What will chef Neil Perry's retirement mean for Qantas?

Is the famous 'pav in a glass' about to become just a memory of the Qantas first class dining experience?

By David Flynn, July 8 2020
What will chef Neil Perry's retirement mean for Qantas?

After 40 years in the kitchen, Neil Perry is hanging up his apron. The feted and multi-hatted chef is leaving the Rockpool Dining Group, where he's been culinary director and ambassador since a $60 million buyout by Quadrant Private Equity in 2016.

Perry had been looking to reacquire his trio of high-end restaurants – Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple and Rosetta – but the deal was scuppered by uncertainty stemming from Covid-19 closures and subsequent capacity limits due to physical distancing requirements.

Perry has also enjoyed a 23-year relationship with Qantas, initially working with the airline to redesign its Boeing 747 first class inflight dining in 1997, later broadening his brief to dining and drinks for international and domestic business class, as well as Qantas' flagship first class and business class lounges.

Perry's Rockpool Dining Group shapes the seasonal menu at Qantas' first class lounges.
Perry's Rockpool Dining Group shapes the seasonal menu at Qantas' first class lounges.

"It’s impossible to imagine food and wine on Qantas without Neil’s influence," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has said.  “We say that when you step on a Qantas flight overseas you’re already in Australia – and a Neil Perry meal is part of that experience."

Perry, who turned 63 last week, says his main focus will now be the Hope Delivery Initiative, a charitable endeavour he launched in May to provide up to 2,000 free meals each day for the homeless, international students and temporary visa holders working in Sydney and Melbourne's hospitality industry, who are ineligible for the government's $130 billion JobKeeper employer assistance program.

But what does this all mean for Qantas, where Perry holds the title of Creative Director for Food, Service and Beverage? When Qantas eventually reopens its Sydney and Melbourne first class lounges, will the famous salt and pepper calamari and deconstructed pavs be a thing of the past?

Perry's 'pav in a glass' is a signature dish of the Qantas first class lounges.
Perry's 'pav in a glass' is a signature dish of the Qantas first class lounges.

Not quite. Perry says he'll remain as a consultant to the Rockpool Dining Group, and Qantas says there'll be no change to Perry's partnership with the airline.

"We continue to see Neil making a strong contribution across the lounge and inflight experience into the future," a spokesperson for the airline told Executive Traveller.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 163

Hope QF see the light and get rid of Neil Perry. Save the cash spent on consultant fees (and pathetic side salads) and put it back in other parts of the product.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 91

It's time for a change. Some of Neil's food is great, but there's also a lot, mainly inflight, that's pretty 'ordinary' given the trumpeted Qantas association with Perry. Australia has plenty of great chefs who have come up through the years, isn't it time to give some of them an opportunity?

12 Aug 2014

Total posts 10

Neil Perry's relationship with Qantas is totally overrated. They won't lose much losing him.

I hear that Luke Mangan is available! Seriously though, f&b is pretty 'core' to an airline so why shouldn't Qantas be employing its own specialist team instead of paying a fortune for a 'name' when the result is pretty mixed instead of being consistently excellent?

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 329

Holly molly ... "It's impossible to imagine food and wine on Qantas without Neil's influence" says AJ. It's absolutely possible because I imagine it on every single flight I take on Qantas and have been hoping for this change! As a platinum who flies a lot (or did before CV19) on QF AU-Asia in J and mix it up with SQ, I've been giving my feedback on every flight survey how much simpler and more practical choices I can get on SQ, versus the always complicated selection on QF. My biggest gripe as a business traveller is having to eat out while I'm away and then flying home I just want options of simple meals like roast chicken or beef fillet with veggies and decent salad, all of which SQ can provide in book the cook. I think the QF crew and the service is excellent but it's the menu that seems to always complicate things. And I'm not in the minority because many a QF crew have told me they get the same complaints endlessly.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 544

Alleluiah. Finally the chance for proper food...out with tiny portioned cafe style J class food and embarrassing F class food. Hopefully proper salads too.

23 Jul 2017

Total posts 68

Best news of the day. We're just saying goodbye to the Queen of the Sky - sad news. Now daylight has dawned, Mr Rockpool and his third rate food will be gone. He's been over-hyped for too long, be it in first (and in the relevant lounges), business, premier economy, or cattle. Its quality has gone down too far.

04 May 2015

Total posts 266

"Cafe Breakfast"... what a debacle that was. Great work, Rockpool, you really outdid yourself on that one..!

04 Dec 2017

Total posts 60

I wonder if QF gave him the flick due to lack of competition now that Manigan is gone; wouldn't put it past QF - their MO has always been "money money money in a rich shareholders world" ;)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jun 2018

Total posts 5

agree with everything being said,

cow
cow

25 Aug 2017

Total posts 11

TOTALLY agree with all the comments above. The "Neil Perry inspired" food was totally uninspiring.

29 Jan 2016

Total posts 23

I have never enjoyed his food, so happy to see the relationship end. Back to good old comfort food?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Mar 2017

Total posts 12

I have been flying with Qantas for over 30 years and I don't think I have ever heard of anyone associated with flying attract so much criticism. I wondered if this was just our famous "tall poppy" syndrome, but if you consider almost all the statements raised so far - they are just very accurate.

To top it all, the service in The Rockpool in Melbourne was just appalling. They never responded to feedback and I assume were just too busy counting the money.

It would be nice to see some "real" food start to appear on Qantas flights.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Aug 2016

Total posts 9

Every time I'm asked for feedback in a flight survey I say "Sack Neil Perry". Seems that I'm not alone in my opinion!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Apr 2017

Total posts 4

Neil Perry's food may suit those in F and J; but the food served to those of us who more frequently fly at the back of the plane is often woeful. Stop trying to sell celebrity food - try simple food done well.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 544

Are you reading the above comments?? Perry's menus are not even fit for first or business class let alone economy class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 45

ho hum. feeling guilty from underpaying staff ??

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 45

Joycey should get one of his Irish Aunties over from the motherland to consult Qantas for some wholesome Irish dishes and stews instead of the deconstructed rubbish the pony tailed bandit has coughed up over the years

Time for a change. QF in J many times and often find the meals served quite ordinary. Subpar to the offering on ME and Asian airlines.

Interestingly, few times I flew with Jetstar business and found the meals served were at least on equal footings with QF.

Didn't have a chance to fly with QF in F yet so I can't comment. The meals served in QF first class lounge are quite good. Only if they can hurry with their serving sometimes.

TRS
TRS

25 Aug 2016

Total posts 2

“Perry says he'll remain as a consultant to the Rockpool Dining Group, which in turn holds the contract for Qantas inflight and lounge dining”

This is incorrect. Since the buyout the contract has been with Neil Perry Consultants (which Neil owns fully) not Rockpool Dining Group. There is a team of upwards of 15 consultants.

The 'use by date' of Neil Perry was in fact some decade ago and as being both a International and Domestic "Premium Passenger" what has been dished up being termed as Culinary Meals, really were equal to those available from a street 'Pie Cart'. Let's trust that Qantas are able to enlist the services of a prominent and imaginative Chef who is able to offer good basic and acceptable meals for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Aug 2017

Total posts 17

Hopefully it will result in better food.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 556

Essentially, this is just so typical of Qantas and explains why it is held back in terms of service ..

Food on international longhaul and domestic >4 hours is always an important aspect of in-flight service. It is also somewhat critical in premium lounges thee days. For probably the last 25-30 years, major serious carriers have employed the concept of the 'celebrity' chef .. or in the case of some, a pane of multiple chefs.

If I remember correctly, Neil Perry was appointed at Qantas roughly around the same time that Wolfgang Puck was hired by American Airlines. Puck last 10-11 years at AA and then there was change. AA refreshed their product, even though Puck was popular. Neil Perry brought the concept of fresh, light and healthy food to Qantas, replacing the idea of heavy, carb-loaded comfort food.

On counterpoint to Puck, Neil Perry is still at Qantas, some 23 years later. Does it strike anyone here as 'sad' that QF refreshes it's cabin interiors every 8-10 years but doesn't innovate on food and beverage service at all. Innovation has left the building.

Now, admittedly there are a few lovers of the deconstructed pav (how often can you do that?) and the humble steak sambo. But really, when you look at QF lounges and see local specialities (pizza in Melbourne, taco's in wherever) it is not exactly what I would call 'fine dining'. It really is just 'cafe' dining with a large dollop of pretense on the side.

Back when NP was appointed there wasn't exactly a large choice of Australian Celebrity Chefs. Things have changed over time in the dining trade - but Qantas seems too afraid to even consider the idea of change. Trouble is - there is now a large cohort of travellers who are bored with the 20 year old concept which hasn't changed greatly. Perhaps, part of the reason that QF have hung on for so long is that Neil Perry has parlayed his influence from food to more recently wines, which allows the QF Epicure / Wine business to thrive a little.

Some interesting names to play around with would be Luke Mangan (yes, he considers his food 'cafe style'), and there is Matt Moran of Aria fame. Peter Gilmore etc. Each an established chef with recognition and cache.

What a perfect time to consider change. No serious international for the next 6-9 months and plenty of time to bed in a new, fresh choice. Ah, the possibilities. And with a new Virgin on the horizon, QF will need a bit of a fresh bow to its sheaf.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1001

The only reason I even knew this guy existed was because Qantas kept screaming his name everywhere.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Aug 2014

Total posts 36

disappointed just about every time for over 20 years.
never understood why Qantas stuck with it.
hopefully will get back to good flavoursome meals rather than sexy menus that never delivered

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 55

I hope the Age of the Airline Celebrity Chef is over, and is not resurrected, like a bad reboot of Big Brother. But if QF go down that path again, please don't sign on crazy, crazy, crazy Pete Evans!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 95

Good riddance! Alan Joyce, if you read this, see our hatred of Neil Perry.

Anyone can do a steak sandwich, or a desert in a glass cup!

P
P

17 Jan 2018

Total posts 86

Why has it taken so long for Q to listen to the overwhelming feedback of its customers???? Not only NP should be kicked out so should all the Q management that failed to listen to customers for so long. Its called accountability and it starts at the top.

Finally i doubt if ET has ever written a bad word about NP. ET needs to be a little more critical in its entire commentary of airlines and travel industry and stop just telling us everything is great. Critical feedback is far more valuable.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 163

P - to be fair, ET has never written a bad word about QF. Bias is not only confined to NP.

sid
sid

07 Jan 2011

Total posts 45

That statement is simply false.

We have called out poor dining experiences before: https://www.executivetraveller.com/qantas-airbus-a380-refreshed-first-class-review-2020

And were pretty much the only ones to complain about the legroom in premium economy in the early days of the 787:
https://www.executivetraveller.com/review-qantas-boeing-787-9-dreamliner-premium-economy-seat

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 163

sid - Thanks for pointing this out. Am quite new, so have admittedly missed some/a lot of these earlier articles. Good to see balanced reporting from the past. More recently it has seemed very biased to QF (e.g. this Neil Perry article).

I fail to see how this article could be considered as "biased to QF", as it simply relates facts. KW72, if you're new to this site, one thing to notice is that it doesn't get opinionated like many blogs, the stories tend to be objective and they let readers add their own 2c. Even in the case of a 'negative' piece such as coverage of the Boeing 787 Premium Economy it is still very factually-based.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1243

Oh please. Objective? So much of the content here has an obvious slant towards the brands and companies being promoted, and any far-reaching criticism is quickly silenced and removed from the site.

01 Apr 2014

Total posts 93

I don't want "Poisson et frites Anglais traditional", just give me some Fish

04 Nov 2012

Total posts 219

Less fancy food at times and more on the plate.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1243

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could ditch the whole celebrity chef angle and just use a well-reviewed catering company like Do & Co?


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