What would it take for you to invest in a meal while on-board a train? Similar to airline food, rail food doesn’t have the best reputation. If you have ever stumbled past passengers unpacking and munching on their portable picnic to arrive in an almost empty dining car, you know what we mean.
Amtrak, a publicly funded, for-profit corporation that operates trains connecting destinations in 46 US states, the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces, is trying to change that reputation.
The corporation has joined up with a team of chefs from around the world, including Michel Richard and Sara Jenkins, who all have one aim – improving Amtrak’s menus.
At an annual meet-up in Wilmington of the Amtrak’s Culinary Advisor Team, as the group is known, the chefs arrive with their own recipes. For three days, they cook, they eat and they discuss their ideas. But coming up with recipes that not only taste good but are also easily made while on the rails isn’t always easy.
Small convection ovens, microwaves and grills are what are on hand for the long-distance routes, with bar-type items served on shorter routes. Sourcing of ingredients in required quantities, packaging, storage and how well it will travel all play a role in deciding which recipes make it onto the menu and which are missed out.
And what kind of food has the Culinary Advisory Team inspired? Well if you have ever eaten spice-rubbed Atlantic salmon fillet or vegetarian shell pasta with corn, leeks, and Parmesan cheese – then you know who you have to thank.
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