Chef Kerry Sear is our director of food and beverage, tasked with creating world-class dining experiences on the ground and in the air. His more than 30-year culinary career began at the young age of 11 in Old Brownsover, England. Chef Kerry ran his own restaurant, Cascadia—a downtown Seattle favorite for over a decade. After that, he was executive chef and director of food and beverage at Four Seasons. Below, Chef Kerry shares why he's excited about fine cuisine at 40,000 feet, and some of his favorite food experiences.
Why did you decide to join TCS World Travel?
The challenge and the opportunity. I had done two of the private jet trips with Four Seasons. Plus, my family loves to travel and we love food globally. I’ve done the hotel thing. I’ve done the restaurant thing so I can tick those boxes.
People who I speak with say, “What an amazing opportunity.” And it is. It’s for all the products: TCS World Travel, Four Seasons, National Geographic. That’s exciting. It ups the ante of what we’re doing as a company.
How do you create tasty meals on the jets?
There are lots of moving parts because it’s not me cooking it. We’re relying on our jet partners. They help us with the logistics. Food tastes differently in the air. There is the challenge of taste testing. On the ground, the guests experience all the local flavors. The jet is their home away from home. Some people’s expectation is that it’s a three-star Michelin restaurant in the sky and then other people just want a salad. We also have to cater to the dietary needs of our guests. We have to find a happy medium with all that. Flavor-wise, if we can get the best product that we can through our vendors we’re halfway there. For seasonings, we have a chef’s kit onboard with such items as truffle oil and flavored salts.
What is the dining experience like for our guests on the jet?
The format we’ve come up with regarding the menu with choices for appetizer, main course and dessert is a nice touch for a jet. I’ve had people say, “I just want a plate of potatoes,” and some people who say, “Give me everything you’ve got.” They’ll go with the beef, the fish and the vegetarian option plus all the sides. It’s about choice.
Our guests go on this world trip and you think they want to experience the world. There’s a certain amount of shock and awe when they get to somewhere like Mumbai. Many times they just want something familiar like a Coke. At one point people thought the jet was for getting from point A to point B, but it is a key part of their vacation.
We have to make the food work on the jet. It’s a challenge. And then you have logistics, flying in the air, no kitchen, restricted areas. Guests will ask me if they can see the kitchen. I show them the galley. The more they know, the more appreciative they are of what we’re trying to do. People come back to the galley and say, “That’s it? I can’t believe what you guys are pulling off.” The impossible happens.
What are some of your favorite places to eat around the world?
I love India. I went there on my honeymoon for a month-and-a-half. I love the spices. I love the vegetarian options. I think it’s still a great, untapped culinary resource. I love some of the ingredients and spices they use and yet, it is a very homey, family type of cuisine.
Italy is also up there. I love going to Italy. You can never get a bad meal in Italy and they’re very passionate about food. You’ve got everything covered in Italy from the North with its French and Austrian influences to the South with its Greek and Arabic influences.
I love going to food markets. I love talking to the vendors. The bugs and more exotic kind of stuff... I’ll leave that to the locals.
When you’re traveling how should you look at food?
You’re going to see and experience countries. You see the people. You see the artwork, so why not embrace the food? Why not embrace the beverage? It’s all part of your experience. When you get home, then you process all that information. You think, “Wow, I tried this and I tried that.” You may even try to recreate what you ate. It is all part of the trip.
When I was traveling in India, I went to the home of a friend and the spice wallah came in. The mother needed spices for her house garam masala. The spice wallah knew how to blend it for her. She had a certain mix of spices she preferred, which he blended right in front of her. This was part of her kitchen.
After that trip, I came back and created an Indian spiced salmon dish. It’s salmon dipped in a house blend of spices that we created and then pan-fried. It had all those spices—fenugreek and cumin, as well as brown sugar and some dried huckleberries.
What was the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
One of the best meals I ever had was a fish stew on top of a hotel in Lisbon. I worked with the chef, who was in his 80s, for six hours making the stew. I thought at the time, “You don’t cook fish this long because it’s so delicate.” He layered all the fish. He brought it up in a special clay pot. We had a certain wine and we sat on the roof of this hotel under the sun overlooking the ocean. Every element of living and eating in Portugal was encapsulated in that lunch, which went on for three or four hours.
I was in Portugal because we were planning a big Portuguese food and wine festival in Vancouver. We brought the same chef back to Vancouver. We flew over the seafood. We had the same wines, but it was not even close to that experience. All the pieces were there except for one: We weren’t sitting on a rooftop in Lisbon overlooking the ocean.
Experience Chef Kerry’s culinary creations first hand on one of our Expeditions.