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CuliAir Skydining: The World's First Balloon Restaurant

Serena Curto
copertina CuliAir Skydining

Dutch chef Angélique Schmeinck opens the world's first balloon restaurant, offering a gourmet dining experience among the clouds.

A Dutch chef named Angélique Schmeinck has caused quite a stir with her renowned creation, CuliAir Skydiningthe world's first restaurant in a hot air balloon. Lucky diners get to enjoy a three-course meal while floating in the Dutch skies.

culyair skydining

After 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry (including 12 years at the Michelin-starred De Kromme Dissel) and several cookbooks, Angélique Schmeinck ventured into new territory. In 2003, she was inspired to launch a contemporary high cuisine venture in the sky, preparing gourmet dishes during a hot air balloon journey and using the balloon as a giant convection oven. The results were immediately embraced by travelers. Forbes calls the idea of cooking in a hot air balloon ingenious, as the internal temperature of the "vehicle" rises to about 100 degrees, allowing foods to be slowly cooked at low temperatures. This technique is perfect for developing flavors and preserving the juices of fish or meat dishes.

CuliAir Skydining Guy Talen
@Guy Talen

With a customized pulley system, the dishes are transported to the top of the balloon envelope in special steel baking baskets. After cooking, the dishes are lowered into the custom kitchen, where they receive a finishing touch, including crisp vegetables and succulent sauces. "I'm in the center, and the guests and the pilot are all around me, so I can pass the dishes," says Chef Angélique "I explain the dishes and can immediately sense when the guests are a bit anxious. Some are afraid of heights, and I can help them relax. It's a very personal and intense experience."

culyair skydining3

"I've already completed over 700 flights with more than 7,000 passengers (600 passengers per season)," she adds. "But every flight is special to me because you never know what will happen. It's one of the most beautiful things a chef can give to a guest, something they'll never forget." The entire experience lasts from four to five hours and includes a reception in the meadow, dinner in the balloon, and a champagne and dessert party at the landing site. "For me, it's always about applying creative thinking," Chef Angélique says, "which is very important in these times. Some restaurants copy each other, and there's little uniqueness." CuliAir's balloon journey lasts about an hour and a half. It's longer than a typical flight, but the time is necessary for the impeccable presentation of the high-level dinner you're about to enjoy. During the flight, the dishes are prepared on the spot.

CuliAir Skydining Tapas Magazine
@Tapas Magazine

And what does the future hold for CuliAir? "My dream is to bring this experience to other countries," she says, "and find people to work with me to make more people around the world happy with this experience. Also, to earn a Michelin star and have the restaurant featured in the guide." CuliAir offers culinary balloon journeys in the Netherlands. On the day of departure, they choose the flying area based on the guaranteed best weather conditions (the central and eastern regions of the Netherlands often offer favorable wind and weather conditions). The balloon can accommodate up to 10 passengers, and the best time to book the flight is June, August, and September for ideal weather. The cost is 475 euros per person, including dinner and the flight.

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