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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, January 26, 2023
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Chicken By Any Other Name

Dear Source:
On many occasions when advising restaurants in menu writing, I suggest to eliminate the name "airline" chicken from the terminology. In fact, it is more of a term for ordering that specific cut from a supplier than anything else. Furthermore, who knows what it means in culinary terms anyhow? Food must be labeled to awake interest and mouth feel before it gets to the table. It's called merchandising; even for a competition!
If one would write that the chicken is finished with a "jus lie" nobody would know what that is either. While there is certainly room to preserve chef "lingo," one must realize that while modern consumers are exposed to TV chefs and accompanying chef talk, no one cares. If it sound good, looks good and smells good, they'll eat it!
You failed to mention that this year the Hotel association would also include a student from STX and STT culinary schools (determined by a recipe contest/cooking competition) as part of the V.I. team. And please inform your readers that young women out number young men 4 to 1 in culinary classes!
Airline chicken
Airline chicken can be several things, depending upon whom you talk to. It can be a fancy cut, a special presentation, or a negative appellation directed at in-flight foodservice. The airline connection? Again, several theories. These range from practical (this cut of chicken fits neatly into an airline tray/dish compartments) to artistic (it "looks" like it's about to take off).
According to the National Chicken Council "The term "airline chicken breast" first became popular in the 1960s when major commercial airlines included full service meals on air flights that were of sufficient length/time to serve such meals. Airlines required a relatively small breast portion for a number of reasons and kept part of the wing on to give a presentation that made the serving portion appear to be bigger than it actually was and also to give it a certain differentiation from the non-airline breast. It was and still is a relatively costly product. My guess is a chef on PanAm or similar top airline developed the concept and other airlines quickly followed. Few, if any, domestic airlines still have "meals" that include "airline chicken breasts." Some caterers have this type of product for special occasion events. The Council adds: "The term "airline chicken" goes back a long way. It used to be called a 'hotel cut'."
Chef Doos
CTE Instructor

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