A dish takes about three hours from the time it is cooked on the ground to be loaded onto a cart, then loaded on a truck and then driven out to the plane. If there is a delay, it could be several more hours until passengers are actually served the food.
To help keep meals fresh, the different parts -- the meat, the potatoes, the vegetables -- are kept in separate foil compartments for business and first class meals. Each item, including the sauce, is then re-heated separately by the flight attendant onboard. The flight attendants then arrange each meal on a dish according to specifications set out in binders on each plane. There is even a photo -- taken by Freidanck and his team -- of how the dish should look.
Economy passengers don't get quite the same treatment. Their meals come in one ready-to-serve dish that is just re-heated. But Singapore Airlines still tries to plan its dishes for the best presentations. For instance, pork and rice are separated by a wall of vegetables in one dish -- better to help keep the sauces and tastes separate while heating and to prevent the rice from drying out.
That might be all great, but Woods still recommends putting on a pair of noise-canceling headphones and maybe your favorite music to better enjoy that next airplane meal.