Hawaiian Airlines introduces new first class menu

Honolulu-based Hawaiian Airlines recently debuted a new in-flight menu for its first-class passengers. The new premium meals are created by an award-winning local chef as part of the airline’s Featured Chef Series.

The onboard chef series showcases the next wave of culinary talent local to Hawaii. The airline said it’s a valued collaboration with renowned chefs on trans-Pacific flights, emphasizing Hawaii’s vibrant food culture and special in-flight experience.

The new premium menu features meals designed by Robynne Maii, the owner and chef of the FĂȘte Hawaii restaurant in downtown Honolulu. Maii’s dishes are currently available through May on flights from Hawaii to the mainland, including Boston, New York, Austin, West Coast destinations and Papeete, French Polynesia.

For brunch, passengers start with seasonal fresh fruit and a warmed croissant with butter and jam. Entrees include a Hawaiian sweet potato hash, cage-free scrambled eggs with roasted cherry tomatoes, and Canadian bacon with honey mustard sauce.


Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

During the lunch and dinner hours, passengers are offered a light appetizer salad with baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts and kalamata olives topped with a roasted garlic vinaigrette. For the main course, passengers can choose a crispy chicken schnitzel with a lilikoi (passion fruit flavor) mustard sauce, braised red cabbage and warm red potato salad; or a zucchini and pea risotto with a basil macadamia nut pesto and roasted asparagus. To finish, an opera cake created by Michelle Karr-Ueoka, one of Hawaii’s top chefs, is offered.

Renee Awana, executive director of product development at Hawaiian Airlines, spoke to USA TODAY about the airline’s inflight chef lineup.

“The Featured Chef Series is a perfect way to share with guests part of what Hawaii and Hawaiian Airlines are all about, which are authentic experiences that represent our unique and flavorful island culture.”

Making the new dishes

The new in-flight food creations took Maii two full days in the kitchen, taste testing and tweaking the recipes.

“It’s challenging to cook food that’s made ahead of time and reheated on the airlines,” she told USA TODAY.

Maii had to consider the factors in making a meal that would keep nicely, including the ingredients that could be easily sourced and what could be made on a large scale. The chef said the chicken schnitzel, for example, is delicious, cold or hot. She reportedly used chicken as a protein instead of veal because chicken is light and tasty. Maii also considered the passengers’ diets, as the zucchini and pea risotto is vegetarian and gluten-free.

An award-winning chef

Maii began working with Hawaiian in 2018 when she ran a cafe at the airline’s headquarters until the pandemic. Last June, Maii won the 2022 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific. The achievement made her the first female chef and woman of Native Hawaiian ancestry to win and the first Hawaiian chef or restaurant to win in nearly two decades.

Hawaiian Airlines chef Robynne Maii

Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian’s new first class menu is the second time Maii has partnered with the airline to offer passengers a taste of Hawaii.

“It’s great to be part of that family, it’s a growing family, but it still feels super local, super small,” she said. “It’s something we’re really proud of.”