Athletes at the Winter Games have six buffets, seven cheeses, and multiple cuisines to choose from.

Abbey White
February 14, 2018

Between Chloe Kim revealing herself as Team U.S.A.’s biggest foodie to luger Chris Mazdzer's epic pizza-eating, one might say the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics have been just as much about food as they’ve been about competitions. And it’s not hard to understand why athletes—and we—are so interested in talking about what they’re putting on their plates. Diet is a major factor in the lives of Olympians and Paralympians, whether they’re competing on a world stage or back home in their training facilities. What they eat—as well as how and how much—can be a tiny-but-illuminating peek into what it takes to go from being a good athlete to a gold-medal competitor.

Meals can be especially important during the two weeks of winter games when athletes are transported out of nutritionist supported kitchens and sometimes even away from their personal chefs. So how did PyeongChang ensure that all 6,000 Olympic athletes and officials and about 1,700 Paralympic athletes and officials got exactly what they needed? They brought in a large team of trained chefs and crafted an inclusive, sustainability conscious 24/7 menu with the help of nutritionists, private research institutes, universities, and other various experts.

During the entirety of the PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Games, five million portions of meals will be served at 13 different competition venues—the Olympic Village, Press Center, and Olympic Plaza, among other places. On any given day, around 180 chefs, including 30 halal cooks, help prepare about 180 different dishes—from breakfast to dinner to late night snack—for the PyeongChang Dining Halls and cafes. Since the games officially kicked off with the Opening Ceremonies last week, athletes' village kitchens have served 7,000 meals daily at their peak.

To feed each country’s competitors, the PyeongChang Food and Beverage Team constructed an 18-page menu that provides a variety of regional options. Western, Asian, Korean, religious (Kosher and Halal), and vegetarian choices are available, along with gluten-free and vegan offerings. All the food is dished out by one of six themed buffets: Salad, Italian, Asian, World, Korean, and Halal. There is an obviously large array of things like fruits and vegetables, including 13 whole, cut and dried fruits as well as around 20 fresh, steamed, cut, blanched, sauteed, seasoned, or grilled vegetables. The nine different varieties of bread, six kinds of eggs, pizza and pasta stations aren’t too surprising either.

What is attention-worthy? Athletes have access to seven types of cheese (Edam, Swiss, Camembert, Feta, Cheddar, Bocconcini and Grana Padano), and it’s hard to ignore the porridge menu: pumpkin, beef, mussel, and congee. The Dining Halls are a heaven for soup lovers, where everything from miso, crab meat, lentil, and seaweed to Ox (Knee and Bone), spinach bean paste, dried pollack, and bean curd with fish balls is served. That’s all on top of the delicious entrees and Korean available. That includes grilled halibut, smoked turkey breast, grilled sea bass, smoked duck breast, grilled salmon, grilled chicken thighs and grilled tilapia just for breakfast, as well as gimbap, kimchi (white, water, cucumber, radish water and dished radish), japchae, Korean Barbeque, and a Bibimbap station.

Clearly for the athletes, eating at the Olympics is as much about keeping up their strength as it is a culinary adventure.