il TAVOLO Is Zürich’s Mouth Watering Food Festival

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent"Chicken or beef?" is a question any frequent traveler can answer while asleep. But have you ever considered where all the airplane meals are being prepared in the first place?

The answer is Gate Gourmet, the world's largest catering company for airlines. I have spotted their loading trucks with the green logo at airports across the world, but I was unaware that their corporate headquarters is right here in Zürich!

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet EröffnungseventDue to the sheer number of airplane meals being cooked, packaged and labeled every single day, Gate Gourmet at Zurich Airport runs almost around the clock. Some food for thought: This facility's daily output includes up to 9000 meals for economy class, plus 900 meals for business and first class...

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent

il TAVOLO is Zürich's Food Festival

Exclusively for the il TAVOLO opening party, Gate Gourmet shut down their industrial kitchens for a few hours. We felt very privileged to be among the invited guests on this glamorous night of culinary excursions. For once, gears were shifted and the culinary mantra was "quality rather than quantity"!

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet EröffnungseventThe moment we stepped off the freight elevator, we were immersed in the kitchen party that was il TAVOLO. (Zürich's food festival is already in its third year.)

Each of the industrial kitchens aptly labeled "poultry", "beef" or "vegetarian" was taken over by a master chef from one of Zürich's grand hotels:

  • Maurice Marro and Olivier Rais of Baur au Lac
  • Sebastian Diegmann of Eden au Lac
  • Frank Widmer of Park Hyatt Zürich
  • Fredi Nussbaum of Storchen Zürich
  • Gion Fetz of The Dolder Grand
  • Dietmar Sawyere of the Widder Hotel

Welcome on Board of il TAVOLO! In the name of journalism, yours truly ate their way through no less than 14 cuisines that night. Here are our cannot-miss highlights:

We found a special liking to Fredi Nussbaum's hickory smoked salmon medley...

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent
il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent

And Mamiko simply could not resist his papaya salad with a hint of coriander - a spontaneous creation for the opening night!

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent
il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent

Finally, Nussbaum's duck breast filet with a raspberry duca espuma:

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent

The delicious Arabic mezze by Mohammed Salmann from Gate Gourmet included creamy hummus, baba ghanoush, refreshing tabbouleh and kofta meatballs (on a stick):

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent

Sebastian Diegmann from the Eden au Lac dreamed up a monkfish in a coat of San Daniele Lardo, on a bed of safran risotto garnished with a confit tomato and basil foam:

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent
il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent

Entertainment was courtesy of a brave group of celebrities who tried their skills at airline catering. How many salad bowls can they correctly fill and stow in a trolley? Everyone gained an appreciation for the types of skills this manual labor requires!

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent

The chefs in charge of the authentic meals for SWISS Taste of Switzerland were showing off their skills in the dessert department:

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent

Last but not least, a heavenly Sprüngli pyramid was preventing us from catching our uberX ride... What to do? Stash one of each color in our mouths, and off we went!

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent
il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet Eröffnungsevent

il TAVOLO 2014 - Gate Gourmet EröffnungseventCANON Schweiz Photograph