Wattie Cooks for Ian Boswell, Heather Jackson, Colin Strickland, and Amity Rockwell at the Wahoo Frontiers Gravel Camp
Menu courtesy of Sean Watkins and Aaron Vinten; words by Aaron Vinten
In addition to being a world-class business-person, do you know that founder Sean "Wattie" Watkins is no slouch with a spatula in his hand? Every year before Kona, he whips up a mean batch of pre-race Wattiecakes for his wife Heather Jackson to consume. This coming weekend he plays cookie for the Wahoo Frontiers Gravel Camp in Boulder, Colorado, where Wahooligans Ian Boswell, Heather Jackson, and Dirty Kanza 2019 winners Amity Rockwell and Colin Strickland will tackle the Old Man Winter Bike Rally 100k. Chef Aaron Vinten of The Athlete's Table weighed in on Chef Watkins' menu above, and then has some suggestions below if you're going to run your own training camp at some point in 2020.
As Chef Vinten points out below, knowing your limits and the full work load is crucial, and on that front he's got help from OG Elite Team member Shelby Katz, who is assisting with the menu planning, shopping, and camp execution. Katz joins the Gravel Collective Project this year, and has been a long time member of the Wattie Ink. family.
Wahoo is hosting all of its Frontiers athletes out in Boulder this week, giving the team a chance to meet, do some lighthearted early season racing, record some podcast episodes, and generally nail one of the goals of any early season camp: team cohesion. At the heart of that cohesion is always the table that athletes gather around to eat, talk, and fuel their bodies. Feeling inspired? Follow these guidelines below.
6 Rules To Rock The Training Camp Kitchen
KEEP IT TASTY: Without question, the most important part of cooking for a large group of hungry athletes, or any group of people, is to serve food that they actually want to eat. Seems silly, right? But, not really! It takes a lot of work, passion and love to cook great tasting food. Lots of people will simply phone it in and put out a high school cafeteria effort. That doesn’t fly at a CAMP! No self-respecting kitchen ninja will let their hard-charging gravel-chomping athletes come home to a sub-par meal. They have been eating Gu’s and gravel dust all day and deserve a satisfying meal to reignite the engine. The trick is to please your audience, play to their taste buds and at the same time ensure that their nutritional needs are being met.
BUILD NUTRITIONAL BALANCE: One of the great things about athletes is that for the most part, they are usually pretty healthy eaters. They know the importance of eating a healthy balanced diet which includes fresh fruits, vegetables, high-quality proteins and carbohydrates. You know…real whole food. Because of the demands of their sport, endurance athletes typically have a larger percentage of carbohydrates in their diet and the camp is a great opportunity to showcase that you can make healthy, whole-food based nutrition taste excellent. It may take longer than popping a frozen Hungry-Man meal into the microwave, but as an athlete, you know how important nutrition can be for recovery and reducing inflammation.
KEEP IT SIMPLE: When cooking for large groups, it’s always best to keep things simple. Don’t be a hero in the kitchen and overcommit yourself to meals you can’t pull off due to lack of experience, kitchen space, cooking equipment or enough helping hands in the kitchen. You have to keep it real with yourself. Don’t get carried away when menu planning. Simplicity and menu structure are paramount. As a starting point for each meal, always serve some sort of cold fresh green salad that is easily tossed together, a hot main course that can be baked hand-free in the oven and one or two easy sides. While you may have the skills to pull off a multi-course Michelin star dinner in your own home kitchen, it’s a much different story to do it for 30 hungry athletes standing in line waiting to stuff their ravenous faces. Simplicity and structure are key.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS: Time for a little personal Q&A session. Ask yourself: How many athletes will I be feeding and for what meals? What workouts have they done prior to coming to meal time? How hungry will they be? Where am I going to store all the food? What is it that I can really pull off in the space provided? Do I have enough refrigerator or freezer space? How far away are the grocery stores? Do I have all the proper pots, pans and baking trays I need for the number of people I’ll serve? What kind of serving setup should I do - plated or buffet? Are there any nutritional restrictions? Gluten free? Dairy free? Vegetarian? Vegan? How many ovens are in the kitchen and how hot do they get? Is it a gas grill or electric stovetop? Is there enough counter space to work on?
KNOW THE FULL WORK LOAD: It’s not just about cooking! Sure, as a Chef your moment of glory comes when you call everyone to eat. Once the dinner bell rings it only takes a matter of minutes until the food is gone and the kitchen looks like a bomb went off! It’s a very satisfying feeling. As a Chef, your happy as a clam, but then comes the seemingly endless stream of dirty dishes, cleaning up the kitchen and dining room, organizing the fridge for the next meal and getting rid of leftover food that takes up to much place. Not to mention also cleaning and organizing the pantry, checking the next day’s shopping lists and getting the kitchen primed for breakfast the morning. It’s a full day cycle that will keep you on your feet all day, so you better get some good shoes!
HAVE FUN: Working a camp kitchen is a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. Don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand when you are in need. It’s not you against the world. Allow yourself some recovery time just like the athletes. Maybe it’s an easy bike ride or maybe just a quick nap. Maybe you want to go explore a new coffee shop or bakery and get a taste of some local flavor to incorporate back into your menu? Whatever you do, allow yourself some time to decompress before the next wave of ravenous athletes comes storming through the front door and into the kitchen saying “Man, I’m so hungry!”