Chef John Folse is among a cadre of Gulf Coast chefs who will journey to the Olympics as part of BP’s “Spirit of the Gulf” series of events for Team USA.
The group, including Folse and Galatoire’s Michael Sichel from Louisiana, chefs Chris Sherrill and Alec Naman from Alabama, Mississippi chefs Chris Poplin and Calvin Coleman, and chef Paul Stellato of Florida, will prepare fresh seafood dishes for U.S. Olympians, their families and visitors.
“We got some real gumbo,” Folse said. “They’re still trying to figure it out over there. We’re gonna bring them a taste.”
Folse and Coleman, who operates Naomi’s Catering in Biloxi, Miss., whipped up a whopping batch of alligator sausage and seafood gumbo July 17. The gumbo, along with the other chefs’ recipes, was prepared in Folse’s Donaldsonville manufacturing plant, chilled to minus 40, then shipped to London via UPS.
“You’re going to feed 1,000 athletes a day,” Folse said, but probably after they compete. “All the chefs have great catering experience and are used to volume feeding. But we don’t want to find ourselves chopping onions.”
Folse called on his company’s experience catering international events to pull off a fais do do of Olympic proportions. The recipes had to be tweaked to comply with USDA and U.K. food laws. For instance, Coleman’s gumbo couldn’t contain the oysters he originally planned and his sausage had to be special ordered to omit processed pork.
“The reputation of John Folse had a lot to do with this,” Coleman said. “One mistake and we got 30 pounds of gumbo sitting on a dock.”
Folse said the logisitics of getting that much Gulf seafood to London took a lot of skill and a lot of trust.
“We all know what we want. The chefs put a lot of trust in us here,” Folse said. “It’s authentically produced as the chef would have it done.”
Coleman couldn’t stop grinning once all 160 pounds of his gumbo, prepared using his grandmother’s recipe, was done and out of its enormous kettle. “This is the same way I make a gallon,” he said as the vat of steaming gumbo was weighed and wheeled off for packaging. “It’s perfect.”
Once packaged, it was put into color-coded boxes and flash frozen for shipping. The frozen boxes will then go across the pond, where they will be met by Mosimann’s, headed up by Sir Anton Mosimann.
What’s on Lolo’s plate?
Veteran Olympian and former LSU hurdler Lolo Jones is familiar with eating Olympic-style.
“It’s kind of like eating in a college cafeteria, just exponentially huge,” she said of noshing in the Olympic Village. “Instead of different fraternities or whatever, you have athletes from different countries speaking different languages.”
And there’s always at least one familiar face. “Just in case there’s nothing you’re familiar with, everybody is familiar with McDonald’s,” she said.
While British food may get a bum rap, Jones says there’s one thing they do well: sugar.
“They have some of the most amazing chocolate cake, it’s weird. At the meets I’ve been there for, they always have chocolate cake,” she said. “The Brits love their sweets. They absolutely love their sugar stuff. So it’s a good place to end a race because you can just indulge in everything — tea, biscuits and just amp up on the sugar.”
Let’s hope she ends her races in gold.
Advocate staff writer Sheldon Mickles contributed
to this report.