Dufresne suggests that if airline meals continue, a microwave and sous-vide would help eliminate rubbery chicken, dry beef, and gray vegetables. Dufresne’s ideas on alternative cooking devices are already reality on some carriers. Singapore Airlines, as one example, uses convection, steam, and microwave ovens for premium passengers; Cathay Pacific has onboard toasters, rice cookers, and skillets for first-class morning meals.
And Popcorn’s posh restaurants-on-planes vision is hardly far-fetched; airlines like Emirates (on Airbus A380 aircraft) and Virgin Atlantic (in upper-class on all flights) now feature onboard cocktail lounges with dedicated mixologists. Carriers such as Etihad Airways and Turkish Airlines have chefs aboard every flight. And elegant restaurant-style experiences—lavish repasts replete with grand cru wine served by dedicated staff—are de rigueur for most first-class cabins today.
Imagine, five-star bistros in the sky, meals delivered by smiling robots the instant we feel hunger pangs—in-flight dining could be radically transformed. Just don’t come looking for me in 2050 if it isn’t true. I’ll have teleported to a fantastical tropical island, at work printing new 20-year-old legs.
Janice Wald Henderson is a Los Angeles–based food and travel journalist who spends much time reporting on, and traveling by, air and sea. She recently wrote about dining in Jerusalem for Gourmet Live.