Flying With The Masters

By Alok Chandra

Singapore has come a long way since those hoary colonial days – for one it’s the home of Singapore Airlines (SIA), the second-largest airline in the world by market capitalisation (over US$ 14 billion in end-2010), which started life in 1947 as Malaysian Airways, and today flies to 62 destinations in 35 countries. Singapore Airlines also features the very distinctive ‘Singapore Girl’ ad campaign that features their (always attractive and shapely) flight attendants dressed in the Malay Sarong Kebaya uniform.

These were some of the trivia I picked up recently when hosted by the airline (along with 30 other journalists from around the world) for a visit to their Catering & Training Centres in Singapore and a heads-up on their ‘Book the Cook’ food program and ‘Walking with the Masters’ wine buying program.

The SIA ‘Book the Cook’ facility is offered only in Business Class, First Class, and Suites, and consists of cuisines prepared by 8 world-class chefs (including our own Sanjeev Kapoor) that can be ordered as an alternative to the standard choices available in-flight – which in these classes are already very good.

The alternatives (at no extra cost) vary from Continental to Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Malay, and Indian dishes and include items like Lobster Thermidor, Braised abalone and mushroom in oyster sauce with flat noodles, Wagyu Sirloin with Eringi Mushroom, Braised Pork Ribs in Yellow Bean Sauce, Singaporean Style Chicken and Lamb Satay, Malay-style Beef Rendang, Duck in Red Thai Curry, and Chicken Tikka Kurchan Masala – to mention just a few of the more than 64 dishes that can be ordered online in advance.

Creating an a la carte menu for serving 35,000 feet up in the sky has its own challenges, and this airline seems to have mastered the art of fine dining on the fly. We are told that their Catering Centre provides 5 million meals annually, but retains the capability to deliver a particular cuisine to an individual on any of their flights worldwide.

The airlines’ wine selection program is equally distinctive – they’ve retained the services of Jeannie Cho Lee (the first Asian Master of Wine), Michael Hill-Smith (the first Australian Master of Wine) and the world famous Steven Spurrier to help select the wines served by the airline. To demonstrate the selection process followed, these three experts took us through a tutored tasting of 10 Grand Cru Burgundies (“Walking with the Masters’) and talked-through why five wines have been chosen from this shortlist – a singular privilege.

Wines offered on SIA First Class to Delhi include 2 Champagnes (Dom Perignon and Krug), 2 white wines (Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett 2007 Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt & Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2007 William Fevre, 3 red wines (2004 Château Leoville-Poyferre Saint-Julien Bordeaux, France, 2008 Le Corton Bouchard Pere Et Fils, and 2007 Castello di Fonterutoli, Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany Italy), one sweet white (a Sauternes), and a 30-year old Tawny Port. Enough reason to fork out the moolah required to fly First Class with the airline.

So what are you waiting for? Fly SIA whenever you travel and I promise that you will come away feeling happier and more fulfilled.

We’ll raise our (wine) glass and say “Yum Sing” and “Gum Bei” to that.

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