As Aziz Ansari's character Tom Haverford says on Parks and Recreation, sometimes, you really must "treat yo self." And when better to do that than when traveling? Especially internationally. You're already on your way to a destination of your dreams, so why not splurge and get there in style by traveling first class.
First class -- those two words alone can easily fill your mind with grandiose mile-high visions: advanced boarding, complimentary champagne, plush oversized seats, soft cotton PJs, excessive extra legroom, an amenity kit packed with designer toiletries and gourmet meals. Wait, gourmet meals? On an aircraft?
Yes, gourmet meals accompanied by top-shelf liquors and premium wines -- all from expansive menus. Even though there may not be a fully equipped kitchen on board, a number of airlines are making sure there's food from an award-winning chef along for the trip, made from a variety of quality ingredients that have made their way through a scientific process to make them as appealing as possible at 30,000 feet.
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British Airways menu design manager Sinead Ferguson understands just how important this process is; after all, flying factors such as altitude can have an impact on not only the dining experience, but also on our senses.
"With the atmosphere being so dry in the pressurized cabin, the ability to smell and taste can be reduced by up to 30 percent," he has said. So airlines have turned to chefs who are skilled in the science of creating gourmet airline food to make their first-class food options as delicious as possible.
For instance, renowned chef Joël Robuchon, working with Air France, heads up the Studio Culinaire Servair, a culinary think tank dedicated to in-flight cooking. And he's seen Multivac packaging machines and immersion circulators used on quality ingredients, allowing for undertones of decadence to thrive in his in-flight menus.
Not to be left behind in the quest to develop quality airline food, British Airways has brought on Heston Blumenthal to also help design their menu, American Airlines has chosen Marcus Samuelsson, Singapore Airlines Gordon Ramsay, and Qantas Neil Perry.
In an effort to ensure top-notch cuisine with regional authenticity, many airlines are going a step further and offering first-class passengers the opportunity to pre-order their in-flight meals, while others such as Turkish Airlines and Etihad are bringing those award-winning chefs we mentioned along for the trip, where they can put final first-class touches on custom meals.
Although they all might be a step above an economy-class meal, some first-class meals are better than others. Check out our slideshow to see our ranked list of the best of the best, based on breadth of menu choices (both food and drink), quality of ingredients, and presentation.
If you're going to splurge, well then, splurge, and enjoy a luxurious trip while flying on one of these airlines and delighting in one of their dishes steeped in regional flavors.
- Ellen Thompson, The Active Times