Dining on Demand

Chef secrets for culinary adventures 30,000 feet in the air

Celebrated Australian chef Luke Mangan loves showcasing the best of Australian produce and wines on his menus on Virgin Australia flights as well as in his 19 restaurants. With restaurants now on planes, trains, ships, and shore, Luke and his team understand the challenges in creating a good dining experience at a variety of locations, for different cultures, and on various modes of transport.

“For Virgin Australia, we aim to create a truly premium dining experience when 30,000 feet in the sky, and we do this by not only listening to crew feedback but also feedback from guests,” Luke says. “We listen to what our customers say in our restaurants and always assess how we could adapt certain popular dishes.”

Luke works with top Australian producers and suppliers who share the same values and ethos, ensuring that he has access to the finest seasonal ingredients. Trained in classical French cuisine, Luke draws on Australian and Asian influences to create dishes with distinctive clean, fresh flavors that have earned him many awards over the years. He believes that passengers want to enjoy fresh and fragrant meals that don’t leave them feeling stodgy when sitting on a flight.

It’s all about a good menu mix, according to Luke, who has worked with Virgin Australia over the past 5 years to create a fresh, enticing experience in the sky and on the ground for Virgin Australia business-class passengers.

“A showcase of finest Australian produce is always a key priority, and we want passengers to have the choice and confidence that there is something on the menu that suits them—a good menu mix that offers some naughty comfort food as well as purely health-driven options is the key,” he says.

He is also excited about a new Dining on Demand option ’The Business’, on board Virgin Australia’s Boeing 777 aircraft. “I think dining should be flexible, and Dining on Demand offers that for business passengers,’’ he says. “We want our customers to have the ability to have a wonderful dining experience but also be able to choose a convenient option for when sleep is more important.”

He says that the journey for great food and wine doesn’t stop aboard the flight. Australia has many great food and wine experiences, and some of Luke’s favorite wines are served on board to give you a great taste of what you can soon experience.

Premium wines served in flight come from boutique and larger wineries from Australia’s best-known wine-growing regions, including South Australia’s Barossa Valley, Margaret River in Western Australia, the Yarra Valley and Rutherglen in Victoria, the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, and Tasmania’s Tamar Valley.

Some of the wines featured on the wine list in ‘The Business’ include Oakridge 2014 Over the Shoulder Pinot Grigio Yarra Valley Victoria, Tatachilla 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon McLaren Vale South Australia, and Innocent Bystander 2014 Pinot Noir Yarra Valley Victoria.

Many of these wines are featured as part of a group called Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia, which offers a range of tailored excursions to exceptional wineries where wine lovers are immersed in the history and culture of the area, as well as exclusive opportunities to meet the winemakers.

In Margaret River, there’s a walking tour with Cape to Cape Explorer Tours and an in-depth food and wine experience at the area’s founding winery, Vasse Felix; and in Tasmania, a unique fly-fishing experience with River Fly Tasmania and a wine tasting and lunch at Josef Chromy Winery, known for its cold-climate wines.