Update: Student Stewart Lane savors role as chef at Beijing Olympics
Thursday, September 18, 2008
MANHATTAN - Kansas State University's Stewart Lane, senior in hotel and restaurant management, Kansas City, Mo., spent part of his summer in an Olympic-size effort: assisting with catering for the U.S. Olympic Team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Lane worked in the kitchen of the USA House, the home base for U.S. athletes, their families, celebrities and media in Beijing.
"It was set up to be an American oasis in the heart of Beijing," he said.
Lane, who also serves as a catering chef for his family's business in Kansas City, Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions, was hired for the Olympic job by Frank Puleo, who had the catering contract for USA House. Puleo owns a catering business in New York.
During the Olympics, Lane arrived at the USA House daily at 9 a.m. to start preparation for the day's meals. He catered a variety of food, ranging from all-American favorites like hot dogs and hamburgers, to more upscale meals for people such as former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
"I've never done anything similar to the Beijing games before," Lane said. "It was high production, high-quality food. All day long there was just tons and tons of prep. I saw more product move through there than I have ever seen before."
The night of the opening ceremonies dinner consisted of seven different menus serving more than 1,200 people, Lane said.
Each night after dinner was served, Lane still had work to do. The fourth floor of the USA House was called "The Bud Deck," which was an open patio area sponsored by Budweiser. From 10 p.m. to midnight, Lane would help prepare upscale, small-plate bar food, consisting of things like fried chicken strips with balsamic reduction and watermelon and pickled cucumber salad.
Although Lane experienced some extremely long days in the kitchen, he also had the opportunity to meet several impressive people, including U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals at the Beijing games.
"It came about through a chocolate milk snafu," Lane said. "Every morning Michael Phelps would drink a glass of chocolate milk or two, but one morning we didn't have any."
Not wanting to disappoint Phelps, Lane put together his own chocolate concoction consisting of cocoa powder, sugar and vanilla and delivered it to Phelps. To thank Lane for going out of his way, Phelps gave him a USA Olympic bracelet.
Lane also met and shook hands with Hollywood actor Vince Vaughn and mingled with tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams. He said the whole experience was surreal, unlike anything he had ever done before.
Lane had about three days off while in Beijing. He said he spent those days traveling around the city and even took in some Olympic events.
"I saw table tennis, which was one of the hottest tickets in town to go see," Lane said. "I also got to watch USA vs. Germany in men's beach volleyball, which was an awesome match."
Lane took away some great memories from Beijing, including hiking up the Great Wall and zip-lining off of it.
"I got to do things that I never thought I would, which was incredible," Lane said. "It was a historical event and I'm really glad I got to be a part of it."
Lane will graduate in December and is unsure of his future plans. He is thinking of moving back to Kansas City to work for his parents. He might stay in Manhattan and work as the house cook for his fraternity, Kappa Sigma, where he wants to prove that even on a house budget, everyone can still eat great food.
"Food is something that I've always had a passion for," Lane said. "It's something that I find a lot of happiness in. So whatever path I choose in my life, I know food will be a part of it."