Waterford, Mich.-based Pentastar Aviation, the former corporate flight department of DaimlerChrysler purchased by Edsel B. Ford II in 2001, recently promoted Richard Barley to executive chef of its Fivestar Gourmet catering division. Barley oversees a staff of eight chefs and culinary apprentices to provide catering services for FBOs at five Detroit-area airports as well as for off-airport events.
Since Pentastar opened its in-house catering department at its Pontiac FBO terminal building in 1992, the company has invested more than $1 million in its state-of-the-art kitchen facility. Like many FBOs, Pentastar keeps track of its customers’ catering preferences in the flight operations department’s database.
Through computers in the on-site kitchen, Fivestar Gourmet staff can access this information and track the FBO’s incoming and outgoing flights to ensure all catering needs are ready when the aircraft arrive. The proximity to corporate aircraft, crew and passengers at the FBO gives the chefs at Fivestar Gourmet daily opportunities to fine-tune the operation’s catering offerings and practices for corporate aviation clients.
“Many FBOs don’t have a recommended caterer, so they’ll ask a local delicatessen or restaurant to cater the flight,” Barley said. He suggested that these off-airport entities often don’t know the packaging requirements or reheating capabilities on board aircraft. “Since we work directly with the flight operations staff, we know the equipment on board each type of aircraft, such as whether the aircraft has a microwave, oven or no heating capability at all. This takes some of the guesswork out of ordering,” he added.
Pentastar Aviation is an active member of NBAA, with several employees who have served on or are serving on various committees. A member of the NBAA Schedulers and Dispatchers Catering Workgroup, Barley was one of the presenters
at the “How Safe is My Catering?” session during the Schedulers and Dispatchers Conference in Reno, Nev., last month.
Topics included preparing and delivering food safely, as well as what caterers can do to ensure that the food is not tampered with after delivery to the FBO. Barley also discussed food-preparation methods related to aviation catering.
Providing meal choices that go well beyond standard sandwich fare, Fivestar Gourmet offers a wide variety of breakfast foods, hors d’oeuvres, soups, salads, main dishes and desserts. Entrees include quiche lorraine, eggs Santa Fe and granny apple cinnamon crepes for breakfast; nine-layer antipasto and sliced filet mignon salads; butternut squash and ginger, French onion and Maryland blue crab soups; and crabmeat-stuffed sole, salmon Rockefeller, beef Wellington, veal saltimbocca and seafood cassoulet for dinner. The more than 60 menu selections can be packaged for elegant aircraft service, as well as for catered events. Prices range from $3.95 for sandwiches to $14.95 for an entrée salad to $34.95 for a filet mignon dinner entrée.
Fivestar Gourmet also provides limited menu meals at the FBO’s terminal café. The café offers a daily special for $3, often drawing non-Pentastar airport workers to the café for lunch. Fivestar also recently added a pastry chef to its staff, expanding its line of desserts available for catering and enabling the FBO to set out freshly baked cookies and pastries for pilots and their passengers at various lounges throughout the terminal.
In addition to truly gourmet fare, Pentastar Aviation’s catering division can offer another unusual service for upscale events: ice carving. Both Barley and Fivestar chef Ben Romine are award-winning ice carvers, taking second place in the team competition at last year’s Plymouth International Ice Festival. Romine took first place overall for his “Duck in Flight” carving at the same festival, and both have placed in the top three at previous ice-carving competitions.
In addition to supporting Pentastar Aviation clients, Fivestar Gourmet also provides its services to other FBOs, trucking prepared meals to Willow Run, Bishop International, Detroit Metro and Detroit City Airports. According to Barley, nearly every FBO at Pontiac uses Fivestar Gourmet as one of its preferred caterers. Although Pentastar Aviation encourages its clients to use Fivestar Gourmet for both selection and convenience, it will honor customer requests to provide pre-ordered food through another caterer.