Food is not just food to Olympic athletes. Food is fuel, food is power, food is gold. A slight variation in calories, carbs, protein, or any other nutrient could be the difference between winning silver and gold! So, as things heat up in Rio, so does the kitchen at Olympic Village.
The pressure’s on for the 20 chefs behind the menu at the 2016 Games; they’re challenged with the task of feeding 18,000 mouths a day for three (plus) meals! And these aren’t just ordinary mouths to feed. These are competitive athletes from 207 different countries with different food customs and various dietary demands. As if this wasn’t already a colossal task to take on, the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee challenged the chefs with goals for sustainability and minimizing food waste and requested that all food have a distinctly-Brazilian flair. Think of it as a full-body Olympic workout for chefs.
So, what exactly did they come up with? The stadium-sized dining room is set up buffet style with sections for each cuisine. There is Asian, pasta and pizza, and Caribbean offerings—just to name a few. Regardless of cuisine, all food is paired with Brazilian-style options and distinctly Brazilian delicacies. So, if an Italian athlete goes to grab some linguini, he or she can also grab some Brazilian carambola fruit, maracuja fruit, or the superfood acai berry to go with their dish! In terms of dietary restrictions, halal, kosher, dairy-free, gluten-free— you name it—is available upon request at each station.
So: Pleasing thousands of different food tastes and dietary demands? Check! But what about the sustainability and food waste request? The Rio Olympic kitchen is carrying the torch in terms of serving sustainably-sourced food in mass quantities. Olympic chefs located suppliers that guarantee their foods have been produced in a fair way. This means that they practice safe labor, promote animal welfare, and are attentive to the needs of the environment (especially Brazil’s endangered forests). At the end of the day, once all this ethically-produced food gets prepared into delicious, nutritious meals and the athletes go to sleep, the kitchen staff packages up the extra grub into free meals for Rio’s needier neighborhoods. With all the controversy surrounding the Rio Games and the socioeconomic state of Brazil, this is one amazing way in which the 2016 Summer Games can give back to its host country.
Clearly being part of the Olympic kitchen is a serious balancing act. But we think the chefs currently in Rio stuck the landing with their innovative, ethical, Brazilian-style kitchen!