As recently as the early 1960s, air travel was still glamorous and exciting; you dressed up to get on a plane, and looked forward to the food aloft. That was when Trans World Airlines opened a futuristic new terminal, designed by the Finnish architect Eero Saarinen at what was then best known as Idlewild and is now Kennedy International Airport.
The 200,000-square-foot-building, with its sinuous curves and swoops sheathed in white penny tiles, is a city, state and federal landmark, connected to Jet Blue’s Terminal 5. But it has not been used for 18 years.
The interior of Connie, a 1958 Lockheed Constellation airplane, will become a cocktail lounge
adjacent to the old T.W.A. terminal. Emon Hassan for The New York Times
Now it is being brought back to life as the lobby of the TWA Hotel, to open this spring with a restaurant and a lounge run by the renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, working with Tastes on the Fly, a company that specializes in airport food.
“It’s an exciting project; food in airports has been improving a lot,” said Mr. Vongerichten, a prolific restaurateur who, unlike many of his empire-building peers, has not opened an airport restaurant.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the old T.W.A. terminal at Kennedy International Airport.
Emon Hassan for The New York Times
[R]esearching T.W.A. in-flight menus from the 1950s and ’60s, [they plan] to bring back versions of some dishes, like chicken Champagne with truffles. “I’d want to do some classics, but also new stuff, lighter fare,” Mr. Vongerichten said.
Waiters and other personnel at the new restaurants will be dressed in outfits that echo what crew members wore at the dawn of the jet age, often bearing designer names like Valentino and Pierre Balmain. ([B]efore their industry was deregulated in 1978, airlines could not compete on price, only on service, so details like food, comfort and presentation counted.)
Read more on the Terminal’s historic legacy and culinary future here.