Feeding Olympians a big job 

Sodexo posting jobs on First Nations website; McDonald’s to handpick its crew

Food, water, shelter and oxygen - those are the necessities of life. While much of the focus has been on providing beds for people to sleep in during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we're finally getting a clearer picture of how athletes and their teams will be filling their bellies in February and March.

McDonald's is again on board as the official restaurant of the Olympics, and they will be working with the international food and facilities management company, Sodexo, who will take care of cleaning and other aspects of food services at the athletes' villages in Vancouver and Whistler.

"Vancouver will be McDonald's seventh Olympic Games as a worldwide partner, and eighth as the official restaurant of the Games," said Kim Todd, senior vice president of GolinHarris, a public relations firm that represents McDonald's.

Todd said McDonald's has been involved in the Olympics for over 40 years, though not always in an official capacity.

During the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, McDonald's actually airlifted a shipment of hamburgers to American athletes who were homesick. In 1976, the company came on board as the official restaurant of the Games, serving a menu of traditional McDonald's items alongside specially designed dishes to athletes, their families, coaches and fans.

"Usually, it's a combination of their core menu - their most popular featured items - and definitely a good variety of choice of balanced meals and healthy choices," Todd said.

McDonald's plans to have a similarly strong presence at the 2010 Games, with restaurants at each athletes' village and another for the main press centre in Vancouver. These restaurants will be outfitted with energy efficient lighting and equipment, which will then be reused at McDonald's restaurants after the Games.

McDonald's is still developing its menu for the Games, and Todd was a bit unsure about how the two central organizations - Sodexo and McDonald's - would be working together to serve meals during the Games.

"We just don't have any specifics, unfortunately, at this time," Todd said.

However, according to a job posting placed on the First Nations Employment Society website, Sodexo will be providing catering and housekeeping duties at both athletes' villages and serving more than 500,000 meals in the process.

They're recruiting an undisclosed number of employees to assist the culinary team operations, housekeeping and other general labour duties, offering accommodation and transportation for all staff at the Whistler location. They have also asked all applicants to clearly state if they are Métis or First Nations, though no one from VANOC or Sodexo was available for comment on hiring specifics.

McDonald's won't be hiring new staff to work at the Games. Rather, they plan to handpick a 300-person McDonald's Olympic Champion Crew from their top performing restaurants across the country.

Sodexo has already assigned an executive chef to each village. Reg Pearce will lead the culinary team at the Vancouver site, while Michael Smith takes the helm in Whistler.

Smith, a well-known culinary personality from the Food Network, is host of "Chef at Home" and "Chef Abroad," and has also recently been tapped to take part in Iron Chef America. He'll be serving as corporate chef for Sodexo in 2010.

"I'm thrilled to be a part of the Olympics," Smith said in a recent release, "I'm really looking forward to being on the team that's helping to cook for the athletes."

Smith and representatives from Sodexo declined requests for interviews, citing legal concerns and directing requests to VANOC.

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