Chef Neil Perry is counting down to the official unveiling of the multi-million dollar Qantas business lounge at Tom Bradley airport in Los Angeles next week. He’s racked up 17 years creating menus for the airline so he’s reasonably confident that his offerings will be well-received.
The man who starts his day with such goodness as “beautiful beetroot, pineapple and carrot juice and a bircher muesli” hopes to have designed a menu that satisfies the most demanding, fatigued or fussy travellers. And naturally, allergies, dietary choices and health issues are always considered.
Food keeps Perry ridiculously busy. He jets around the world, monitors his and other’s restaurants, picks up cuisine trends and honours his various Qantas commitments. Utmost on his mind of late has been the new LA lounge.
“Feeding a traveller has its challenges. Some want a light meal while others go in search of comfort food. I look at local trends, street-level food right through to fine dining.”
“There’s a certain type of comfort food a lot of business guys want. They’ll have a steak sandwich and a beer or a chicken schnitzel. Or might want a movie and a delicious three course meal. Female passengers might feel like a lovely salad or piece of fish. You have to make sure there is a nice variety.”
Perry places great importance on balance in any menu but especially when the morsels are being served in an airport lounge. He also seeks good communication amongst staff, excellent training and exceptional service to complete the picture.
It doesn’t take much for passengers to approach Perry if they spot him on a plane or in a lounge, with the chef admitting to finding the instant feedback gratifying.
He has been known to alter his menu based on customer feedback but confidence in his dishes means that mostly, the food remains unchanged since, “95 percent of the people will like it”.
He gives a nod to the so-called fads: Korean food which he discovered 30 years ago, Mexican cuisine, Middle Eastern flavours, refined Mediterranean classics and even the modern-day low-carbohydrate diet.
Ambience is essential. And according to Perry, with millions of dollars having been spent, the LA lounge is going to be an extraordinary place in the Americas. “I’m really excited about this one.”
After so many years on board, Perry feels part of the Qantas family. "We’ve been going through some re-jigging and reformulating but we’re not pulling back from our commitment to customers. It’s a really exciting space for us.”
The Qantas Business Lounge officially opens Wednesday June 18.
The writer travelled to Los Angeles courtesy of Qantas and Visit California.