Schmeinck had her “Eureka” moment in 2003 when she saw a hot-air balloon and realized, “a hot-air balloon is actually a huge hot oven!” Excited by the opportunity to build her own restaurant from scratch, she called a hot-air balloon company for help. Two weeks later, they hoisted a customized bag filled with fish and chicken to the crown of a balloon via pulleys. The flame at the balloon’s base brought the temperature to 194 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees Celsius), an ideal heat level for slow-cooked meals.
That successful trial run was the starting point of CuliAir, the world’s first hot-air balloon restaurant. Since her maiden voyage almost two decades ago, Schmeinck has hosted about 50 trips each year across the Netherlands.
Guests receive notification on where to meet mere hours before takeoff. CuliAir uses 20 different takeoff locations to accommodate the wide range of flying conditions. Weather can alter landing times or how high the balloon flies, an especially important consideration given the balloon flame’s dual function as oven and engine. Higher elevations require a higher flame, which means an increase in cooking temperature. Since the food that Schmeinck cooks requires temperatures between 194 to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, she works with the balloon’s pilot to ensure that course adjustments don’t affect a dish.
When guests arrive in the designated takeoff meadow, Schmeinck serves them an appetizer—such as melon, goat cheese, and dried capers—followed by champagne. The natural, fresh ingredients can be prepared raw, cooked low, or cooked slow. The basket can accommodate up to 12 people. The basket lays on its side, allowing guests to climb in and lay horizontally until the flame fills the balloon with enough heat to lift everything off the ground (and pull passengers upright). Once fully airborne, Schmeinck gets cooking.
According to atlasobscura