Inside the Olympic Village Cafeteria at PyeongChang
“I literally went through customs with oatmeal,” says Dan Churchill. He’s the personal chef to Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, and flew with her to PyeongChang as she prepared to compete in her fourth Winter Olympics. Churchill has been working closely with the chefs from the USA Ski Team as they’re feeding athletes in PyeongChang, where the competition kicked off February 9. Food & Wine reached him by phone at the Olympic Village.
To prep for the two week stretch, Churchill had to make a list of all the ingredients he needed in advance; requested ingredients are delivered in shipments twice throughout the games. “It’s a food ordering system,” he says. “There are incidental things you can go and get from local stores. But in terms of proteins and major ingredients, they come twice throughout the games. I’ve had to really break down the menu and understand portions. It’s been an amazing opportunity to work with the ski team.”
“Otherwise, everything you need is pretty accessible,” he says. Conveniently, there’s a Costco nearby. “Some fresh herbs are hard to find. We can get things that look like cilantro, but they taste a bit different. Fresh basil is hard to find, so I’ve been using dried. The sweet potatoes here are also similar, but slightly different.”
Churchill also brought with him flavored olive oils—he’s a fan of Cobram brand—and tahini, which he’s been serving in salad bowls with tomato and chickpea, pictured below. (You can actually find his Textured Tahini Bowl at his forthcoming NYC restaurant, called Charley St.)
The U.S. ski team has its own hub that it operates out of at the Olympic Village; some athletes rely completely on team chefs that serve food at the main commissary (here’s the full menu, by the way). Vonn, who’d been working with Churchill for the past four months, opted to fly him out PyeongChang so she could better stick to her strict diet.
While he can’t say exactly what she’ll have before her 2018 Olympics debut — her first competition is 11 a.m. Friday, local time—he says it’ll probably be a scramble or some other egg dish, supplemented with quinoa oatmeal for extra fuel.
“She likes to get a coffee first thing, and jump on a bike if she’s training,” he says. “Her events are in the middle of the day, so it’s really important that as soon as she finishes, she has energy into her system to accommodate that hormonal and energy shift. So we might give her a smoothie or something, a high GI food.”
Since she’s focusing on her upcoming competitions, Vonn hasn’t yet ventured out of Olympic village to try PyeongChang’s amazing food scene that David Chang’s been raving about. “In this period of time she’s very disciplined and very switched on,” Churchill says. “After the games, she’s going to enjoy the culture and enjoy the cuisines.”