Fashion Reverie Exclusive: Air Culinaire Worldwide CEO Cliff Smith


Image courtesy of Fred J. DeVito

Since 2000, business and private aviation operators have relied on Air Culinaire Worldwide to serve their onboard dining experience. Celebrity chefs, as well as fourteen international aviation trained chefs gathered at 15 Hudson Yards to celebrate the arrival of Air Culinaire Worldwide’s New York Lifestyle Menu and the future opening of their largest US flight kitchen. The event was sponsored by luxury watch company A. Lange & Söhne and Gama Aviation Signature. Select VIP and media attendees had the privilege of attending a tasting of the menu.

Featured dishes included Air Culinaire Worldwide’s chef Sal Lano’s cajun scallops, chef Todd English (Plaza Hotel)  shaved wagyu shabu shabu tacos, and chef John Doherty’s (Black Barn Hotel) butter-poached Maine lobster and butternut squash ravioli. For dessert Lano provided lemon tarts and Doherty provided bread pudding. Moët & Chandon served as the champagne sponsor, Sazerac served as the cocktail sponsor, and Vias Imports served as the wine sponsor for the festivities.

Image courtesy of Fred J. DeVito

The interior décor was designed by Aman & Meeks. Hampton Bishop, the owner of HK Ballons, created exquisite balloon art that was donated to the grand ballroom at 15 Hudson Yards. There was a wonderful selection of modern and post-modern artwork curated by Vanita Gallery and E.D. Enterprises.

 After the celebration, Fashion Reverie got a chance to speak with Air Culinaire Worldwide’s CEO, Cliff Smith, on the future of the company, why they decided to launch a newly curated New York menu, and how to best serve A-list clients’ food needs.

Air Culinaire Worldwide CEO Cliff Smith

Fashion Reverie: What inspired you to create a newly curated New York lifestyle menu and open your largest US flight kitchen?

Cliff Smith: Our company has grown holistically through the years. We have global locations and we are continuously trying to evolve the company. We decided that it was time to evolve the food into more farm-to-table and adapt to current food trends. Basically, I handed off the idea to the chefs, then the chefs created their lifestyle menu for New York. We did this same type of event in Paris, and the response was phenomenal. We also did this in London six months ago

FR: Who are your clients?

Cliff Smith: We have a variety of clients from international businessman to celebrities, and other elite celebrities. We also service rock concerts, as well as FedEx crews throughout the world.  We also service elite Middle Eastern clients, as well as heads of state.  Our business is a very niche business, and we are the largest food supplier in that niche.

Image courtesy of Fred J. DeVito

FR: Why are you looking to take these airline meals to the next level?

Cliff Smith: In the private aviation business we have an open menu, so customers can have whatever they want. In the food business, it’s very hard to produce everything well. People ask for global cuisine ranging from Halal food to cuisine from Paris. We have a very diverse group of culinary workers throughout the country, but it’s hard to actually make sure we are supplying the top shelf product with all of these different recipes. What we’ve done is channel the best food we can possibly produce into this menu. This gives customers a wide variety and we get a product we source and produce ourselves in house.

FR: What was the greatest challenge in making this happen? This does not sound like an overnight endeavor.

Cliff Smith: This has been a year-and-a-half in the making.

FR: When did Air Culinaire Worldwide launch?

Cliff Smith: Air Culinaire Worldwide launched 19 years ago. I have been the CEO for 13 years. We continue to grow every year, and continue to be successful because we evolve service, quality, our product, and food presentation.  Our clientele is the richest 1 percent of the world. They’ve eaten the best of the best food. We are just trying to give them elements of that kind of that quality food they are accustomed to.

FR: What’s been the biggest change in the business that you evidenced as CEO?

Cliff Smith: The growth of the private jet market has been huge. Back in 2008,  during the beginning of the recession , we had a slowdown, but then there was an increase and it’s continuously grown. Private aviation is morphing into so many things, and I believe it is going to grow incrementally in the next ten years. It’s becoming more accessible to people thanks to technology and apps.

There are companies now that facilitate consumers purchasing an airline seat for $5000, which was unheard of five years ago. Previously, that same seat would’ve been $25,000.

Image courtesy of Michael Ostuni

FR: How did you come to get know with all of these chefs?

Cliff Smith: I’ve been in the food business my whole life. I was the former CEO of Balducci’s in New York City. Air Culinaire Worldwide approached me when it was still a small company. I had run markets in Dallas, Texas, Connecticut, and Washington.  Air Culinaire Worldwide was going through some growing pains, and I came on board.

FR: What’s the biggest global market for Air Culinaire Worldwide?

Cliff Smith: The biggest private aviation market is right here in the United States.  So, it seemed appropriate to launch this new lifestyle menu in the US, and more specially in the New York City.

FR: So, what’s next Air Culinaire?

Cliff Smith: We are continuing to look at growth areas around the world. The last three years we built a facility in Paris, France. We’re looking at a facility in Asia. We are pretty built out in the United States. We’ve got facilities in every major market in the U.S. where we need to be. We’re going worldwide.

Kristopher Fraser


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