As a vegetarian, I always order a special meal upon booking a long flight, and that’s what I did recently when I purchased an Air France flight from Paris to Vancouver, Canada. However, because I upgraded from a seat in Economy to a seat in Premium Economy about 48 hours before my trip, somehow, my special meal order got lost in the shuffle. Ordinarily it would be irritating, but this time, it was a godsend.
The Premium Economy menu, which includes a vegetarian option, was designed by chef Frederic Simonin, who runs an eponymous restaurant in Paris that’s earned one Michelin star. And it shows. It was the best in-flight food I’d ever had.
Frederic Simonin created two dishes for Air France’s long-haul Premium Economy cabin: a salmon, dill, and lemon sauce risotto; and a pasta gratin with porcini mushrooms and hazelnuts.
I opted for the pasta, which satisfied my dietary needs and my tastebuds. It was indulgent, with a lot of cream and a variety of textures that you rarely find in airplane food. My seat mate, who had ordered a special vegetarian meal, barely touched her main dish and looked at my tray with envy.
The rest of the meal, while not created by Frederic Simonin, was just as delicious. The starter, a small salad of potatoes, fava beans, pickled radish with a lemon and cream cheese dressing, was light and refreshing. There was also a mini baguette, a slice of camembert, and a creamy and sweet Paris-Brest (a classic French pastry made of pâte à choux and filled with flavored cream and topped with almonds).
Air France is trying hard to break the stereotype that airplane food is unremarkable: Frederic Simonin is one of 19 Michelin chefs who designed Air France in-flight menus in 2023, and in 2024, the airline will keep this trend going.
Dominique Crenn, chef and owner of the three Michelin star Atelier Crenn in San Francisco who was featured in season two of Chef’s Table, created 12 dishes that will be served on all Air France flights departing from the United States in the spring and summer of 2024 — but only in La Première and Business cabins. Crenn’s creations include lobster, pico de gallo, and tea sauce in La Première, and open raviole, courgette and tomato, hazelnut and parmesan sauce in Business class.
While flying La Première is reserved for those with very deep pockets, treating yourself with an upgrade to Business class is more accessible. My upgrade to Premium Economy cost me $260, and I had the option to book a seat in Business class for $600 extra. Of course, the cost of upgrade varies according to many factors, but keeping an eye on offers is always a good idea.