Serving from ugali to rare champagnes, the battle for the air traveller is moving past comfortable seats.
Emirates is one the airlines that is investing big in inflight food and drinks as it caters for its more than 55 million dine-in guests a year, travelling to and from 144 cities across six continents.
The airline has started serving local dishes on different routes, giving passengers a taste of the destination they are going to.
Sous Chef James Oludayo Salami, a Nigerian who makes oriental and continental dishes says they recently introduced East African delicacies such as mukimo, ugali, beef stew and specially prepared chicken on Nairobi and Entebbe routes, which have proved quite popular.
‘‘We have also introduced Injera on the Dubai—Addis Ababa route and plan to introduce West African dishes on some of our popular routes like Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal,” said the chef who has worked with Emirates flight catering for the past 20 years.
Emirates spends Sh103 billion ($1 billion) every year on food and drinks and runs a round-the-clock kitchen with 1,200 chefs based in Dubai whipping up 12,450 recipes.
Flights to Japan, for example, offer authentic Kaiseki cuisine and Bento boxes served with Japanese crockery, cutlery and tea sets. Those flying to Australian routes get to eat traditional local favourites such as minted lamb sausages.
The airline sources over 15,000 kilogrammes of Persian feta from the Yarra Valley in Australia each year.
The olive oil served on board is exclusively from carbon neutral producer Monte Vibiano in Italy.
An Indian chef prepares a myriad of different curries to cater for Indian sub-continent flights; a chef from the US advises on best menu options for flights to America.
For drinks, the airline buys and stores wines long term and currently it has 3.8 million bottles stored in its cellar in Burgundy, France to be served in the next seven to 10 years.
British Airways is another airline that plans to spend about Sh653 billion in catering in the next five years, Kevin Leung, the commercial manager for Kenya and Ghana said in an previous interview.
The airline has been upgrading its foods and now expect to sip on Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle champagne, eat the finest cheese and chocolate onboard.
Etihad Airways also serves meals from those for dietary or medical needs including gluten-free to low cholesterol foods.
The airline has an induction oven on its Airbus 380 and Boeing 787 that allows the inflight chef to make foods like those made in a normal kitchen.
Jeremy McPherson, inflight chef for Etihad Airways, said in an interview with Telegraph, that a traveller can have a full fine dining experience on air with amuse-bouche, appetiser, granita, main course and finish with a textures dessert or just enjoy a steak frites and cheesecake.
The guest might also sleep and wake up with a cup of coffee with a croissant before disembarking, all cooked at 40,000 feet.