Caterer well-prepared for feeding frenzy ahead

PHILADELPHIA: When it comes to feeding the world's top athletes at the Olympics in Athens, almost everything comes supersized. 

There's a 3,900-square-metre kitchen, hundreds of tons of meat and produce, millions of litres of bottled water and thousands of voracious swimmers, runners, weightlifters and others who want tasty cuisine – and lots of it – all the time. 

“They'll normally double up and triple up their portions, so we're talking about two or three pounds of food per meal, and three or four meals per day, for each athlete,'' Michael R. Crane, senior executive chef of Aramark, said in a telephone interview from Athens. 

The Philadelphia-based food service company estimates it will serve more than 2 million meals to athletes, coaches and officials in Athens for two months, including the 17 days of competition. 

Aramark, which has run food services at 12 previous Olympics, is partnering with Greek hospitality company Daskalantonakis Group to feed some 10,500 athletes from a record 201 countries, along with coaches and Olympic officials. 

In all, 85 Aramark executives and chefs are managing and staffing the kitchens in Athens, along with well over 1,000 students from US and Greek culinary schools and colleges providing assistance. 

Aramark expects to serve 24,000 meals a day – and 55,000 a day during peak times such as opening and closing ceremonies. 

Chefs in Philadelphia conducted six months of taste testings for the hundreds of international meals, among them vegetables with peanut sauce, Brazilian fish stew and Moroccan lemon chicken with olives. Then they had to come up with precise ingredient measurements. 

“If you're off by a little salt, a little anything, and you blow up the recipe to 8,000 portions, you end up being off by a huge amount'' that throws off the taste and the nutritional values, Crane said. 

There will be about 15 entrees available on each menu, created by hundreds of chefs from Japan, Korea, Chile, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.  

The menus were planned with vegetarian, vegan, kosher and halal diets in mind and feature tastes from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas as well as Greece. 

And, just because they're Olympians doesn't mean they don't love junk food. 

“If you think that athletes don't eat a lot sweets, I'm here to tell you that they do,'' Crane said.  

“After they finish competing, it's not unusual to see them loading up their plates with five and six portions. So now we have a lot more available.'' – AP  

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