Friday, January 15, 2010

The full meal deal

'An army marches on its stomach' - attributed to Napolean Bonaparte

Well, we don't have an army, but we do have a team that works very hard, for long days, so the proverb is just as apt in the world of the America's Cup.

Fortunately, the food for our team is taken care of by Ben Harland (AUS) and his kitchen crew, who serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Whether you're a grinder or a hungry scribe, the food is tasty, nutritious, and much appreciated. And it disappears quickly.

When the team is scaled up, as it is now, with an extended shore team preparing the BOR 90 for sailing, Ben and his team - three chefs and five kitchen hands - are making something approaching 400 meals a day.

"We cook about 100 kilograms of fish or meat per day, along with all of the side dishes to compliment that," he says while taking a short break between lunch and dinner service.

Originally from Newcastle, Australia, he's run restaurants in Byron Bay, and subsequently got involved in film and television catering, something he says is quite similar to providing food for a Cup team.

"The coordination with everyone from suppliers to the demands and schedule of the team is the hardest part," he says.

Working with the team's training staff, Ben and his crew ensure the sailing team has meals that meet the nutritional demands of their daily activities.

"For the sailors, we make sure they've got their carbs and protein and then when they get off the boat, there are shakes and a snack to keep them going."

Ben's been with the team for four years, dating back to the last America's Cup, but has had to scale up the operation in a hurry as the team has returned to Valencia from San Diego.

"A few weeks ago I was surfing in Morocco!" he notes, somewhat wistfully, with a tired grin. 12 to 14 hour days, seven days a week will do that to you.

"It's not just me," he's quick to point out. "There's no way we could do this without a great group in the kitchen and that's exactly what I have."