Over Christmas, whilst camping for the first time, I cooked Spaghetti Carbonara for 12 people in a camp kitchen. The challenges provided by cooking something that I normally cook in my own little kitchen, for two or three people, multiplied by six AND with the added difficulty of a makeshift kitchen on a campsite. What a circus!
Flash forward to this past Friday evening, where I was lucky enough to be part of an intimate group of bloggers taken behind the scenes to meet someone who cooks for a literal circus; perhaps the greatest circus in the world, the internationally reknowned Cirque Du Soleil, namely the performance of KOOZA currently touring in Australia. Julie and her team of chefs cook for 120 full time cast and crew two menus per day, 6 days per week in what is essentially a large, well equipped camp kitchen. Travelling around the world with KOOZA, setting up their kitchen, varying a menu for a range of different performers, athletes and crew with different dietary needs as well as working with new suppliers and food availability in every city is all in a days work. All of a sudden, my humble spaghetti seemed like a walk in the park.
The kitchen at KOOZA changes the menu daily, with the chefs meeting once a week to come up with a new range of dishes to serve their hungry diners. The result is a daily buffet, with dishes changing from lunch to dinner. The menu has two vegetarian options, and a sticker system lets cast and crew know how nutritious the dishes are, from ‘really good for you’, to ‘not really good for you’ (even elite performers need treats!)
Julie proudly shares the different influences that inspire the four chefs as they come up with their menu each week; with different nationalities, different experiences and specialities, as well as special requests from the cast and crew, the result is a varied and interesting menu featuring anything from quinoa sushi to Kimchi, creamy gnocchi to Osso Bucco. In addition to the hot dishes, the village dining area features a salad bar, a dessert cabinet complete with fresh fruit and yoghurt as well as cakes and treats and a breakfast bar where the cast and crew, which includes young children travelling with their parents, can fix themselves breakfast whenever they want. Mexican is the favourite cuisine of the cast and crew, and the most popular day for dining is an all day brunch on a Sunday, a meal the crew, cast and their 70 family members travelling with them do not want to miss out on.
The dining space is open virtually all day as it serves as a meeting place and social space for the travellers, somewhere to meet and share a meal, and has to have flexible serving times as the performers must eat at different hours of the day dependent to their acts. For example, the large, muscled acrobats who do all the heavy lifting need to carb load shortly before their performance, whilst the contortionists and trapeze artists prefer to eat afterwards (for obvious reasons!)
In an average week, the kitchen will go through:
400kg of Proteins, meats and seafoods
50kg fresh fruit
4 boxes of bananas
Despite the obvious challenges, long working hours and time spent away from home, Julie and her staff feel like they have the best job in the world.
The show KOOZA by Cirque Du Soleil is playing in Melbourne until the end of March. You can buy tickets here. This death defying show featuring some of the most talented performers in the world, all well fed and nourished by Julie and her team, is well worth seeing!
Have a delicious day,