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The logistics of feeding the world's most powerful leaders

Soup is out of the question. Julienned vegetables must be short enough that they can't fly off a fork.<br />

OTTAWA - Soup is out of the question. Julienned vegetables must be short enough that they can't fly off a fork.

And finger foods? Forget it.

Otherwise, cooking for the G8 leaders at next week's summit in Huntsville, Ont., is a piece of cake.

“The biggest part is the logistical side of it,” said Rory Golden, the executive chef at Deerhurst Resort, which presidents, prime ministers, reporters and hundreds of police officers will briefly call home.

“Trying to get all the different restaurants running, all the tents in place, all the equipment for the tents, those sorts of things ... are more work than the actual cooking.”

Over 22,000 hot meals are expected to be served at the meetings, cooked in six kitchens by 71 chefs.

While the meeting lasts only two days, security, staff and news media are already on their way.

Menu planning began more than a year ago, when Golden had to casually call all the local suppliers he uses in Muskoka to find out what would be in season in late June and how much he could order.

Of course, he couldn't tell them why - at that point, it was still a secret that leaders from eight of the world's leading economies would be convening in Ontario's cottage country to hash out issues of global significance.

He also phoned Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chef to find out what the menu favourites were at 24 Sussex Drive. And he got tips from the chef who cooked for the G8 Summit in Kananaskis in 2002.

The advice wasn't what he expected.

“You would think more these are meals where people enjoy their food, (but) these are all working meals. So, the food is an important factor ... but it's not the biggest thing on the agenda,” he said.

Still, there were things to keep in mind.

“We are not doing soup. That can be a bit of a disaster if someone drops a bit of soup on their tie or on their dress,” he said.

And although they're working lunches, they're still formal events so anything that would make for sticky fingers at a photo-op handshake is off the menu as well.

Golden is also cutting portion sizes.

Normally, guests at the resort spend their days working up an appetite by skiing or biking. The G8 isn't that kind of event.

“They are not out running around that much so the portion sizes are pretty defined in what we're using,” he said, estimating they are about three-quarters of a normal serving.

About 75 per cent of the food being served at the summit is locally grown, from baby arugula to local wines.

The rest comes from other areas in Canada, like the 100,000 compostable water bottles being brought in from Calgary. The resort is also bringing in 250,000 biodegradable plates and cutlery.

The menus have all been tested and photographs of each dish now hang in Golden's office.

The fact that he had to arrange the menu more than a year ago meant he also had to keep his fingers crossed over the winter.

“Thank God we didn't have a harsh winter - we wouldn't have anything,” he said.

The full details of the menus remain under wraps for security reasons.

“No one is going through the oranges and apples to ensure they are safe or whatever the case may be,” he said. “That will be done as we prepare the food.”

Both Health Canada inspectors and the RCMP will be in the kitchens as the chefs begin food preparation for the major meals, getting a jump on the sauces and dressings that will be part of the menu.

Golden said he's aware of the criticisms that too much money is being spent on the leaders, the delegations and the media.

He said he's comfortable with what he's got on the table.

“This is cottage country. The expectations are more of a relaxed environment,” he said.

“Frankly, we have done more high-end meals, from presentation of food and cutlery and those type of things, for pharmaceuticals and lawyers' groups.”

They tend to be pickier eaters as well, he said.

“I have less allergy requests on this particular whole entire event than I have had with some groups of 100 people,” he said.

Golden said he's excited to showcase the best of Ontario's produce to the international team, but also to take off his work boots and put on his chef's whites.

“When the day comes to cook for the leaders, that's going to be a nice easy day at the office,” he said.

 
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