Chef Neil Perry’s hitting a few landmarks in 2017. He recently sold his last restaurant to the private equity backed company that bought the rest of his empire and before Eleven Bridge closes on May 13, Perry is reviving some of the classics from 28 years of fine dining at Rockpool for Qantas.
This month also marks 20 years of the longest-running culinary collaboration in aviation.
Perry and the Rockpool Group joined Qantas as consultants in 1997, starting off with the first class menu. His title is creative director, food, service and beverage and he now oversees everything from the in-flight and lounge menus to Rockpool sommeliers choosing airline’s in-flight wines, while the bartenders design lounge cocktails.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is full of praise for the chef, saying “when you step on a Qantas flight overseas you’re already in Australia – and a Neil Perry meal is part of that experience.”
That includes the Rockpool steak sandwich with tomato relish that appeared on the first class menu two decades ago, although it’s trickled down towards the back of the plane since then. They tried to take it off the menu briefly in 2009, but protests from customers brought it back soon after. Qantas now serves more than 600,000 annually.
Perry says he seen everyone become a lot smarter about food over that time.
“Twenty years ago, we put tagine on the menu and had to call it Moroccan braised lamb, but now we use terms like baba ganoush and garam masala without thinking twice,” he said.
The chef says there are several “can’t-take-off-the-menu” dishes now including the in-flight chicken schnitzel sandwich, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the First or Chairman’s lounges, the salt and pepper squid with green chilli dipping sauce and pavlova.
The first lounge’s chicken club sandwich is also a favourite, while in-flight, it’s zucchini soup (business) and garam masala fish with noodles (business and first).
Perry’s bringing back some other popular dishes from the past 20 years to mark the anniversary over the next six months.
Here are some of them:
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