I received my first Olympic culinary report from Toledoan Jaime Griffith at 9:45 a.m. yesterday via a phone call. It was 1:45 a.m. Sydney time. The assistant manager of food service at the General Motors Powertrain plant was calling from a cell phone while, he said, “150 chefs were watching a wrestling match.”
He is among the 20 chefs to participate in Aramark's Seventh Annual International Guest Chef Series.
“We started feeding the Olympians early last week as they began arriving,” said the Aramark Corporation chef, who watched the fireworks of the opening ceremonies from outside the kitchen dining hall.
The dining hall is actually a huge tent, “the largest dining tent in the world, which was even used in the Gulf War,” he said.
There is a horseshoe around the kitchen. Sections are color-coded, each with 1,500 to 2,000 seats: yellow, green, blue, red, and orange.
Each area has display cooking. There's a steam table; steaks and shrimp are cooked on a char-broil grill, and Chinese and Oriental stir-fry are prepared. Fryers and a flat-top grill are also there.
As chef d'parte he is responsible for making “wet” dishes such stroganoffs and lamb paprika, vegetables, soups, and pasta. He said they are feeding 16,000 to 20,000 people per shift. He is working 10-hour shifts, which are shorter than he thought they would be.
Mr. Griffith gets two days off a week: Thursday and Saturday. “Thursday is the shopping day when all the shops stay open for two hours longer,” he said. “Otherwise shops close at 5 or 6 p.m.”
Among the restaurants he has visited, one was “cook your own steak on a barbie,” said the chef, a member of the Maumee Valley Chefs Association. “I cooked big prawns (similar to large shrimp). They are the size of a small lobster-tail with a sweet taste.”
The prawns are served European style with the body peeled, but the head and tail still on the shellfish. “You eat it like crayfish,” he said. “It is similar to the French who leave the head and tail on the fish. [The Australians] even put prawns on pizza.”
For the Olympians, food is low in fat and low in salt. “We are serving a lot of carbohydrates, bread, and pasta, and high-energy foods like potatoes,” he said.
Celebrities such as Muhammad Ali are eating at the Olympic Village. “I saw him from a distance,” said Mr. Griffith. “He ate what the Olympians ate - with a couple of bodyguards near him.”
Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.