I recently had the privilege of conducting an interview via telephone with executive chef of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus- Chef Matt Loory.
This was so exciting to be able to chat and ask him a few questions about his life as a circus chef, keeping all those talented circus performers tummies full, every day- on the mile long circus train to boot!
Matt studied at Le Cordon Bleu graduating with honors, but of course he learned a lot of his skills working in his mama’s kitchen. Matt has been cooking professionally for about 8 years now, and has been with the Ringling Brothers Circus for about a year and a half.
I asked him what some challenges of cooking on the road were, and besides adapting to cooking on a rocking and rolling circus train, he says his biggest challenge is chasing down those food delivery trucks!
With over 18 different countries represented and over 20 different languages spoken by the circus performers, can you guess what the #1 top seller is when it comes to food? A good ol’ cheeseburger! I found that so interesting! Of course, many other food items are offered including chicken sandwiches and hot dogs. Matt also mentioned his signature Asian inspired meatloaf with wasabi mashed potatoes (which instantly made my mouth water!), and his fried rice with sweet chili beef- so the performers definitely have some yummy options when it comes to food!
I asked Matt what his favorite types of foods are to cook. Breakfast foods are among one of his favorites and also comfort type foods, “food that warms your soul”. You know, “food that tastes better than it looks”. Matt, being exposed to a global palate starting at the young age of 5, says his personal favorite dish to eat is Vietnamese Pho.
The circus train has 2 kitchens called the “pie carts”. I of course had to ask Matt how big a role dessert plays on the circus train, in which he answered “we don’t call it the pie cart for nothing!”. Dessert is HUGE! From cheesecakes to key lime pie, chocolate chip cookies, and their top selling dessert- the “fudgy wudgy” chocolate cake- YUMMO! Matt loves making (and eating) key lime pie, and attributes that to his Florida roots, although is his all time favorite dessert is the bananas foster at Chef Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant in Orlando, FL. He says his number one favorite dessert to make is the decadent eclair, and then went on to tell me a really cute story of how when he was in culinary school on Valentine’s Day he had made a bunch of eclairs and fruit tarts, and told his fellow classmates to clean up his mess after him because he had somewhere to be! He then drove 4 hours away to bring the treats to a girl he was dating (how sweet is that?!)
In concluding my interview with Chef Loory I asked him if he has any cooking tips for us at home, and I just love his response: “Follow your tongue”, a recipe is nothing more then a guideline, have fun, be creative and get to know your flavors. He recommends the book “The Flavor Bible“. Well Matt, I think I’m just going to have to check that book out!
I so enjoyed my conversation with Chef Loory, and I hoped you enjoyed reading a little glimpse into the “man that feeds the circus'” everyday life!
(photo credit top to bottom: Feld Entertainment, Kraft recipes and Taste of Home)