s developed a love of Fijian ingredients and finding new ways to showcase them.
To that end, modern techniques have been used to transform ingredients such as cassava, sweet potato (yellow kumala), dalo and plantain banana into attractive, edible garnishes.
Cross’ vision is to elevate the inflight offering to match the appetite of premium travellers, who he feels are increasingly seeking an indulgent experience from their travels.
To do this, he will utilise a range of cooking and presentation techniques including dehydration and molecular gastronomy, as well as house-smoked produce you’d normally expect to see in fine dining restaurants – and serve them at 35,000 feet.
Presentation has been given a significant overhaul too, with inflight crew receiving additional hands-on training with Chef Cross to ensure dishes are perfectly executed and presented.
“Passengers will notice a big change,” Cross elaborates. “We have a bit of wow factor with the menu in business class. We’re making the foods well balanced, with flavour, taste and colour.”
“People eat with their eyes, and if you can combine both the look and taste of the dishes, you’ve got a recipe for success. That’s the direction we’re headed.”
A new menu will be rolled out each quarter, giving diners a fresh taste of Fiji each time they fly.
In addition to the revamped business and economy class menus, Cross has implemented a new a la carte and buffet dining concept at the Fiji Airways’ Premier Lounge in Nadi Airport.
Fiji Airways currently offers twice daily flights from Sydney to Nadi aboard its flagship Airbus A350 – which boasts an impressive business class with features that rival some of the world’s best. It also flies five times a week from both Melbourne and Brisbane.