Tommy and Jaymie Klauber, owners of the Polo Grill and Bar and Fete Catering in Lakewood Ranch, is one of four restaurants that will provide food to the world-class athletes flocking to Sarasota for the 2017 World Rowing Championships. (The others are Mattison’s Catering, Der Dutchman Catering, and Milan Catering.) The first group of athletes arrived last week; races will kick off this Friday, September 23, at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota.
The Polo Grill won the contract to cater the athletes' meals thanks to its extensive resources (its 24,000-square-foot facility is equipped with two kitchens and loading docks) and its proximity to the event. The lengthy negotiation process took about three-and-a-half years.
The Klaubers say there have been many moving parts in order to prepare for the event. The Polo Grill team has to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner to athletes from all over the world. They also have to think about equipment—a staffer had to drive to Tampa to pick up an extra oven, for example—having enough gas for the ovens and appliances, and making sure there's plenty of ice and coolers.
And then there's the athletes' comfort—for the rowers from China, for example, the Polo Grill team will make sure the food is served on flatware and presented in buffet-style, since that's what the Chinese rowers are accustomed to. Everything must also be eco-friendly, and the staff—comprised of about 50 people, including a handful of new hires for this specific purpose—will be hand-washing everything.
"Our business is in the details," says Tommy Klauber.
On an average day, rowers consume a 6,000-calorie diet. To get to that number, an athlete will eat a 10-14 oz. piece of protein, for example, as opposed to the typical serving size of 5-6 oz. Meals will primarily consist of fresh local fish and produce, as well as complex carbohydrates. Nothing will be too spicy, because the athletes must follow a neutral diet during the competition.
Breakfast and dinner will be served at the athletes' hotels, and lunch can be eaten at either the hotel or at Benderson Park. Coaches will be directing the athletes where to eat based on their rowing schedules.
"I can't wait to meet the athletes," Klauber says. "We'll be going on the ride with them on their good and their bad days. I want the athletes to feel at home here."
A typical day will start in the pitch-black early morning, around 3 a.m., when the Polo Grill team will begin to prepare food and load trucks. Breakfast and lunch will be delivered based on the athletes' location on- or off-site; they'll be done with dinner by 9 p.m., and staff will finish up around 11 p.m. Then they'll repeat the process the next day.
Sample Breakfast Menu
Variety of fresh fruit
Plain lowfat yogurt
Savory bread options (including gluten-free choices)
Peanut butter, Nutella, jelly, honey, cream cheese, butter, Nutella, jelly, honey and cream cheese
Muesli (brown sugar on side)
Hard boiled and scrambled farm-fresh eggs
Turkey, ham and salami
Sliced Swiss cheese, sliced cheddar cheese, goat cheese
Dijon mustard, mayonnaise