When we think about the gastronomic world, the first thing that comes to mind is a restaurant or our home kitchen. Nowadays, even a food show at your favorite network. However, we wanted to go a little further, so we spoke with someone who was inside of the most important tennis tournament in France. Yes, the Roland Garros itself. The challenge is not only culinary -mega stars like Nadal or Venus Williams only eat the best-, but also nutritional, logistical and, in times of pandemic, even sanitary.
Venezuelan chef Andreína Mosqueda was one of those selected to be in charge of the food being served at one of the four most important tennis championships in the world. After a demanding selection process, she was assigned to the cold station. The work this year was disparate from a regular year. It was more demanding. Although there was hardly any public at the Roland Garros, the sanitary protocol was super strict. Restricted access, mask all the time that had to be discarded in special places every three hours, COVID-19 tests every five days, not leaving the demarcated spaces, etc. Everything in a bubble. The routine started early, 7 a.m., but ended around 3 p.m. At the beginning of the day, a meeting with the team is in order to organize the production. Mosqueda, in charge of the cold line, as we said before. That is, starters and desserts. The entire menu was designed by a nutritionist, with subsequent approval from the French Tennis Federation. Products of top quality, obviously. The diet of the players of both the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) and the Professional Tennis Association (ATP) was carefully monitored. The athletes served themselves as they pleased. Self-service. Mosqueda told us that, although most of the time she was in the kitchen, from time to time she went out to check that everything was in order. They were instructed to treat the tennis players as common diners. Photos and autographs are forbidden. "The menus were super balanced, but the European way of eating is disparate from the American one. Here, they allow themselves to have dessert, for example," said the cook.
The french challenge
Andreína has been in France for more than 20 years. The arrival, like in most cases when you are an immigrant, was not easy. The main barrier was the language. Once she got over that, she polished her education but ran into another hurdle: French cuisine is just beginning to open up to female cooks. In all, tradition continues to indicate that it is a job for men, Mosqueda tells us. But she got over that and went on to open her restaurant in Toulouse, in southern France, "Ma Cuisine". In fact, in that establishment, she managed to get his diners to embrace the mix of flavors more typical of Latin America than of French cuisine. "I never changed my flavors. Obviously, you have to balance it, but my clients loved exotic dishes. For example, to tell you something, once a week, I would make a Venezuelan menu. I would adapt to it, of course. French people love to travel through the dish, the famous culinary journey. Some spices had to be tempered, such as the cumin, but they do appreciate it if it's subtle. "My cuisine changed a lot when I arrived in France. It got frenchified. French cuisine is the base of cooking. I changed my working methods, adjusted culinary techniques, my way of plating. But what I have learned the most is how to eat. The French do not only know how to cook very well. They eat very well. They do not deprive themselves of anything. They eat super balanced. They always have dessert! To stay on top of that, from the chef's perspective, you have to work with a lot of orders. You have to plan to achieve nutritional balance. In "Ma Cuisine", the menus were planned with no less than five weeks of anticipation to achieve that. And my clients were happy because they even lost weight!"
Although Andreína is no longer in charge of Ma Cuisine, she's still very active in the gastronomic world. She works for Sogeres, a restaurant and catering company owned by the French multinational Sodexo. She's also a judge in the tests to receive the French hotel and restaurant national diploma. Before achieving all of this, she went to the High Training Educational Institute 25 years ago, before crossing the Atlantic in 1999 to settle in Toulouse. Her internships were in important establishments such as the Parisian Grand Hotel du Palais, one of the former palaces of Napoleon Bonaparte. She also worked in the kitchens of the Ritz Hotel.
The fact is that, either in a restaurant or in a macro event like Roland Garros, logistics plays a crucial role in the gastronomic industry. Andreína Mosqueda learned that in France, at the core of the Western cuisine. Next time you taste a great dish, think about all the work behind it. It will taste better.