Courtesy: Cirque du Soleil; Photography: Renald Laurin
Imagine this: The next time you're trying to get dinner prepped, served and cleared for your family, take a minute to think of what it would be like to feed a circus troupe. Here, Paola Muller Head de Freitas, the kitchen manager for KURIOS - Cabinet of Curiosities by Cirque du Soleil, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at what's cooking in the kitchen.
How many people do you cook for on a regular day?
We cook for about 120 cast and crew members, but we also welcome family members and guests to enjoy our food. Whenever we have two shows, we also allow front-of-house local staff to eat with us. We serve our meals buffet-style, with smaller portions for freshness and waste control.
Sometimes just deciding what to cook is hard. Where do you begin?
We have weekly meetings to decide our menus. We take a lot of things into consideration, such as the season, the weather and the availability of local products. As well, we serve meals with fun and nutritious food for all of the different tastes and dietary needs that we have. The secret is always finding a balance and offering a wide range of options.
You must be a very organized!
We work with a company that provides us with local labour. They send resumés ahead of time, so we can prepare for interviews when we arrive in a new place. The same works for suppliers, and we usually use the same ones, so we build relationships with vendors over the years. As for menus and purchasing, most of our items are pretty standard, and we use tools like online ordering. The tasks are divided amongst my team (myself and three chefs), so the workload is fair. When it comes to training staff, the workload is also shared by the team. How do we manage it? Teamwork!
How do you deal with food allergies?
Awareness and diversity: We make sure people always know what's in our food (we have picture magnets on our menu board) and we always have options for those with food restrictions. We also educate our staff and crew on how to share the same kitchen and keep it safe for everyone.
Do you like to cook for yourself or family and friends when you're at home?
I love cooking for my four-year-old daughter and I love teaching her as well, but when I'm on vacation, I appreciate getting spoiled by other people's food, too.
Do you have any tips for regular cooks at home?
Yes, planning is the key to success in any kitchen. Make sure you know what you want to make, what you need and how long will it take you to prep and execute.
What do you love most about your job?
The most satisfying thing is to be able to cook for the same group of people, two meals a day, 365 days of the year – and know that they aren't bored with our food. Having this close relationship with our "customer" is very special.
KURIOS is now playing through August 13 under The Big top at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton. For more info, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/kurios