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Delta to produce in-flight Top Chef

Delta to produce in-flight Top Chef

Pursuitist Luxury Best Luxury Blog

Delta Air Lines is launching its own version of Top Chef with a competitive culinary show that will be aired in-flight and award the winner the chance to help create the carrier’s menu.

In partnership with Food & Wine magazine, the US carrier has announced plans to produce an original video series called The Cabin Pressure Cook Off: The Search for the Next Delta Chef, which will pit four award-winning chefs against each other.

The collaboration is meant to help mark the 25th anniversary of the publication’s Best New Chefs awards. All four contenders – Hugh Acheson, Linton Hopkins, Kelly English and George Mendes – are past recipients of the award.

Acheson helms Empire State South in Atlanta; Hopkins comes from Restaurant Eugene also in Atlanta; English helms Restaurant Iris in St. Louis and Mendes is chef of Aldea in New York.

The new chef will work alongside Delta’s culinary team to develop the new in-flight menu. The original series will be modelled after cooking show competitions, presenting chefs with culinary challenges which will be judged by the carrier’s cooking team – celebrity chef Michael Chiarello, Michelle Bernstein and sommelier Andrea Robinson – in addition to Food & Wine publisher Christina Grdovic.

The series will launch in October, airing on the carrier’s in-flight entertainment, as well as on and

Official Press Release:

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) is partnering with FOOD & WINE to create an original culinary competition video series, called “The Cabin Pressure Cook Off,” to find its newest chef. The winning chef will consult with Delta on menus for flights departing Atlanta.


Four former FOOD & WINE Best New Chefs winners will compete in the custom video series:

Hugh Acheson of Empire State South in Atlanta and Five & Ten and The National in Athens, Ga.
Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House in Atlanta
Kelly English of Restaurant Iris and The Second Line in Memphis and Kelly English Steakhouse in St. Louis
George Mendes of ALDEA in New York.
“We have been very focused on culinary design and the manner in which we provide more than 110,000 sophisticated, tasty meals each day on our flights around the world. This opportunity allows us to try something truly unique,” Joanne Smith, Delta’s senior vice president – In-Flight Service said. “No one knows great chefs like FOOD & WINE and we look forward to welcoming another chef of this caliber to our renowned culinary team.”

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of FOOD & WINE’s Best New Chefs awards platform, the four-episode series will launch in October, airing on Delta’s in-flight entertainment, and The new chef will join Delta’s culinary team which includes Michelle Bernstein, Michael Chiarello, and master sommelier Andrea Robinson.

“Delta’s passion and commitment to work with top epicurean talent and deliver the best customer service makes this an exciting partnership for us,” said FOOD & WINE Senior Vice President and Publisher Christina Grdovic. “We’re thrilled to collaborate with them on extending the Best New Chefs platform and to bring our brand of culinary expertise to the Delta audience.”

The Cabin Pressure Cook Off will feature culinary challenges and will be filmed at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. Television personality Jackie Tranchida will serve as the host, and judges include Delta Consulting Chef Michelle Bernstein, Master Sommelier for Delta Andrea Robinson, Union Square Hospitality Executives, David Swinghamer and Mark Maynard and FOOD & WINE Publisher Christina Grdovic.

About the FOOD & WINE Best New Chef Competitors

Linton Hopkins – 2013 Best New Chef All-Star and 2009 Best New Chef, Atlanta

Linton Hopkins is executive chef and owner of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House in Atlanta, which he runs with his wife Gina Hopkins. The recipient of the 2012 James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast” and 2013 Food & Wine “Best New Chef All-Star” designation, Hopkins is committed to celebrating the rich bounty of Georgia farms through his meticulous house-made preparations of naturally raised meats and local produce. After attending the Culinary Institute of America and sharpening his skills in renowned restaurants, the Atlanta native returned to his hometown where he opened Restaurant Eugene in 2004. The Hopkins’ expanded their operations in 2008 with Holeman & Finch Public House and H&F Bread Co., and have since opened H&F Bottle shop as a full-service wine and spirits purveyor. In 2013, Hopkins teamed with the Atlanta Braves to bring his popular handcrafted burger from Holeman & Finch Public House to the fans at Turner Field. In addition, Hopkins and his business partner, Greg Best, host Feed Radio on AM1690 “The Arts.”

Hugh Acheson – 2002 Best New Chef, Athens, Ga.

Born and raised in Ottawa, Hugh started cooking at a young age and decided to make it his career. At age 15, he began working in restaurants after school and learning as much as possible. Hugh Acheson is the chef/partner of Five & Ten, The National, and Empire State South. Hugh was on the ninth and tenth seasons of Top Chef as a series judge and was a competitor on Top Chef Masters season 3.

In addition to running three restaurants, Hugh wrote the cookbook A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for your Kitchen. This book was published by Clarkson Potter in the fall of 2011 and won the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook in 2012. Hugh is now working on his second cookbook, which is scheduled to come out in 2014.

Kelly English – 2009 Best New Chef, Memphis

Chef Kelly English is inspired by the familiar flavors from his childhood in southern Louisiana and incorporates that inspiration into each dish he cooks. A graduate of The University of Mississippi and Culinary Institute of America, Chef English currently implements this inspiration for food and service in his premier restaurant, Restaurant Iris, and at The Second Line, both in Memphis. He continues this commitment to service at Kelly English Steakhouse at Hollywood St. Louis Casino & Hotel in St. Louis. English was named “Restaurateur of the Year” by the Memphis Restaurant Association, and appeared on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

George Mendes – 2011 Best New Chef, New York

At ALDEA, chef and owner George Mendes serves Mediterranean cuisine with influences from Portugal, the country of his heritage, as well as Spain and France. Opened in 2009, ALDEA has been awarded a two-star rating from The New York Times and a Michelin star every year since 2010, and Mendes has appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. Previously, Mendes spent three years at Tocqueville, where he worked as the chef de cuisine. Mendes spent over a decade honing his culinary knowledge, technique and style under the guidance of some of the world’s greatest culinary masters, including David Bouley, Alain Passard, Roger Verge, Alain Ducasse and Basque chef Martin Berasategui.