Quinoa with apple. Dried cranberries and a touch of lemon. Locally caught, white fish with a mild pesto crust. Bison meat loaf with ground beef mixed in to temper any “headiness.”
When thousands of Pan Am and Parapan athletes, game officials and coaches chow down after a match this summer, they’ll get simple, straightforward food that tastes exactly how it looks.
“We took the basics and we’re building in as much choice and variety as possible,” says Peter Rick, of Morningstar Hospitality Services Inc., an official Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan American Games caterer.
“We’re adding flare through presentation and simple seasoning.”
Playing it safe was key in designing a menu for so many different palates from so many different places with so many different nutritional needs, says Rick, Morningstar chef and registered dietitian.
In a small boardroom at Mississauga’s Centre for Health & Safety Innovation, representatives for the 22-month-old company gave a sneak peek Monday afternoon — and taste test — of some of the gastronomy it will offer when the games kick off in July.
Morningstar is the only one of the official Pan Am caterers that is entirely Canadian-owned, says president Chris Trainor, an aboriginal entrepreneur.
The company will supply about 5,000 meals a day to several venues, including The President's Choice Ajax Pan Am Ballpark The Abilities Centre in Whitby and the Hershey Centre in Mississauga.
As well, they’ll cook up some concession food, including hotdogs and hamburgers, and make the food served at the Aboriginal Pavillion at Fork York — though, that’s not an official Pan Am venue.
But heritage is part and parcel of Morningstar’s Pan Am food package.
That’s why there will be bannock for dessert.
“Of course!” says Rick, of the traditional fried bread. “A sweet and a savoury option.”
Rick’s fare celebrates Toronto’s cultural diversity using seasonal ingredients that are also local — he tried to stay within the Golden Horseshoe, he says, — and nutritious.
The service will be all-you-can-eat buffet style so athletes can mix and match dishes depending on their caloric and dietary needs, Rick says.
That’s why each dish on his sample menu reads like a separate part of Canada’s Food Guide; protein is distinct from carbohydrates and separate from fruits and vegetables.
A slab of turkey breast rubbed with jerk spice is flavourful — but still mild.
Parmesan and pine nuts come through in the pesto crusted white fish. Meat loaf, made with bison, is delicately seasoned with tomato salsa and egg as binder, no bread crumbs — that is as complicated as it gets.
Grains come in bread form as well as salads: quinoa dotted with sweet, dried cranberries and flecked with crisp Granny Smith apple spears is sweet, yet tart. A barley and edamame salad gets a kick — a tiny kick, that is — from sweet red and yellow peppers.
“We were told no heat,” Rick says, of keeping the food spice neutral.
“They don’t want anyone sweating from the food. Plus, it doesn’t fit all of the cultures.”
It’s all served alongside unseasoned vegetables, such as steamed green beans, which will be in season come July, and roasted potatoes, smashed to fall apart easily so they can be eaten without a fork or knife — just in case someone’s in a hurry or can’t find cutlery, Rick says.
Though all the food, its ingredients and nutritional information will be explained with signs in English, French and Spanish, it was important to design menu items that look exactly like what they’re supposed to be.
“So everyone can recognize them visually,” he says.