Thursday, July 31, 2008

Before and After - Then and Now

Before the broadcasters started arriving at Olympic Park, when we were only feeding the IBC staff (approximately 300-400 people per day), the coolers remained empty... Pictured here is the storage cooler for fresh produce...

Of course, that wouldn't last forever... Now the coolers are stocked... Pictured here is the storage cooler for fresh produce...

When the Olympic Catering Project started, at the International Broadcast Center, we were receiving a few hundred cases a week; now, we are receiving more than 2,000 cases each day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Some Yummy Chinese Treats

Introducing Chinese dragon fruit. It looks funny, but makes for a beautiful garnish to dress up a plate...
The white 'meat' of the fruit is the same texture as watermelon and has a similar taste.
Fruit, of course, is not only for eating. The Chinese are known for their beautiful and elaborate fruit carvings. While not elaborate per se, this bird was carved from a single apple in less than 5 minutes by a student...
Probably my favorite Chinese treat so far - Peking duck... The traditional way to eat peking duck is in a small wrap, similar to a crepe, with fried leeks and a sweet soy bean sauce... simply delicious.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Beijing's Air Quality

There has been a lot of controversy about the air quality in Beijing for the Olympics... There are those who argue that the pollution has not improved and there continues to be a health risk for athletes while others report that the quality of the air in Beijing is vastly improved and clean-up measures by the city will guarantee a safe environment for athletes and spectators.

As for myself... I take no sides on the issue. I can neither confirm nor deny either side of the argument. The games are only 10 days away; only time will tell.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lining Up For Good Food

We are currently feeding more than 5,000 each day at the International Broadcast Center.

We do our best to serve traditional Chinese food along with delicious selections from other parts of the world...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Truly Global Experience

I looked around the dining service office in the International Broadcast Center today and observed the diversity of this project. There were, in one room, individuals from the United States and China, of course; but, there were also individuals from Australia, Belgium, England, Scotland, Ireland, Turkey, Malaysia, and India.

Aramark, the managed services company providing food and dining services for the 2008 Olympic Games (and my regular employer) currently operates in 19 countries; there are repersentatvies from every country working at these games, adding to my cultural experience...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Wok

Probably the most important piece of equipment in a Chinese kitchen is the wok. While coming in a variety of sizes, its shape makes it easier to prepare a large amount of food in a short period of time, making it at critical section in any Olympic kitchen in Beijing. Everything from meats to pasta is prepared in the wok, not just the traditionally thought-of stir fry. It takes skill and experience to use commercial woks, and they can be dangerous. Hot oil and a torch-type burner beneath open up the possibility of serious burns. Fortunately, safety is paramount in this Olympic project and there have been no injuries...

Before the woks can by used they must be tempered and prepared. This is done by heating every section of the wok over the burner until it gets red hot. This is done several times and in sections in order to prepared the metal as well as burn off any impurities. The final step is to completly coat the wok with oil (vegetable oil) and cook it off. At that point, it is ready to be used.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Learning A Little Tai-Chi

While enjoying a much needed day off, I visited the historic Beijing Hutongs - the original homes of military and civil officers from 2 dynasties. I paid the extra money for a translated/guided tour of the neighborhood via rickshaw, and it was well worth the extra price.

Here, I am getting my first and only mini-lesson in Tai-Chi. Yes, I felt a little silly making the various poses...

While on the tour of the Hutongs, the rickshaw driver favored me with a small taste of Chinese opera...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Visit With Claudio

During a minor emergency at IBC last night (can't elaborate more due to safety and security of Olympic Park) resulting in an evactuation of the building, I ran into a guy with flags of Brazil all over his shirt and vest and had to ask him, in Portuguese of course, if he was from Brazil... He said he was and asked if were from Brazil as well. He was impressed with my Portuguese when I told him I was from the US but lived in Brazil a couple of years. When he asked where I lived in Brazil he was excited when I said Sao Paulo. The man, Claudio, is also from Sao Paulo; in fact, he is from Ipiranga, which is the second area I lived. We spent about 20 minutes of the evacuation talking about familiar places in Sao Paulo around Ipiranga - Liberdade, Museu Ipiranga, Praca da Se, Morumbi, and others. It was a wonderful visit and could only happen at a place like Olympic Park - a truly global place...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gearing up for 24-Hour Service

The International Broadcast Center is getting ready for 24-hour food service operations beginning this Friday. With broadcasters from more than 200 countries in China or soon to arrive, there will be some kind of activity all day and all night. Considering broadcast times around the world, NBC, for example, will probably broadcast in the middle of the night - day time in the US. Many will be hungry when they complete their shift and we will be on hand to fulfill that need...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Great News for Diabetics!!!!

Well, as you might imagine from the title of this post, I am diabetic; found out a little more than a year ago. Diabetes runs all throughout my family - older brother has it, younger sister has it, father died from it, grandmother died from it, uncles and aunt with it, and the list goes on. I was fortunate to have been diagnosed early; currently, I'm asymptomatic, meaning I present no symptoms, other than above normal blood sugar. My doctor prescribed a series of oral medications, diet, and exercise in order to control my blood sugar and thus delay the onset of symptoms and unrepairable damage. I have done a fair job up to this point, following the advice of my doctor; then I came to China.

Rice is the staple of the Chinese diet - rice for breakfast, rice for lunch, and rice for dinner. So much starch would be bad for a diabetic. But, coupled with regular exercise, many diabetics can enjoy a little more starch in their diet. I have found that to be true for me. Let me be the first to advertise this point - for many diabetics (this is, of course, not true for everyone), the more you exercise the more likely you are to reduce your meds, lower your blood sugar, and perhaps change the diagnosis...

The kitchen in the International Broadcast Center is exactly 300 meters from Staff Dining; Main Dining is another floor up and Fine Dining is another floor up from there. I have to make that hike several times per shift, resulting in more than 12 miles of regualr walking per day, sometimes at a pretty quick pace...

The amazing thing about all of this, and the good news at least for me as a diabetic is that I have enjoyed a lot more starch in my diet (I love rice and pasta) but have lowered my blood sugar to well within normal limits, even too low sometimes. I don't know what this will mean for my next visit with my doctor (I see him as soon as I get back) but I think it will be good.

Monday, July 21, 2008

HACCP and the Hygiene Bureau

There is a team of HACCP inspectors, repersenting the Beijing Hygiene Bureau, at every venue, ensuring that the food prepared at every meal is safe...

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points. It refers to the various stages of food production, from receiving to reheating. Following HACCP standards simply requires that cold food be kept cold and hot foot be kept hot. The HACCP team is on location in the venue all day long, at every meal period, taking temperatures and samples of every dish. Their function is to ensure that no dish is tainted with chemical, physical, or biological hazards. They are an important part of the team.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"One World - One Dream" - ONE TEAM

The motto of the 29th Olympic Games is "One World - One Dream." In food service we have modified it to simply "One Team." That motto is now becoming more and more important.

We have had and continue to have challenges providing global, world-class cuisine to our customers. The biggest reason for this is the availability of product. We only receive approximately 25% - 35% of the product ordered each day. The reasons for this are too numerous to mention here... It's just a fact and the nature of business for us right now. We (the chefs at the International Broadcast Center) met together as a culinary team to ensure that we work together as one team and not as a Western group and an Eastern group. We have not had any issues in this regard, but a preemptive meeting was necessary to avoid the potential of an issue; everyone has grown increasingly frustrated at the limited availability of product... Culinary creativity and working together as one team will see us through to a successful end...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Someone Left the Lights On

The night lights at Olympic Park have been drawing crowds by the hundreds, even thousands. Roads are congested with people and cameras, getting an advance peak at the main venues on the Park - the Bird's Nest and the Aqua Cube. The Olympic Tower is pretty impressive at night as well... This isn't the best night time photography in the world, but enjoy the look at the lights...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Athlete's Village

While out and about on Olympic Park, I visited Athlete's Village, home to more than 20,000 athletes from all over the world for their three weeks of competition... Below are some of the accomodations afforded them.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chinese Spare Ribs

Prepared a wonderful dish for dinner this evening - Chinese Spare Ribs. It is a day-long process, but well worth the effort.

Start with the ribs, cut into 2 rib sections. Prepare a boiling liquid for the ribs in a stock pot, using water, garlic, ginger, green onions, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, and sichuan peppers. Add the ribs and cover; let it come to a slow boil and simmer for several hours, just until the meat is ready to pull away from the bones... Remove the ribs from the liquid and set aside; strain the solid particles from the liquid and return it to high heat until it comes to a boil. Stir in a corn starch slurrry until you're left with a glaze. Pour the glaze over the ribs and bake in the oven another half-hour to 45 minutes. Serve with your favorite rice and vegetables.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Beautiful Day for Pictures

It was a beautiful, sunny day - a great day for pictures around Olympic Park. I thought I would share a few...

This is the Olympic Tower, located in the plaza next to the Bird's Nest (National Stadium)...

This is me in front of the Bird's Nest (National Stadium)...

The Bird's Nest from the 'A' entrance side (entrances are from A to M)...

Three buildings pictured here. The Olympic Aqua Cube is the building in the foreground; the National Indoor Stadium is in the center; the International Broadcast Center (where I work) is the building in the background... The Bird's Nest is across the street...

Here is a taste of old China meeting new China... A replica of a Chinese Hutong (1,000 year old residential center) in the foreground with the Bird's Nest in the background...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Preparations Continue at Olympic Park

Shops are starting to open at the International Broadcast Center and at other venues around Olympic Park. Here is Bank of China, the offical bank of the 2008 Summer Olympics...

Right outside the front door of Main Dining at IBC is a row of sponsor shops - Kodak, Addidas, Samsung, Bank of China, and others...

Coca-Cola, another official sponsor of the Olympics, appears on signage and billboards all around Olympic Park...

I took a fun moment at one of the broadcast desks for CCTV, from China...

Here's a snap shot of part of Olympic Park...

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Few Questions Answered

Recently, I have received several questions from family, friends, and fans. Now is a good time to answer a few of them...

Q. What kind of food is being prepared at IBC?
A. The International Broadcast Center will house the TV broadcast stations from more than 200 countries. It is a very large building, as one can imagine, with several food venues. We prepare a variety of dishes at each meal from all over the world. We prepare several varieties of pizza, several pastas with a variety of sauces, several Mediterranian skewers, a large variety of grilled sausages, a vast assortment of salads, paninis and other sandwiches and wraps, several different western dishes (like mashed potatoes, grilled chicken, French toast, beef stew, and so much more), as well as traditional Chinese food. We serve quick snacks in several coffee shops and kiosks as well as operate an 80-seat exclusive fine dining restaurant.

Q. Are there concerns about tainted product?
A. I have never seen safety and security so strictly enforced as I have here at Olympic Park. There is a broad food safety organization who inspects every case of food that comes into the Park. Rest assured, every morsel of food served to broadcasters, journalists, athletes, and guests is among the safest in the world.

Q. Is the food in China different from the Chinese food available in America?
A. Yes, I would say that traditional Chinese is different than the American version available at so many buffets in the US. I am surprised at the amount of oil, cinnamon, star anise, and cloves that are used here. We use a lot more Chinese red wine, hoisin sauce, and oyster sauce, and surprisingly very little soy sauce. Rice, the staple of every Chinese meal, is very starchy short grain rice, available but not typically used in America.

Q. How is housing for the food service staff?
A. There are more than 6,000 people that make up the working crew of the various culinary departments throughout the Park. They come from 22 tourism and culinary schools all around China. I know their housing is a bus ride away and their transportation is arranged for them, but I don't know about the quality of their accomodations. The 230 international managers assigned to Olympic Park have housing in two different locations in Beijing. I have an apartment at the Somerset, Zhong Guan Cun, in the Haidian District of Beijing. The property is run by Ascott International, who has locations all over the world and caters to traveling executives. The accomodations are very nice according to anyone's standards. I live in a fully furnished 2 bedroom apartment - with living room, dining room, kitchen, 2 bathrooms, and an office - and share the apartment with Bruce Wessley from Iowa. We rarely see each other becuase of different work schedules. The apartment has wood floors in the bedrooms and office and marble floors throughout the remainder. There is an indoor pool, weight room, and spa on the property. It is walking distance from a shopping mall, an electronics mall, and a corner market as well as dozens of restaurants and is only a 15-minute taxi ride from Olympic Park, on a good day.

I hope this answers at least some questions. Send me more and I will do my best to tell you what you want to know...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Getting Ready For The Party

Broadcasters started today to arrive and move into the International Broadcast Center in mass. We have been feeding a little over 3,000 and that number is expected to grow daily until it reaches around 18,000. With only 25 days left before the opening ceremony and only 17 days of games, the next few weeks will be busy, fast-paced, and a definite adrenaline rush.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Sneak Peek At An Olympic Venue

Of course, there are many Olympic events at venues all over China. At Olympic Park alone, there is a square mile or more of Olympic venues that will house a variety of competitions. The International Broadcast Center will be the home of Olympic Fencing. Today, Fencing Hall turned on the lights for its first practice session. Don't know if the athletes in this video are Olympic athletes.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bibles to be Available During the Olympics

China is predominantly an athiest country. There are some who practice other religions, but for the most part each person I have talked with seems to "believe in himself/herself." There is a belief in a supreme being or higher power, but that is as far as it goes for most. Though the country is Communist, there is expected to be an unprecedented allowance and tolerance for "western" freedoms, like the freedom of religion. While less than 1% of the country is Christian, the government has consented to allowing the distribution of Bibles during the Olympic Games. Here is an article that was emailed to me today about the subject:

"Athletes, officials, spectators and tourists can pick up the Bible or just the New Testament for free during the Olympic Games next month.

Tens of thousands of copies of the Bible, the New Testament and booklets with just the four Gospels (according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) have been printed for the purpose, say officials of China's Christian society.

News of the printing of the Scriptures should put pay to rumors started by overseas agencies saying the Chinese authorities would not make the Bible available at the Games.

Rev Xu Xiaohong, an official of the Shanghai-based China Christian Council in charge of publishing, says 50,000 bilingual (Chinese and English) editions of the Gospel booklets had already been printed by June. They are on way to six cities hosting the Olympic events in the mainland.

As has been the practice at earlier Games, the Gospel booklets will be available mainly in churches and the Olympic Village in Beijing, and in Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, Tianjin and Qinhuangdao, Xu says.

Places of worship for people of other religions too have been set up in the Olympic Village, Chen Guangyuan, president of the Islamic Association of China has said.

The cover of the Gospel booklet will have the Beijing Olympics logo. "This is especially significant (because) as far as I know, this is the first time an Olympics logo will be used on a religious booklet," Xu says. "The Olympic spirit and the spirit of living a 'purpose-driven life' that Christians believe in come together in the combination."

Nanjing-based Amity Printing Co, the country's major printer of the Bible, has printed the Gospel booklets. Its general manager Li Chunnong says 30,000 copies of the New Testament (Chinese-English bilingual edition) are being printed for free distribution during the Games.
The Beijing Christian Council has placed an order with Amity to reprint 10,000 copies of the bilingual Bible edition to be distributed in the Olympic Village, Li says.

Amity Printing is a joint venture of the country's Amity Foundation and the international United Bible Society.

"This is a major and exciting opportunity. We are privileged to be able to support the Church in China in the publishing of the Bible during the Olympics," says James Catford, chief executive of the Bible Society.

The society, however, has no plans to provide free copies of the Bible in hotels, according to Xu.
Churches in Beijing have been asked to provide people to man the Olympic Village chapel and hold services and prayers, says Liu Bainian, vice-president of the China Patriotic Catholic Association."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Broadcasters Begin to Arrive

Broadcasters are now arriving from all over the world. It is interesting to witness meal times in the Main Dining area at the International Broadcast Center; you see the diversity of the globe and hear a variety of languages.

There are currently around 3,000 broadcasters, crews, support staff, and IBC staff being served each day. We expect that number to increase, almost daily, to around 10,000 within a week-and-a-half, when IBC goes to 24-hour service. By the time of the games we expect to be serving over 18,000.

As broadcasters arrive and start setting up their equipment, many are taking preliminary shots of Olympic Park for news stories. In the pictures seen here, three different Chinese stations take shots inside IBC.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chinese Calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy is a beautiful art and it amazes me to watch a calligrapher at work. Today, at the Silk Market, I ordered small signs printed with the names of everyone in my family in English and Chinese. In this video clip, the calligrapher writes Christian's name in Chinese and then in English...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Crazy Traffic in Beijing

Beijing is a city of around 15 million people... The roads were not laid out, designed, or intended for everyone to have their own cars. It seems that city planners were expecting on Beijing citizens to rely on public transportation. With a new sense of freedom within the limits of Communism, Beijing citizens are seeing a growth of wealth and acquisition of personal property that is unprecedented in China. One expample of this can be seen in the number of cars on the raod at almost any time of day. Driving in Beijing is a personal challenge... There doesn't appear to be enforcement of traffic laws, assuming traffic laws exsist.

Just is case the picture doesn't give you a good idea of traffic in Beijing, check out this short video clip of a recent ride on a bus into work...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Time For A Break

All around Beijing, during their lunch break, from around 11:30 to around 1:00 each day you will find Chinese workers who have just eaten find a place to curl up and take a nap... Work here goes on around the clock - 24-hours a day, especially at Olympic Park, in order to meet deadlines. I would be pretty tired and need a nap in the middle of the day if I worked that hard...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The International Broadcast Center - Also An Olympic Venue

While it is true that the International Bradcast Center is the home of the world's TV broadcasters for the 29th Olympic Games, it is also one of many Olympic Venues... IBC will be the home of Olympic fencing... I took a walk around the building and just happened into the fencing arena and was able to snap a few pictures... Enjoy the preview...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

IBC Finishing Touches

Crews are now putting the finishing touches on the International Broadcast Center, which will be the home of the world's TV broadcasters for the next couple of months, during the Olympics and Paralympics. Crews are hanging banners from a barren ceiling and hanging murals from bare walls; its really making the place come alive...

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Olympics - A Multi-Cultural Event

From 1989 to 1991, I lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I've always wanted to go back to Brazil, but the cost has been prohibitive. The next best thing has been little things ever since that has helped me stay connected with Brazil, like magazine subscriptions and audio recordings in Portuguese and Brazilian food...

Today, as more and more broadcasters start to arrive at Olympic Park from all over the world, I was fortunate enough to run into a crew from Rio de Janeiro - from TV Globo, a global satellite company based in Rio. We spent a few minutes talking about Brazil and sharing some food ideas... They wanted to know where to find churrasco (Brazilian BBQ) in Beijing; unfortunately, no such thing can be found here.

Anyway, it was a good visit and a good time to practice my Portuguese.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Beautiful Day in Beijing

Took a little time this afternoon to walk around Olympic Park and shoot a few pictures of the main venues - the Bird's Nest and the Aqua Cube. Enjoy...