Fernando Balsano

“Every dish should have a story”

Fernando_BalsanoFernando’s one of the lucky few who manages to turn their hobby into their profession. After studying in Paris and working in various restaurants around Europe, Fernando joined LSG Sky Chefs as an executive chef and production manager in Buenos Aires. In August 2013, he became head of culinary excellence for Latin America.

Can you describe your job?

Actually, I have two! First, as the Latin America head of culinary excellence, I manage all the chefs and teams across the region. I do team workshops, develop new products, prepare and hold menu presentations for customers and look at ways to ensure meals and services consistently meet our high standards. Secondly, I’m a member of the Global Culinary Leadership Team – I’m involved with sharing know-how and best practices, developing new cuisine trends, food production technology, food presentation and packaging design.

How do international cultures influence your menu design?

One of the first things I wanted to do when I became a chef was to learn as much about the cuisine of other cultures and use that knowledge to develop my own style, which is why being involved in the Global Culinary Leadership Team is so important – I can tap into the know-how of top international chefs. We have customers from all around the world, so it’s important to take their tastes into account. My philosophy is that every dish should have a story that the passenger can relate to – this ensures not only quality, but authenticity too.

What are your daily challenges?

Airline catering’s actually a lot more demanding than working for a restaurant. For example, we use the cook-and-chill technique most of the time where you cool the meal after cooking and then reheat it on board – obviously, very different to cooking the food then instantly serving it. You need to create food that still tastes good when reheated and that’s quite an art. You also need to consider how manageable the food is – sauces can’t be too runny or they could leak with the pressure change or spill in the cabin. Then you have to design meals that fit the airline’s equipment, which is different for each carrier.

Menus also need to satisfy different passenger needs and expectations – tourist passengers might not be as demanding as business travelers, but still they want to enjoy their food, so you have to find ways to deliver quality on a small budget. Airlines also change their menu cycles a few times per year, with different menus depending on routes, duration of flight and destination. You have to be constantly creative yet practical, pay attention to detail and always keep the airline’s equipment needs in minds. You can’t take your eye off the ball for a second in this business!