Full-time Pilot, Part-time Chef: Dave Crichton

When our very own pilot Dave Crichton made it to the finals of MasterChef 2018, he took inspiration from his travels to fly the judges to uncharted gastronomic territory.

This interview was taken from the Holiday Report 2019


How did your career as a pilot help you progress in MasterChef?

I love my job for the access it gives me to cuisines from all over the world. Even something as simple as bread has so many variations and it’s a privilege to be able to try food from different countries. I’ll try anything and never stop looking for inspiration. I recently sampled a few local treats in a petrol station in Barbados, for instance. It can be the most unlikely experiences that get me thinking “how can I reinvent this dish?”

My day job also helped me prepare for cooking complex recipes under time pressure. You have to spend a lot of time “armchair flying” as a pilot. For MasterChef, I used the same approach, visualising the steps I would go through to create my chosen dishes.


What is your favourite destination for food inspiration?

It has to be New York. It is such a melting pot of different cultures and cuisines. The restaurants are incredibly inventive. I recently took a trip to New York’s Milk Bar where I tried their “cereal milk” flavour ice cream.


Do you have any favourite dishes from MasterChef that were inspired by your travels?

I concocted a meal based around the concept of sweetcorn tempura after seeing it on the menu in Vegas. I’d never seen this concept before so I thought it would stand out. I paired my version with guinea fowl to create a glorified Sunday roast that John Torode loved.


What’s your favourite Thomas Cook Airlines meal?

It has to be a cooked breakfast. Often when you’re flying you end up having meals at strange times to get onto local time. My strategy is to skip a meal or two until I’m really hungry and then indulge in a Full English just before landing.


Are there any new food or drink trends that are about to “take off”?

The Instagram generation are extremely health-conscious and want to know exactly what they’re putting in their bodies, so low sugar options and veganism are big focuses in restaurants. I’m also seeing an increasing number of requests relating to allergies at my supper clubs. Accommodating these requests can be challenging and labour-intensive for commercial chefs.


What are your views on eating at the hotel when you’re abroad?

Hotels can be great training grounds for up and coming chefs starting out. My favourite destination for hotel dining is Goa, where the curry is always out of this world. However, peer pressure often leads me to head out with the Captain or co-pilot for a beer and a bar snack instead of a hotel meal.


Any plans to quit the cockpit and take on a career in the kitchen?

No, my passion is cooking but flying is my career. I love combining the two and seeking out inspiration from all over the world.


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