Travel: Seeking Great Greek Food? Look Up at Aegean

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Aegean Airline

Did you know that Aegean has consistently been named “Europe’s Leading Regional Airline” by Skytrax? The hardworking Greek airline is also something of a Greek culinary roadshow in the sky. The airline’s noted wine consultant, Konstantinos Lazarakis, has joined forces with three celebrated Greek chefs—Lefteris Lazarou, Christoforos Peskias and Stelios Parliaros—to add more Grecian yum to the business class menu than ever before. As part of the new “Gastronomics” initiative, the culinary trio has created a menu of more than 40 dishes that will showcase local flavors from Crete, Naxos, the Peloponnese and elsewhere in Greece. Greek flavors are now making the journey to every international destination on the Aegean network.

The airline (of which I’m a big fan) has offered Greek tastes aboard its flights for years: Since 2010, more than 450,000 bottles of wine from 85 Greek wineries, as well as dozens of local products in collaboration with 50 Greek producers have been offered to passengers, both on domestic and international flights. Greek products from various regions are still available on board both Greek domestic and international flights. But by tapping these chefs to spearhead the new selections, Aegean is flexing some seriously Hellenic gastronomic muscle.

Lazarou was awarded a Michelin star for his gourmet restaurant Varoulko Seaside in Piraeus. That’s where I met him and listened to his tales of how he is inspired by his travels and quality raw ingredients to craft his signature savory seafood. Parliaros is Greece’s leading pastry chef. Stepping into his Sweet Alchemy establishment in Athens is a feast for the senses. Cypriot-born Peskias trained under Ferran Adrià and Mark Menaux. Lazarakis, for whom “Greek wines, for at least a decade, are among the best of the planet,” curates the onboard wine list. And all this is quite exciting, especially considering that the food on board is already quite good. 

On an Aegean flight from London Heathrow to Athens this month, my seatmate in business class, Anastasios, tucked into a tempting moussaka while I chose the chicken breast with pistachio of Aegina crust, mashed potato with herbs, walnut cream sauce, goji berries and fresh oregano. The breakfast Gastronomics on a flight from Athens to Lisbon were similarly delicious.

Travelers of a certain age are probably still more familiar with Olympic Airways, its glamorous history forever associated with Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, whose ownership of the airline spanned the 1960s. In 2013, Aegean acquired Olympic Air and while there are no non-stops between the United States and Athens on a Greek carrier today, my hope is that Aegean will soon change that. My own affinity for Aegean began one stormy day in Mykonos. While still on the ground, winds were shaking the plane with such force that I doubted we could take off. But we did, and bumpy as it was, the flight crew was unflappable.

You may be programmed to think that once you’re in Greece, ferries and trains are the only way to get around—but this is far from true. You can fly from Santorini to Athens on Aegean, saving you precious hours on the ferry, or from Heraklion in Crete to Athens or Thessaloniki, to mention just a few myriad options. While on board you can peruse a hefty magazine, “Blue,” that with its breadth of destination coverage bordering on encyclopedic gives many American airlines’ in-flight magazines a run for their money. And yes, you can and should enjoy the impressive and quite innovative range of Greek culinary goodies in the sky. Visit en.aegeanair.com.