Thanks to television programming on channels like the Food Network, the Cooking Channel, Bravo, and the Travel Channel, chefs have become celebrities and valuable brands. As airports around the United States continue to upgrade their restaurant offerings, many are looking to celebrity chef-branded eateries. And these restaurants offer everything from high-end cuisine to down-home country food, with something for everyone.
Bethesda, Maryland-based HMS Host is a company that runs food and beverage concessions at airports in the U.S. and Canada. It has created a division that focuses just on the celebrity chefs it represents. Brands it represents are:
- "Top Chef" two-time contestant Chef Mike Isabella opened Greek isle-inspired restaurant Kapnos Taverna, at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
- Chef Roger Mooking's concept, Twist, is located at Toronto-Pearson International Airport. He's the host of "Man Fire Food" on the Cooking Channel and serves as a judge on "Chopped Canada."
- Award-winning Chef Bryan Caswell created 3rd Bar Oyster & Eating House located at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport. His accolades include the 2009 Best New Chef Award from Food & Wine, Semifinalist for the James Beard 2011 Best Southwestern Chef, and a spot on the Continental Airlines Congress of Chefs.
- Todd English’s Bonfire, located in John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 2 and Boston-Logan International Airport’s Terminal B;
- “Top Chef” winner Michael Voltaggio’s Ink.Sack at Los Angeles International’s Tom Bradley International Terminal;
- Lorena Garcia Tapas at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and Lorena Garcia Cocina at Miami International Airport;
- Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless, located at Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s Terminals 1, 3 and 5;
- David Burke’s Burke in the Box, D Gates, Gate 52, McCarran International Airport;
- Kathy Casey’s Dish D’Lish, Central Terminal, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; and
- Wolfgang Puck Express, at Hartsfield-Jackson, Boston-Logan, Charlotte-Douglas, Chicago O’Hare, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, Denver International, Indianapolis International, JFK, Los Angeles International, and McCarran International airports.
Another popular food and beverage operator is New York-based OTG Management. The company took off after it was tapped by JetBlue Airways to handle food and beverage outlets at the carrier’s flagship Terminal 5 at JFK Airport. Since then, OTG has outlets in nine U.S. and Canadian airports. Some of their concepts include:
- Mark Ladner’s Aeronuova, an Italian restaurant at JFK Airport’s Terminal 5;
- Roberto Santibañez’s Revolucion, a regional Mexican restaurant at JFK Airport’s Terminal 5;
- Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Local, at Philadelphia International Airport’s Terminal 5;
- Empire Tavern, a collaboration from Balthazar's Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr, LaGuardia Airport Terminal C;
- Pat LaFrieda’s Custom Burgers, in LaGuardia’s Terminal C;
- Chef Aaron Sanchez’s Veulo Taqueria, in LaGuardia’s Terminal C; and
- Chef Anne Burrell’s Vagabond Burger Bar, in LaGuardia’s Terminal C.
OTG has also partnered with United Airlines to completely revamp the carrier’s Terminal 3 at hub Newark-Liberty International Airport. Celebrity chefs with outlets planned at the upgraded terminal include Michelin-starred Chef Alain Ducasse; Iron Chef Mark Forgione; Chef Amanda Freitag; Iron Chef Jose Garces; Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli; and Top Chef contestant Dale Talde.
Atlanta-based Hojeij Branded Food is a food and beverage concessions operator with its own stable of celebrity chef-branded restaurants, including:
- Cat Cora’s Kitchen, at George Bush Intercontinental’s Terminal E, Salt Lake City International’s Concourse B, San Francisco International’s Terminal 2 and Hartsfield-Jackson’s Concourse A; and
- G. Garvin’s Low Country, at Hartsfield-Jackson’s Concourse A.
Newark, Delaware-based Delaware North has its own stable of celebrity chefs:
- Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s Skewers, a fast-casual restaurant that offers Japanese street and bar food at LAX Airport’s Terminal 5;
- Wolfgang Puck Express at LAX Airport’s Terminal 7;
- Leah Chase’s Dooky Chase, at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport’s Concourse A; and
- Food Network Kitchen at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s Terminal 3, Concourse F.
And Cleveland-based United Concessions Group has opened Iron Chef Michael Symon’s Bar Symon at Washington Dulles and Pittsburgh airports. So the next time you're in the airport, check out their famous eats.