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Cooking for 100,000 professional bike racers


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Lance and Landis' participation hit the media yesterday so the craziness is confirmed. On a really fun note, the organizers have asked me to put together a welcome basket of French pastries for Lance so I'll be doing croissant and Paris-Brebis among other things...my question to them is - does he eat that kind of stuff?

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If the food is for the cyclists it also depends an when you think they will be eating it. If they will be eating it on the bike then then you might also think about some little grilled pannini sandwiches and bananas. The former are traditional cycling fare for most european cyclists before the advent of powerbars, etc. You could also make your own energy bars. There are a thousand recipes on the net. As noted above most pro teams will provide this for their racers (most pros won't even take water from a spectator except to pour it over their head to cool off) but the amateurs will likely take you up. If you will be serving them after the race is over then smoothies are a great idea.

ETA: Another thing you might do is talk to the race promoters and tell them you want to do something to help out. Race promoters love stuff like this. You can spread a lot of goodwill by making box lunches for the race officials and corner marshals and police officers, etc. I race for a local cycling team that is sponsored by a cafe that sounds a bit like yours. We also promote a race every year where the owner of the cafe does things like this.

Edited by BRM (log)

Anyone who says I'm hard to shop for doesn't know where to buy beer.

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Oh shit! Can I say that here?

First, word is the Lance is in town, has jumped teams to allow him to be able to race. The buzz is buzzing.

Now, my desserts aren't moving at all. Not surprising but I thought someone might bite.

Lunch showed me how green I am in the biz. I ran through most of my Monday supplies already (I had planned on two orders this week, but I guess it will be three BIGS), so I placed another order for tomorrow. What was hot was my molè chicken sandwich and my green chile corn chowder. I didn't think the regional flair would go because of the spiciness. My vegetarian options also were hot - grilled veg sandwich and black bean burrito.

We're wrapping up our dinners right now - huge pasta plate with an option for Italian sausage - very, very popular. The sauce was heavy on broccoli because as I remember it is a good muscle recovery veg. Served with side salad and for dessert a fruit salad with cardamom pistachio yogurt sauce.

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The mole chicken sandwich and the green chili corn chowder sound like winners- no surprise they flew out the door. When things settle down perhaps you could give up outlines of the preps.

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Breakfast is started. A bit slow and again we have no idea how much prep to do...so to answer your question at this point of time, I'm counting on my prep speed more than my advance planning because we have no way of estimating. We're clearly gearing ourselves right now to the teams not spectators. Saturday's downtown race will be different.

Breakfast is potato heavy, not-to-spicy burritos with egg, choice of meat, choice of cheese (goat or cheddar), avocado and salsa. That and an OJ for $5. Good deal. We also made oatmeal at their suggestion with choice of toppings. Being a gourmet store I can top it with pretty much anything they can think of. Also, smoothies of their choice - bring your own supplements.

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The mole chicken sandwich and the green chili corn chowder sound like winners- no surprise they flew out the door. When things settle down perhaps you could give up outlines of the preps.

I'd also be gratful for those.

Glad things are hopping.

First, word is the Lance is in town, has jumped teams to allow him to be able to race. The buzz is buzzing.

Actually last word was that he, Leipheimer and Horner were racing in Mellow Johhny's livery (Lance Armstrong's bike shop in Austin). This is a result of a rarely enforced UCI rule which prohibits first tier teams from participating in "national level races".

Clicky

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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Missed opportunity. Today was a 80 mile (something like that) ride. I was prepping dinner for 4:30 but they all got back at 1:30 and were starving by 2:30. A coach just said that they'll be eating almost non-stop now through dinner time. I'll have something tomorrow for sure.

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Salt. I had so many requests for extra salt today which makes sense after an 80 mile ride. They're also at the point where they'll eat my desserts - actually they'll eat anything that's not chained down. I went through 55 pounds of pasta tonight and sold out at 6:15 (we are trying to serve all the way til 7). I'll up it to 75 pounds tomorrow.

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This is really interesting stuff. Thanks for keeping us up with what's going on.

Obviously much of it is trial and error. Does this race come through every year? I'm sure you're taking extensive notes. I sure would be.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Thanks Jaymes. Next year I won't bother with breakfast. We're doing maybe a dozen a day so its hardly worth disrupting my regular schedule. The ones who are coming in are coming for the free internet and my charming morning disposition. The oatmeal is much more popular than the burritos although everyone is getting one since its "the deal." Smoothies are popular too. For the record, with my low prices, I'm making almost as much in tips - these guys are so appreciative of the affordable, not-jacked-up prices.

I'm switching over to my regular sushi routine now for lunch, and those have sold well to the bikers.

Tomorrow is calzone day!

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I don't have anything really useful to add... but I am REALLY intrigued by your wild rice krispy treats. Would you mind sharing the recipe with me?

Best of luck with the rest of the race!

Dan

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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You can find the original recipe here which I have modified a bit, but the basic idea is the same. The modified version is here.

Tonight some reporter from the NYT (Billy something) interviewed me asking "What impact does having Lance Armstrong in town have on your business?" I said, "My official response is 'oh shit,' and my less official response is that we have absolutely no way of knowing how much food to prepare." Ironically, one of my employees called and said she was at the store and asked if I needed anything - I told her another 30 pounds of pasta - the fastest cooking shape she could get me.

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Can this get any more nuts?! We've just confirmed that every hotel room is booked even in Las Cruces (2 hours away). At this point there is absolutely nothing I can do to prepare for the onslaught tomorrow. We went through 85 pounds of pasta tonight. I'm gearing up for 100 pounds tomorrow, but that's about capacity for my little kitchen. I'm not greedy not a masochist so I'm fine with putting up the sold out sign.

Edited to add: I just realized that I didn't provide context. Tomorrow (Sat) is our downtown criteria, which is whey hotels are booked even that far away. Folks have traveled a long way to watch this race.

Edited by gfron1 (log)
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Holy smokes! You're doing an amazing job! I hope aside from taking notes, you're also taking some super doses of vitamin C and other cold-preventatives. It's after a stressful period that you're most likely to get sick, and I imagine you're going through a lot of stress right now!

I'm glad you have good staff! They make everything easier, don't they?

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I don't think I mentioned that I've been interviewing/trying out folks for my new kitchen position this week - one in particular has done amazing once she lost the nervousness (guess who is in the lead for the position?). Last night I asked if she wanted to take the kitchen over for dinner and she enthusiastically said yes. A few estimation mistakes but mostly on target.

I'm off to Wal-Mart to buy even more pasta and wine for my sauce. This is my last-pre event post (not really, pre, but you know what I mean). I'll do a wrap up tomorrow or Monday. The biggest point in my circumstance is that to answer the question of "how much to prepare?" instead of asking that ask, "What capacity can my kitchen handle?" and go backwards. I now know how many gallons of sauce I can cook and hold, how many servings that offers, and then that tells me how many people I can serve. I think that's the only way to prepare for an event like this - that and print a big "sold out" sign.

*edited to add that now I'm at my store and guess where they decided to put Lance's RV camp - my front lawn. I guess I'll have the best seat in the house and a bit more traffic than I expected.

Edited by gfron1 (log)
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Apparently today is all about sugar (this morning anyway). This is the downtown crit - speed. So they want anything with honey in it, many are asking for sugar. No one wants proteins. Smoothies are flying out, even my brownies. Lots of oatmeal topped with brown sugar, fresh fruit and globs of honey. Back to the kitchen!

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I'm a bit rested, and I made the mistake of stopping by the store to finish up my cleaning, and I was swarmed by bikers asking for more pasta for one last meal...nice compliment, but no thanks, I'm off.

First, let's see what this topic was all about. We're a small little town that is very remote, but has a lot of culture and events. You can't just stumble across Silver City, you have to make it a part of a trip or the trip itself. So when guys like this show up it has a bit of an impact. Our busiest restaurant on its busiest night might serve 75-100 guests. My cafè, which mostly does lunch will have about 40 covers on a good day. So when officials say that these guys are most likely showing up

but "we're keeping it quiet so things don't get out of control, but we need you to be prepared," well, I take notice. And with all of the speculation of whether he would come or not, and last minute wrangling between the international biking community and the national biking leaders, we were told to "be ready." But how the heck can you be ready for something like this?

I cook on a regular ceramic top residential range with a single oven. My response is, as always, pose the question to eGullet and see what you can glean. And after weeks of you all sharing your advice, and me watching Homeland Security set up its base camp, and me strategizing with my food reps, and finally a big ass black RV parking out in front of my store (the pics above are from my store's front door), it finally came down to this

The race was off and the black and white jerseys were blurring by with some famous dude that people came to see - I think I mentioned that hotels were booked as far as Las Cruces which is 2 hours away. And then there were 39 more moments like these as they did their laps in our historic downtown district. It was truly surreal. I had never seen paparazzi in my town, let alone my neighbors acting like the Backstreet Boys were preparing to do a concert. Surreal.

But I missed all but a few minutes of the race because I was back in the hot kitchen wondering how much more I should prep to be ready for a rush, or would it be a slam, or would it be a slaughter?!

And that finally takes us to the food.

Some of the important info that I learned from all of you:

1. Keep costs to even amounts - I did everything in either $5 or $1 amounts (tax included)...and yes, it was appreciated.

2. Carbs, carbs, carbs...except on sprint day when it was all sugar of any sort

3. Smoothies were okay but not the most popular - too much sugar I guess

4. I didn't make them, but yes, pancakes were a popular request, oatmeal was second

5. Pie never happened, nor was it requested, but my lighter desserts sold best

6. Coffee, but only good coffee...thanks Peets!

7. Serve early, serve often. They want to eat about 1 hour after the end of the race and continue through the night.

Quick side note to Rona - thanks for the reminder - I started gulping my OJ - pills were too much to remember. My body is pretty resilient, but since I'm the primary source of income for our store, being ready to re-open on Tuesday is very important.

One unanticipated issue came as I unintentionally became focused on the bikers moreso than the spectators. I guess I created it, but I was trying to serve two masters. I set up "Racer Specials" which were very low cost, racer focused foods. I can't tell you how many thanks and very grateful comments I received from the 95% of the riders who don't have food allowance from their sponsors. I like this niche as I don't really need to be a millionaire from this event, while others were jacking up their prices to capitalize.

Dinner Output:

Day one - 55 pounds of pasta

Day two - 75 pounds

Day three - 85 pounds

Last day - 100 pounds

I figured the last day, based on register receipts, to be 125 dinners. By this time we had things down really well so it felt slow to us. We turned away maybe 15 riders. I then put my kitchen capacity for this type of food at 150, but who knows. One big boost was when I thought, "okay dumbshit! why haven't you put your sauce in the soup warmer and crock pots instead of on the stove in a stock pot." Duh. That freed up a burner for two pots of pasta at a time. And I bought pasta based on cooking time - with the caveat that I refused to do spaghetti because I think its boring.

Recipes - nothing was fancy, but they all got great reviews even from the non-riders (meaning, you don't have to be famished to like the recipes) - all downsized for your pleasure

Pasta Sauce

One medium onion, diced

2 carrots, small diced

Sweat onion with carrot until just turning transluscent. Add thyme, salt and pepper to taste - for me, about 1 T thyme, 1/2 t. salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes. 1/2 C. white wine and cook until almost evaporated. Two large cans of crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for about an hour. Taste, adjust and cook until the mobs come to eat. That simple.

Salad Dressing - fast, tasty and totally ripped from Peterson's Sauces book.

1 T. Dijon

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 C. Rice wine vinegar

Whisk together

1 C. Cream

Whisk

1/4 C. Olive oil

Whisk. Done.

Fruit salad topping - this received more raves than anything else

1 C. Yogurt - drained in mesh filter for at least one hour, preferably overnight

1 T. Pistachio compound...you could probably use pistachio pudding mix for a similar effect

Pinch of cardamom ground

I put this over whatever fruits we could throw in a bowl quickly - mostly frozen blueberries, fresh apples, bananas, oranges. Topped with some pistachio nuts.

Did I miss anything that people asked me?

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Wow, thanks for the update. I am exhausted just READING it ! Sounds like you did a fabulous job !

Rob, what other pastas did you serve other than the tomato sauce? How did they rank in popularity?

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I only did the red sauce until the last night...funny you should ask. On the last night I had had many teams that became regulars - meaning every breakfast and every dinner plus many mid-day meals. And so on Friday I asked one of the teams if they wanted lasagne or would the fat be too much. They wanted it so I made two - one for another team that I befriended. My lasagne is very popular in town and a bit more complicated of a recipe.

After the teams scarfed the lasagne, which I erroneously thought would do them in, I took some extra pasta, heated some ExV, threw in some minced garlic...and this is where the kitchen sink comes in...added the pasta, let it get nice and sizzlin, then some piñones, my cafè basil pesto, meyer lemon zest and Maldon sea salt (still trying to get the salt in them). A huge mound of finely shredded parma went on top with more lemon zest. That was deemed the best yet by both teams.

(switching gears)

I just got back from the new XMen movie where I ran into a friend who was a volunteer in the race. Apparently the winner of Friday's race (not sure which category but they were important enough to make a speech), mentioned from the podium my pasta as the reason they won the race 3 TIMES! How cool is that! No wonder my crowd was so big on Saturday. That may be the best compliment of all :biggrin:

Edited by gfron1 (log)
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I just got back from the new XMen movie where I ran into a friend who was a volunteer in the race.  Apparently the winner of Friday's race (not sure which category but they were important enough to make a speech), mentioned from the podium my pasta as the reason they won the race 3 TIMES!  How cool is that!  No wonder my crowd was so big on Saturday.  That may be the best compliment of all  :biggrin:

Wow, that's impressive. You should find out who it was and send him a little 'thank you' basket. With some pasta!

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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If past is the way to go I would think a portable propane stove with large pots would speed up the process. We've got a Camp Chef unit with 90,000 and 120,000 btu burners and they cost around $150. (We set up in the field when we process tomatoes.)

I would think a 48 quart crock pot for around $50 would also earn it's keep.

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