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Production daunting for mile-high grub

Published on Friday, 06 Aug 2010
Jörg Kubisz is responsible for more than 70,000 meals daily.
Photo K.Y. Cheng

The prospect of working in a kitchen the size of nine football fields - and overseeing the production of up to 70,000 meals a day - would terrify most people, but Jorg Kubisz takes it all in his stride.

"We have just set a new record at the end of last month by producing 77,386 meals in a single day," says Kubisz, the executive chef and head of production at Cathay Pacific Catering Services (HK). "It is nothing like working in a restaurant or a hotel kitchen. Here, everything is about planning and scheduling; there are no second chances when the aircraft is 30,000 feet above the ground."

Kubisz works closely with airline customers, and in-house departments handling quality assurance, procurement, and customer service on menu development.

"There are many challenges," he says. "We need to serve 36 different airlines, every one of which has a different menu on a daily basis, and different requirements and standards. You have to bring all of this into one production process, and we only have one kitchen for everything." 

Efficient manpower planning is vital, Kubisz says. He must ensure adequate staffing to produce the planned number of meals, meet departure schedules, and cope with contingencies.

"That's why we also need stopwatches measuring everything; we can't afford a delay," says Kubisz, who has worked for many hotels internationally and in Hong Kong before joining Cathay Pacific Catering Services.

Preparing an in-flight menu is a constant challenge, he says, adding that he must take into account the aircraft's environment, its configuration and physical parameters, and the airline and passenger expectations in terms of food quality, taste and safety.

"It is a confined environment on an aircraft and the humidity is very low," he says. "All the food must go through a prescribed cook-chill process and everything that is cooked must be kept no longer than 48 hours, with complete production track and trace records."

Kubisz spends much of his time on the frontline.

"I'm not the person who actually cooks the food. However, I do like to feel the pulse of what's happening, which is why I go to the kitchens every day. Ad hoc situations can happen at any time, and you may need to make quick decisions." Kubisz also believes seeing him in the kitchen helps motivate his staff of more than 600 and shows that he supports them. 

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