In the last few years, United Airlines has been going hard on the dining in its Newark terminal with a $120 million revamp — and now as part of the effort, airport dining company OTG has opened a 24-hour bakery with legendary chocolatier Jacques Torres.
Torres consulted on Mélange, a bakery and restaurant at the C1 concourse intended to mimic a French all-day cafe. It will push out thousands of croissants, macarons, muffins, chocolates, doughnuts, and bagels every day, including trendy novelty items like rainbow pastries. Once all 55 of the terminal’s restaurants are functioning, it will make breads and desserts for them, too.
The chocolatier was at first “skeptical” that a full-time baking operation could happen in an airport, and it was initially an adjustment, particularly since certain tools couldn’t make it past security. (Knifes to cut dough, for example, must be tied to furniture.) Still, he was sold, and he’s been working with the staff at the bakery for more than a year to develop the menu.
In the last few years, OTG’s aim has been to create actual restaurants within airports. At Newark, they’ve hired other big name consultants too, like Mario Carbone for an Italian steakhouse and Einat Admony for a Middle Eastern cafe.
But the average traveler wouldn’t be able to tell that a slew of celebrity chefs like Torres and Carbone have pitched in with their dining ideas. None of them bear their name, including the new Mélange.
OTG CEO Rick Blatstein knows that the majority of people won’t realize Torres played a hand in Mélange, but it doesn’t matter, he says. “The best restaurants in the world are not brands,” he says. “They’re individual restaurants.” Mélange is supposed to give a taste of New York City and New Jersey area dining — “authenticity” without the chef name, he adds.
“Authenticity” here means more than 1,200 bagels made every day are boiled, including ones splashed in the rainbow colors that spread far and wide in New York last year. Doughnut flavors range from maple bacon to one with a fruity cereal on top. (Both of these items are part of the larger thirst for novelty foods that look photograph well.) Croissant dough is laminated on a machine right behind the ordering counter, a move so that people will see the pastry being made, Blatstein says.
The question, then, is of sustainability — many of the big-names chef disappear as consultants years down the line. Will the quality last after that?
Torres was at least an advocate for the baked goods at the grand opening on Tuesday. Many airports serve food that’s made at a commissary bakery, and just having 40 to 50 staff baking on site 24/7 makes a difference in freshness, he says. “It is unusual for an airport,” Torres says. “That’s what I think is amazing.”