What started in 2003 as a creative idea has since grown into an unparalleled phenomenon. For 20 years, CuliAir, the world’s only hot-air balloon restaurant, has been soaring to new heights. Such an anniversary needs to be celebrated, but it also deserves a look back and a look forward. How could the Netherlands become home to the world’s highest restaurant and what are the secret ingredients of its success? And what will the 2023 season bring? The 20th anniversary year also promises to be an unprecedented culinary adventure.
The start of a gastronomic adventure
Angélique Schmeinck is a master chef, one of only two female master chefs in the Netherlands. For years, she has been the chef at De Kromme Dissel, a Michelin-starred restaurant. After a creative session on ‘cooking at altitude’, as a graduation project for the Creative Thinking Techniques course, Angélique has a dream. A dream she abandons in 2003. Literally, because in that year the world’s first and only hot-air balloon restaurant sails hundreds of metres above the Dutch plains. It is the start of an unparalleled gastronomic adventure. Angélique performs like a duck to water so high in the sky and the balloon has not yet reached its final destination after 20 years.
An unforgettable experience
The grass springs up, the balloon detaches from the ground. Quietly you rise to great heights. No, you are not in the basket of a hot air balloon. You are in a top restaurant, with set tables and shiny crockery. You enjoy a delicious glass of wine and a lobster cocktail while floating between heaven and earth. The destination is unknown. It is the journey that matters today.
Picturesque villages and vast meadows alternate, showing Holland at its finest. Against the golden glow of sunset, special wire baskets of lamb, king perch and farm duck are hoisted from the balloon. The heat of the hot air balloon ensures perfect cooking. Both the balloon and the dishes are controlled by the elements earth, air, water and fire.
You wave to people on the ground who look up in amazement and the balloon sails on undisturbed. For an hour and a half, you can enjoy all the beauty and delicacies you take in at high altitude. The landing is the exciting and spectacular end of an unforgettable adventure, celebrated with a traditional champagne baptism.
For 20 years, CuliAir has been making dreams come true by offering an unforgettable experience to its passengers.
The secret ingredients of success
That a dream that for many seemed unattainable nevertheless became a reality, not for a while but for 20 years, is no coincidence. Dining in a restaurant as high as two kilometres offers a unique experience. All senses are stimulated at high altitude, making for a special, unprecedented experience. The personal attention from welcome to landing and beyond feels like a warm blanket. Chef Angélique Schmeinck prepares the dishes live from the kitchen, nearby, and personally takes guests on this culinary adventure, while the balloonist talks about what can be seen.
And what exactly there is to see is a surprise every time. After all, a hot air balloon cannot be steered, but is guided by the wind to its unknown destination. The uncertainty of this adventure stimulates the imagination: where will we end up, what will we experience? After the spectacular landing and champagne baptism, you immediately know that you have just experienced something unique, exclusive and unforgettable.
The unique experience, personal touch, exclusivity and the limbo of adventure are the ingredients that have made CuliAir thrill guests for 20 years.
Exclusive Altitude Tasting
In all these years, all facilities have been constantly optimised and techniques further refined. In 2021, a brand new hot air balloon, the PH-EAT (Exclusive Altitude Tasting) was launched. This giant balloon offers a spacious compartment with a full kitchen and a generous sky bar for passengers. The balloon also features an ingenious pulley system and specially designed oven baskets to cook meat, fish and poultry in the heat of the balloon.
Since corona, we have become even more aware of the value of being together, of making memories together and sharing unforgettable experiences. For CuliAir, this leads to an ever-increasing demand.
That is why, from 2023, chief Angélique Schmeinck is working with 2 regional specialised ballooning companies: Michael Kruseman of 4CB Ballooning and Niels Kon of Wiegers Ballooning, highly experienced and certified balloonists who have been ballooning all their lives.
Dreaming of the future
The 20th anniversary will be celebrated in a big way in 2023. How? That remains a surprise for now. What is certain is that Angélique will go the extra mile to make the unique experience of a balloon flight with CuliAir even more special.
And that fits well with the 20th anniversary of the realisation of a dream. After 20 years of ballooning, the final destination is still unknown. And dreaming? That’s something Angélique will continue to do all her life!