The old adage says “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” If that’s the case, then what do guacamole, fruit smoothies, black bean soup, lamb chops, and other delicacies ward off? Secretary Rice and her traveling party have a grueling schedule when on the road (and in the air). Transatlantic flights and long days in countries around the globe add up; taxing the body and its immune system. Lucky for those of us on the plane, we’ve found the keeper of health and defender against hunger in Khristine Farmer, our 1st Flight Attendant and chef on many of our grueling overseas missions. Khristine is one of several Flight Attendants that look out for our safety and maintain a level of professionalism and service that lives up to their status as distinguished members of the 89th Airlift Wing, based out of Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, whose mission is to:
Transport our nation’s senior civilian and military leaders to locations around the globe...during peace, crisis, and conflict... and providing combat ready forces to theater combatant commanders.
After receiving rave reviews from everyone (and I do mean everyone) on our last trip to Turkey, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, it was decided that the world must know more about Khristine—the woman who keeps the Secretary, her staff, and all others aboard the flights nourished and satiated.
How long have you served/cooked with the 89th?
Three and a half years.
What’s your earliest memory of cooking, in general?
I remember cooking for my dad when I was 10 years old. I learned to cook eggs and pancakes first.
Do you have a favorite meal to prepare?
I really don’t. I enjoy cooking almost anything, but I do love cooking a good steak or Spaghetti Bolognese.
Describe the process of cooking for a Secretarial flight:
Wow, where to begin? First I put together a menu with two options per leg of the trip. Then the menu is sent in to Mrs. Perez’s office for approval. Afterwards the shopping list is made and we shop and prep for the meals as much as possible. For example, for the lamb chop meal I marinated and seared the lamb chops ahead of time in our prep kitchen at the squadron before the mission departed.
Do you cook when you are home?
Yes! I love to cook at home. My husband is my guinea pig at times. I try out recipes that I want to use on the jet on him. Granted, if I just came back from a trip, I like to wait a few days before I cook.
What is a standard meal for the Secretary?
For breakfast, she loves scrambled eggs with grilled tomatoes and mushrooms on the side. She also loves bacon! For dinner, she enjoys salmon and grilled chicken.
If you were not a chef, what would you be?
I became a flight attendant to travel the world, and being able to cook on an airplane interested me. Since becoming a flight attendant, my culinary skills have definitely improved.
Do you have a favorite restaurant?
I have so many, but I love Sweet Water Tavern and Balducci’s is awesome, too. They serve the best seared scallops!
What’s your inspiration when preparing a meal?
No matter how difficult a meal is to prepare, (whether it’s finding certain ingredients or preparing the actual meal) I think about who I’m preparing the meal for and picture them enjoying it and being able to put a smile on their face.
Any disaster stories to share while cooking on the plane?
Well nothing mission-stopping, but little things like forgetting dinner rolls and then realizing they’re in the belly of the plane and not being able to get to them. Another time we had to serve a steak meal with no A-1 sauce. But no, sorry, nothing awful like burning a meal or anything like that.
What’s the best cooking-related compliment you’ve received?
I made the Spaghetti Bolognese for a Congressional Delegations Mission and a Congressman said it was better than what his mom used to make! And the one compliment that tops them all is anytime I cook something and people want the recipe afterwards. The Secretary wanted my Turkey Burger recipe on my last trip. That was very flattering!
What’s the one ingredient that you can’t live without while cooking on the road…I mean, in the air?
Garlic! And Butter. The real stuff, not that Parkay or jarred garlic. And hot sauce…gotta have hot sauce.
Thanks to Khristine and her crew at the 89th for all of their hard work!