Review: United Airlines 'Trotter' brand disappoints at 35,000 ft.

February 1, 2010

Trotter-inspired chicken and potato salad
Trotter-inspired chicken and potato salad

I got bumped up to Business Class on the flight over to Paris, which gave me a chance to sample some Trotter "approved" food. The bottom of the menu has the familiar "T" logo, and says this item was "designed especially for United Airlines by Charlie Trotter." He's currently putting his name on a few dishes in both Business and First Class, and my only choice for dinner included his "mustard thyme scented chicken, with warm horseradish potato salad." Now don't get me wrong, I realize that these chefs consult with the airline's commissary, give them a few suggestions and maybe spend a day or two working on recipes, but it's basically a branding exercise (as well as a cashed check), and like eating in the Vegas outpost of any "celeb" chef, I certainly don't expect them to actually cook the food they serve on the plane. I also realize the severe limitations of reheating food in a galley kitchen the size of a New York City closet. But seriously, putting your four-star name on a product as dry, bland and uninspired as my weak, rectangular entrée, is akin to asking Meryl Streep to fill-in for Paris Hilton's latest B movie, and do the performance via Skype. It was more like "dry chicken breast, draped in cloying, grainy mustard sauce, accompanied by undercooked red potato wedges scattered with random green beans" (not even haricot vert, mind you). Why bother? Why tarnish the brand? I mean, assume I'm a well-heeled venture capitalist or internet start-up millionaire who doesn't blink at spending the extra $3,000 to fly Business Class, and I'm not from Chicago but I've heard of this Trotter guy. This is my first exposure to his food, and now I'm supposed to make a reservation there the next time I'm in town? With this kind of introduction, I'm probably more likely to drop $300 at Alinea.