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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sky's the Limit for Aeromar's Executive Chef

Wayne Dyall has been a chef for more than two decades — but he's never worked in a restaurant and he doesn't plan to, either.

Dyall, a self-confessed food lover, is the executive chef at Aeromar catering plant, where he prepares in-flight meals for both foreign and domestic airlines.

A Welshman, Dyall's career started far away from Moscow. He worked for 23 years in the British army where he also cooked for royalty, presidents and foreign dignitaries. He then spent three months working for Shell Oil Co., serving oilmen far out on a platform in the North Sea.

But his catering experience actually goes back a bit earlier. The second-oldest son in a big family, Dyall, 41, first began catering in his childhood to his four brothers and sister.

"My mother used to say, 'can you prepare this or that,' and basically, I just got into catering that way. I did a two-year apprenticeship in the armed forces, which was probably the happiest part of my life, and then my career progressed through the army."

For more than two years, Dyall has overseen the cooking at Aeromar, a joint venture between Aeroflot, with 51 percent, and Lufthansa LSG/SKY Chefs.

The plant, set up in 1989, caters to 45 airlines — with British Airways becoming its first international client in 1990.

For each airline Aeromar has a special menu, which is updated periodically. The airline orders what they want from the menu, with a different meal for each class.

Dyall says his clients more or less have similar expectations. "Airlines don't tend to have national dishes on their flights they just go for the healthiest option — light and easily digestible."

But there are a few rules. Bliny are often served on Aeroflot flights, and "you don't put pork on Turkish airlines."

Orders are taken 24 hours before the flight and then preparation begins. It usually takes from 14 to 18 hours to cook the food, after which, Dyall says, it is "blast-chilled" to ensure freshness. Twelve hours before takeoff, the order is reconfirmed, and 40 minutes beforehand the food is delivered to the plane.

Servicing on average 120 flights a day, on a big day his staff delivers up to 50,000 meals.

"I am the point man with Aeromar to the Western airlines. At least once a week I go to Sheremetyevo-2 [airport terminal] and speak to all the station managers of the airlines. If they are happy, the airlines are usually happy, then we are happy," says Dyall.

Dyall heard about the job at Aeromar after getting a telephone call from a friend who was offered the job, but turned it down.

"I went through interviews with all of the bosses at SKY and LSG in London. I knew the company was very highly regarded in the airline-catering industry. I was told that before I came here. And now I prefer Moscow to London."

The move to Aeromar had an affect on his cooking style. "It [army food] was bulk produced, you could not put the finishing touches on things. I spent a long time with the parachute regiment: big fellas, big appetites. All they wanted was steaks. Airline food is a lot better because I have more money to spend."

Dyall made his mark on Aeromar as well, and there have been a few changes in the company since he arrived.

"I have introduced confidence in my managers. If they make a mistake, they make that mistake once and then they learn from it. I have brought into operation HACCP, or hazard analysis critical control point, which is the world standard for food safety. And I am very heavily involved with customer care, an LSG-driven item. We look after our customers and our staff."

Most of the produce he uses is shipped from abroad — only about 30 percent is domestically produced at Belaya Dacha, a farm in Moscow that supplies McDonald's. Fruit and vegetables come from Holland and Spain.

"We try to get as much local produce as we can, but its twice, three times more expensive," Dyall says.

He speaks highly of Aeromar's 1,200-strong staff, of which only two are Westerners.

"My staff know what's expected of them. We work to a strict schedule. I will never forget my staff here, they are so conscientious and eager to learn. If I were to go to a unit in England, I could get rid of all my English staff and bring 30 or 40 of them from here," Dyall says.

When the time comes to move on, Dyall says, he'll stay in the airline-catering business.

"I enjoy looking after airlines. It's nice to be sent an e-mail, a compliment from a passenger, which is great. This month I have had three: one from Swiss Air, one from KLM and one from Delta," Dyall said.