This Home Cook Is Recreating Airline Meals He Ate Before the Pandemic
Airplane food may not have the greatest reputation, but dining on a plane is undeniably an experience. And for many people who have seen their travels grounded due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even the most mediocre of airline meals may suddenly have a nostalgic appeal. In fact, a cottage industry has sprung up of airlines offering their food for at-home consumption—like Finland's Finnair and Russia's Ural Airlines.
Nik Sennhauser has certainly missed dining on planes. For six years, the Glasgow, Scotland, resident who daylights as a business support manager has been documenting his air travel on his YouTube channel, SoPlane. The global pandemic put a serious dent in that project (he hasn't been on a plane since February 2020), so instead, he turned to a new lockdown hobby: recreating airplane food in his own kitchen.
The first time was a bit of a fluke: "I started out just plating random meals, basically whatever I was planning on cooking that day and plating it using my airline dishes," he told me via email. "I have had an airline trolley for two decades now, stocked with airline glasses, plates and trays I have accumulated over the years. It was a spur of the moment in January when I wanted to change up our Sunday routine which had become quite monotone due to the lockdown here."
His breakthrough moment came when he had the idea of recreating an actual meal he had on Austrian Airlines. "[The airline] is known for its superb catering provided by DO&CO," he continues. "The meal I recreated was a special premium meal you had to pre-order, hence, it was a little fancier than your regular airline meal."
From there, the concept took on a life of its own, becoming a food-focused social media spinoff over on his FlySoPlane Instagram account. There, he now has over two dozen posts of the meals he's recreated over the past few months—which don't just feature photos of his food, but a photo of the original meal as it appeared on his flights as well.
"Most of the dinner meals are meals I actually had on a plane," he says. However, he's also branched out a bit, taking inspiration from current aviation news, recreating a British Airways boxed home cooking meal, and even seeing if he could upgrade one of his economy meals into a business class meal.
Sennhauser admits he has a much stronger background in the flying side of airplane meals. "I am not really a good cook," he told me right off the bat. "I also don't actually enjoy cooking that much! It's been a learning journey for me, working with recipes."
As a result, many of those recipes come from the lone cookbook his mother gave him: Die Gute Oesterreichische Kueche, aka The Good Austrian Kitchen. Other than that, he finds recipes online or on YouTube. "The main thing for me is a recipe that is easy to follow," he says. "A well written recipe really works, and I am proof. It may take me double the time to cook them, but I get there in the end. And during lockdown, it's not like I have had anywhere else to be anyway!"
And despite airline food's hit-or-miss reputation, Sennhauser has one big rule. "The meals I make have to taste good," he adds. "They are not just made for Instagram. They are our actual meals. I make my husband sit down and eat off a plastic tray every weekend. Plastic tray with exciting tasty food is acceptable. Plastic tray with pretty looking but disgusting food might lead to divorce."