FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The Food Network is getting into the restaurant business in a location not always associated with good food: An airport.
The channel has opened its first Food Network Kitchen at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in South Florida in the JetBlue terminal.
"The dynamic of food and travel has changed," said Sergei Kuharsky, general manager of Food Network's new business enterprises. "You used to never go in and think about eating at an airport."
Now, with passengers arriving early to get through security and limited options for in-flight food, there's a market for airport dining. "We are responding to that opportunity," Kuharsky said.
The Food Network Kitchen is the only eatery serving hot food at the JetBlue concourse. But it's the brand that gets attention from travelers as much as the lack of alternatives.
"I walked by and I said 'Oh wow, look at that. Food Network restaurant.' So I came in," said Richard Wierzbicki of Austin, Texas. "And I would look for it again because I thought the sandwich was really good."
Since opening Nov. 8, the Food Network Kitchen has averaged 1,500 customers a day.
"Airport locations are very busy, but this one especially," said Jean-Pierre Turgot, general manager for Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services, which partnered with the Food Network to provide chef-inspired meals at the airport and is also a partner in Food Network-branded food sold at concession stands and stadiums. "It's the highest revenue producer at the airport."
There are no waiters, so customers sit at tables after ordering at the counter or they can get takeout food, either made to order or readymade items like sandwiches and salads.
While the recipes are developed and branded by the Food Network, the offerings are not named for Food Network personalities, shows or chefs. Instead, the menu promises organic and sustainable ingredients and offers dishes with connections to local ingredients and regional culture, such as a Florida shrimp po'boy ($13) and a salmon burger with Key lime mayo ($14).
South Florida's Latin culture is reflected in items such as the Cuban breakfast burrito ($8) and a black beans and rice burger with "mojo mayo" ($12). Also on the menu: fried pickles with Key lime mayo ($6); sweet potato fries with Key lime tartar sauce ($5); and a Cuban sandwich ($12) with cafe con leche mayo pressed on a ciabatta roll.
Wait times can back up when flights arrive and the airport gets busy, so it's best to arrive early if you plan to sit down, as Liz Lamoureux did before flying back home to San Antonio, Texas.