Up, up, and away! If you’re yearning to hop aboard a hot air balloon but are too nervous to throw caution to the wind and take off, Dutch chef Angélique Schmeinck has something to sweeten the deal — literally. On CuliAir Skydining, the world’s first hot air balloon restaurant, you can enjoy a three-course meal while floating amid the clouds and celebrate your return with dessert and champagne at the landing site.  

It may sound like something out of a dream, but Schmeinck, who spent 25 years as a professional chef and cookbook writer, made her idea a reality back in 2003. After seeing a hot air balloon, she was struck by an epiphany, Atlas Obscura reported. 

Schmeinck realized “a hot air balloon is actually a huge hot oven!” and excitedly set out to build a restaurant aboard one. She contacted a hot air balloon company for help and started test-cooking in the air only two weeks later. Soon after, she created CuliAir and has been floating guests across the Netherlands about 50 times a year ever since. 

As a pilot commands the 90-minute flight, Schmeinck prepares delicacies like duck confit, lobster with passionfruit, and royal sea bass served in a bouillabaisse, all using the same gas flame that keeps the balloon afloat. “The composition of the food and the flavor combinations must have the same adventurous character. It must not be boring, or too soft. . . . It must not be too heavy, or have too much cream, but it must be as light and elegant and fresh as ballooning itself,” said Schmeinck. 


Angélique Schmeinck

According to the company’s website, the temperature in the balloon can reach around 212 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing the dishes to cook slowly, perfect for “aroma development.” 

After using a pulley system and steel containers to move the food on and off the heat, Schmeinck plates and serves each course to guests (the balloon can accommodate up to 10). Fine wine is also offered.

The balloon only flies just after sunrise and a few hours before sunset, when there are no rising or descending thermal currents in the air. At altitudes of 500-2,500 feet, guests are treated to spectacular views of Europe below. “Sometimes when the clouds are low, we can go right through them,” Schmeinck told Atlas Obscura. “It’s a little bit misty. Then we’re above the clouds and see the sun shining. That moment is unforgettable. It’s amazing for me, after all these years.” 

Guests are welcomed back with live music at their landing site, and as they toast to their time spent in the clouds they are sometimes even treated to a guitar serenade by Schmienk herself. It’s truly a “once in a lifetime experience” as CuliAir promises.