Can you introduce yourself briefly?
My name is Eren Berker and I am a Yeditepe University Gastronomy and Culinary Arts graduate. I have been working for Flying Chef for the past 8 years.
What is Flying Chef?
Flying chef, are trained chefs, in charge of preparation and serving of food to Business Class passengers, in keeping with our high standards, on Turkish Airlines overseas flights.
What is a typical day for Flying Chef?
On the day of a flight, we complete our home preparations and head for the Turkish Airlines team lounge at the airport. The whole team boards the plane, begin preparations and checks that everything is in order, as the passengers wait to board. We then greet the passengers at the gate. Before takeoff, the passengers choose dishes from the menu and we prepare the treats accordingly. It is of utmost importance to us that the main dish is served warm and in keeping with our high standards. We also ensure that the meal is cooked with the chef’s magic touch.
How do you make the meals so delicious? What in particular do you pay special attention to?
First of all, it is very important that we find the correct raw ingredients to make a delicious meal in line with our hygiene and quality standards. In every instance, we try to find the best quality of product, whether it is domestic or overseas. We always use fresh, daily-picked products. We do not work with pre-made or conserved goods. In place of meat broth, we freshly prepare boiled meat and vegetables in a cauldron. On our flights, we even prepare fresh orange juice from scratch in our kitchen. On a daily basis, approximately 6 tons of orange juice is squeezed. We do not rely on fabricated production and all handmade products are prepared, one by one, in accordance with our strict hygiene standards. Food tests are conducted every day by our executive chefs to ensure that the food standards are being met. Then, before serving passengers on board, we add one final, special touch.
What are the responsibilities of Flying Chef on the flight?
As I just mentioned, there is a preparation and presentation stage that is conducted with absolute precision. Meals are prepared in our facilities and are 70% of the way cooked there. The cooking process resumes on the aircraft, in an oven, according to the passenger’s preferment. There is a procedure for heating and serving each main meal. In fact, our basic training is based on this. If the passenger requests meat cooked rare, we heat and serve accordingly. Even if the passenger asks for a light snack in place of a meal, we prepare and serve with the same care for each and every passenger.
What kind of education did you receive?
Flying chefs are professional chefs that have been educated at high school, university level and have work experience in restaurants. After being accepted for training at Turkish Do&Co, a 5-week training period begins at a simulation center at our facilities. The education, organized by Turkish Airlines, starts with flight training and flight safety. The last week of training is set aside for first stage health training. It is very important that us chefs spend enough time in the “galley”, the airplane kitchen within the simulation center, where practical and theoretical training takes place. We learn about the food on the menu, the content of the products, corporate culture, the expectations, uniform rules, service styles and train before the final examination. Those who pass the written and practical training stage, must successfully complete 2 training flights on the type of aircraft they will be working on. If you pass, you have earned the title of “Flying Chef.”
What flights are the Flying Chefs on?
Flying Chefs are present and serve on every Turkish Airlines transatlantic flight.
Does the food served by the Flying Chefs vary by destination?
Our menus consist of delicious food of both Turkish and World cuisine. There are different menus according to the flight destination. For instance, Indian food may be served on a flight to India and Korean food may be served on a flight to Korea. The menus change on a weekly basis and differ according to flight time. Also, the departure menu is different from the menu on a return flight.
Who can become a Flying Chef?
Persons that are educated in gastronomy, or culinary arts, that have good command of the English language, can become Flying Chefs. People who have a strong vision, good communication skills, and those that are open to different cultures have a higher chance at success in the hiring process.
What made you want to become a Flying Chef? What’s the difference between a Flying Chef and a normal chef?
I chose this profession because I get to work 30,000 ft high. On top of that, I get to travel the World. I am grateful to our company that provides us chefs with the time and financial means for gastro visits. But the clearest difference is that working in the chef World is isolating, whereas Flying Chef is a socially-active profession.
What’s the most interesting event you have encountered on a flight?
Sometimes we receive strange requests from the passengers, and we are trying to our best with the limited means we have on the plane. Once on the way back from Houston, 2 to 3 years ago, a passenger asked for a packet of celery root, and asked me to cut it for him. I told him that we did not have Professional knives on board due to safety rules, and that a cheese knife will have to do, the celery roots, were not cut to perfection, but they broke into pieces; it worked, and I served him that way.
What kind of requests do you encounter on the aircraft?
We usually prepare dishes for passengers that forgot to order their dishes. We prepare various dishes based on the demands of our passengers, including sensitivities to do with belief, health or personal issues.
What do you think is the most difficult dish to cook in Turkish cuisine?
The rich cultural heritage of our beautiful country requires that every meal in our amazing cuisine is treated with the utmost care and attention.
What is your favorite World cuisine?
I like Far Eastern cuisine. Particularly Chinese, Thai and Japanese food. Thanks to my job, I was able to discover all these cuisines at length.
Which dish is chosen the most?
We have a variety of Turkish dishes on offer and our customers love our food. The most popular dish is mantı (Turkish ravioli).
How do foreign passengers respond to Turkish food on flights? What kind of reactions do you receive?
As I mentioned earlier, foreign passengers like Turkish food very much and they even know the names of the dishes. On our last flight, as we began to serve food, a German passenger immediately requested a Turkish dish, called “imambayıldı”, and went on to explain that it is his favorite dish of all time.
Could you please tell us briefly about the work partnership between Turkish Airlines and Do&Co?
Do&Co provides catering services to the world’s number one airline companies which have 30 catering kitchens in 10 countries on 3 continents. In addition, this international brand is in charge of World-leading events organization, runs restaurants and boutique hotels. In Turkey, the Turkish Do&Co’s vision is to make Turkish Airlines the world’s best airline catering service, and I think that the awards received by Turkish Airlines in the last 10 years are an indication of this success.
We will continue to grow and improve our services for our flag carrier, Turkish Airlines. Further yet, we will continue to enhance our services at Istanbul Airport too.