CULTURE

Athens 2004 nutrition marathon

Healthy, delicious food for 16,500 people from 202 nations, three times a day for two weeks? No problem, say the 700 cooks preparing to feed the Olympic family in Athens. «We are ready right now, we can promise that we will serve the Olympics with nutritious Greek food, and with a big smile,» said Makis Fokas, food services manager for the Athens Organizing Committee (ATHOC). Some 50 chefs and 650 cooks will work round the clock to prepare 50,000 Greek, Mediterranean and Asian meals a day in the Olympic Village at the foot of Athens’s Mount Parnitha. Traditional Greek dishes such as moussaka and pastitsio, noodles and curries will be served alongside meat with precision-cut vegetables, teriyaki sauce, ginger and sesame oil.Senior chef Michael Crane said organizers will import halal and kosher foods as well as vegetables like water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and Chinese pak choy to satisfy every national, religious and dietary need. A particularly pungent package will be the four tons of kimchi, a Korean dish of fermented cabbage seasoned with garlic and red chili that is eaten in soups and with steamed rice. «We are bringing it in prepared because it is a type of dish that needs to be marinaded and fermented for many, many months,» Crane said. In the mornings athletes can choose from pancakes, waffles, croissants and hot cereal bakes, or the Greek breakfast of cheese or spinach pie with a strong coffee on the side. And with all that calorie-burning Olympic competition, who needs an excuse to indulge their sweet tooth with chocolate cakes, eclairs and profiteroles or syrupy baklava and kataifi? However, there is no excuse for putting on the pounds. Every dish will carry a label with its name, ingredients – and calorie content. «Athletes do want to experience different types of dishes. But during the competitions they will eat the food they were used to eating during training to help them perform at their best,» Crane added. The planning required to feed the 10,500 athletes plus their coaches and officials is reminiscent of a military campaign. In overall charge will be AramarkDasko, a joint venture between US food service giant Aramark and Greek hotel operator Daskalantonakis group, which won the contract worth around 32 million euros. One of two self-service restaurants in the village, Filoxenos, the Greek word for «hospitable,» can serve 5,500 people at the same time while athletes can choose the smaller and less crowded Epicouros. Non-alcoholic drinks will be available at the Poseidon cafe by the Olympic Village pool, 27 coffee stations and two Internet cafes. Fokas said organizers would set up extra food stalls on the night of the August 13 Opening Ceremony. «Those people get here tired, hungry and nervous sometimes. There is a special plan for that night,» he said. Health concerns are paramount in a cooking and serving area as big as three football fields, officials say. Greece’s food authority EFET will check the quality of the food before it is stored and carried to the kitchens as well as during cooking. Experts will monitor the chefs while they cook and can step in if they fear food safety standards are not being met.