Freshly shucked New Zealand oysters could soon be served on aircraft flying to China, following a partnership with Al Brown.

The high-profile chef and restaurateur yesterday announced he had signed up to a three-year partnership with China Southern Airlines to turn airline food "completely upside down".

Brown said he was first approached about the partnership by Auckland Airport.

"There was a relationship there between Auckland Airport and China Southern that's been going really well, but ... I guess that [China Southern president and chief executive Tan Wan Geng] knew that everything was great about the planes, but the food offering wasn't so good."


The airline had Western and Chinese menu options and Brown said he would be redeveloping menus across all classes over the next three months on its Auckland to Guangzhou route - with a different menu for each way.

The menus would feature a "four seasons, five senses" mantra, which potentially included a video component with meals.

New Zealand lamb, salmon, green shelled mussels and oysters were other ingredients Brown hoped to showcase in the skies.

"If that's an opportunity at first class - wouldn't that be amazing - you're opening live oysters at 35,000ft.

"Something that I was thinking about the other day were lamb neck fillets which I've always used which are a lovely, perfect size - you could braise those.

"I'd like to do salmon, but more in a raw capacity, or more in a cold, poached capacity."

The dulling of flavour at 35,000ft needed to be taken into account, he said. "Certainly in the older airlines, that's why most people always said the food was bland.

"The problem was it tasted good down at ground level but once it was up there - your senses are dulled."


Brown said he was approached by Air New Zealand around 20 years ago, but didn't feel ready then.