Peter Ho, 69, is the Vancouver-based regional catering manager for North America at Cathay Pacific Airways.
Q. What is the scope of your job?
A. I oversee management of the independent airline catering services that deliver in-flight meals for Cathay Pacific Airways’s six commercial passenger ports in the United States and two in Canada. I am on the road about 10 days a month, checking supplier safety and hygiene, and conducting quality assurance audits.
How did you train for this position?
It was on-the-job training. I knew nothing about food when I started — didn’t know the difference between jam and marmalade, or what a croissant is. I started working for Cathay in 1966 when I was 20 years old; it was my very first job. My entry-level position was traffic officer, manually checking in passengers at the gate counter and managing aircraft tarmac services. This was back when we had only six planes, four of them prop planes, flying from our headquarters in Hong Kong.
How did that lead to food services?
In a word, nepotism. Or rather, to avoid it. Eventually I rose to supervisor of weight and balance, a critical safety measure for pilots. I wrote the company’s first weight and balance manual. As a trainer, I met and eventually married my wife, Amy. But when some colleagues wondered if, in my supervisory position, I would give her better shifts, I asked for a transfer. Luckily, there was an opening in catering.
Even with celebrity chefs consulting airlines, why are in-flight meals never as tasty as the same food in restaurants?
I can’t comment on restaurants, but I know we taste food differently on airplanes because the cabins are drier. Our taste buds and our sense of smell are different. Even the ambience of tight seating and engine noise affects how people perceive the taste of food in flight. We season food to try to accommodate these factors.
You’ve stayed at Cathay Pacific for going on 50 years. What’s your formula for workplace longevity?
“To be” rather than “seem to be.” By that I mean do your job well, then move on to the next and do that even better. Let other people praise you; you don’t have to blow your own horn. I think the new generation is already looking out for their next promotion rather than paying attention to the job at hand.
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