From now until the end of May, First Class passengers on select Hawaiian Airlines flights will enjoy meals designed by Robynne Maii, the latest local chef featured by the carrier.
Diners on the flights can choose between two entrees curated by Maii: a crispy chicken schnitzel drizzled with a lilikoi (passionfruit) mustard sauce, served with braised red cabbage and warm red potato salad, and a Hawaiian take on the Venetian dish risi e bisi (think a soupier risotto), with zucchini, peas, and basil macadamia nut pesto.
Maii, who was born and raised in Honolulu, now operates the Fête Hawaii restaurant in the city’s downtown, serving a locally-inspired, farm-to-table menu. Last year, she won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northwest and Pacific region. She became the first Hawaii-based chef or restaurant to win in almost 20 years and the first woman of Hawaiian ancestry to win the accolade.
She started working with homegrown Hawaiian Airlines in 2018, running LuchBox by Fête, a cafe-style restaurant at the carrier’s Honolulu headquarters. This is her second time crafting an in-flight menu for the airline, and she says, “it’s amazing to be part of that family.”
She spent two full days in the kitchen to devise the two dishes, tweaking recipes. She was searching for something that could be cooked at scale and with easily-sourced ingredients.
“It’s challenging to make food that’s made ahead of time and reheated on the airlines,” she said.
She settled on the schnitzel because it’s “delicious cold, delicious hot” and on chicken rather than the traditional veal because it’s “easy, palatable,” she told USA Today. She also had to consider passengers’ dietary preferences and restrictions: the risotto is vegetarian and gluten-free.
First Class passengers select between the two dishes once they board the flight. The schnitzel and risi e bisi are accompanied by a salad garnished with roasted garlic vinaigrette and a buttered roll. For dessert, travelers receive an opera cake designed by Michelle Karr-Ueoka, another Hawaiian chef, and La Tour Café.
During breakfast hours, passengers receive a Hawaiian sweet potato hash with cage-free scrambled eggs and Canadian bacon with honey mustard sauce.
Dishes curated by Maii are available on flights from Hawaii to the mainland, including Boston, New York, Austin, and destinations on the West Coast.
Hawaiian Airlines Featured Chefs
“The Featured Chef Series is a perfect way to share with guests a part of what Hawaii and Hawaiian Airlines are all about, which is authentic experiences representative of our unique and flavorful island culture,” Renee Awana, managing director of product development at Hawaiian Airlines, said.
Hawaiian Airlines is known for its cuisine and is the only U.S. airline ranked in the top 10 carriers for dining options by the website Tasting Table. With some airlines still serving bare-bones meals, citing the pandemic, Hawaiian offers all passengers hot meals, regardless of ticket class.
First Class passengers are also greeted with cocktails—champagne, Mai Tai, or passion orange guava juice —and warm macadamia nuts.