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Chefs Stage an 'Eat In' to Showcase the Culturally-Resonant Future of Dining at LAX

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The way we eat when we travel has changed, due in part to changes in the airline industry, as well as the celebrated status food has reached in society. Food as a reflection of culture is an anthropological essential, but at Los Angeles International Airport, the food currently being served doesn't showcase the cultural life of this diverse city.

A bid from SSP America was recently ranked first by LAX staff and management to shakeup the culinary landscape of several of the airport's terminals. Representing 14 of the city's top and most cherished food and beverage enterprises, the potential chefs and restaurateurs of the near-future at LAX gathered at Patina in Downtown to showcase samples of what the food options at LAX could, should, and will be--once the food and beverage contract is given the final go-ahead by City officials.

"We're very excited to be a part of seeing LAX change and become a place where people will be able to experience and know that we're a city that's full of passion and innovation and excited about food," said Border Grill's celebri-chef Susan Feniger, who was on hand with business partner Mary Sue Milliken to share samples of their Yucatan Pork Tacos.

With the power and passion of a great preacher, Rod White of Bertha's Soul Food, a restaurant that has been serving up customers for over 45 years, took an opportunity to point out all of the unsung heroes of the city's food culture, who have been serving their communities for many years, and who now will have a place at LAX. "Perhaps after today, my exquisitely talented chefs, along with African-American cuisine, finally--finally I tell you, after all this time--will be represented at LAX, and will receive a little more much-deserved recognition," said White, finishing with a musical plea that we "give 'em something to talk about."

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Outside Patina, a small group of protesters carrying signs calling for "Family Flavor in Food" chanted a cry for affordable food at LAX. Their cries were not ignored inside Patina, as Feniger and several others spoke to the myriad of options the new food plan reflects, including more locally relevant and thoughtfully prepared items at the same price point as the current crop of fast food giants, like Burger King, who are tenants in the terminals.

Pat Murray, Senior VP of SSP America says they have been working on this project for over two years, and that it reflected a perfect answer to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's wish to improve the food choices at the city's airport. Murray calls the shift in the food program at LAX a "cultural expression" of Los Angeles, and a reflection of society's wish to move away from fast food, as well as a result of the restaurant industry responding to the will of the customer, who now wants something different when they want food at the airport.

"[The SSP America Project] makes L.A. a world-class dining experience," says Murray.

The L.A. City Board of Referred Powers is expected to conduct a hearing on the SSP America LAX food project next week. Murray said construction of the new dining venues could begin as soon as January 2011.

- Dining Choices at LAX Could Soon Reach New Heights