I visited Cathay Pacific Catering Services (CPCS) flight kitchen in Hong Kong today and met with Executive Chef Jorg Kubisz. Right now his production facility is producing over 70,000 inflight meals a day. I went there to talk to him about the catering operation, but discovered something even more interesting – Jorg has adopted the role of industrial engineer in order to address some of the issues he faces in his operation.
In the airline catering business, Jorg has two main challenges – to produce high quality, ‘authentic’ food at the lowest cost possible. If his kitchen was simply a food manufacturing plant, this would not be too bad – but not only does he have to cope with high volume, he also has to manage high variety, in two ways. First, he caters not only for Cathay Pacific (who take just over 60% of his output) he also caters for 36 other airlines that fly into Hong Kong – each of whom may want something different. Second, airlines change their menus, so that regular passengers do not suffer ‘menu fatigue’, and in the case of Cathay this is every month. So he has to use his plant and equipment both very efficiently, but also very flexibly.
This has lead Jorg to address specific issues that he has faced by designing, and having fabricated, specific equipment for his kitchen. Two examples are shown below. It might seem surprising that a chef has adopted this ‘engineering’ role, but in my experience most chefs are essentially creative, and very focused on processes.