A circus travels on its stomach
Pie car manager Matt Loory crisscrosses the country by train, serving meals to the performers and crew with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. "We are one big family out here," he says. (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey photo)
By MEL BARBER
May 20, 2014
A circus train is a microcosm of the world, and the pie car manager is at the center of the action.
Matt Loory, 23, is the youngest pie car manager, aka top chef, in the history of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, which is running its "Legends" show at the Giant Center through Monday.
While working at a breakfast chain restaurant and getting his degree Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando in 2012, he ran smack into the opportunity of a lifetime.
"I got to see the circus train; I got to see the pie car," he says of the interview process. The choice? "Stay in Orlando and go into management or fulfill every little boy's dream and join the circus."
With his family's blessing, he stepped into the center ring and hasn't looked back.
"I had grown up every year going to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus," the Georgia native says. Working with the circus, he adds, will be "a great story to tell my grandkids."
The kitchen: The pie car where Loory and his staff produce most of the 1,000 to 1,500 meals they serve each week is a 110-foot train car with 45 feet of that dedicated cooking and prep space.
"It's the social hub of the train," he says. "No matter where you are on the train, if you want to go somewhere, you have to pass through."
The main kitchen is filled with heavy-duty, marine-grade equipment to handle the load and fit the space. The floor is slatted to allow for easy cleanup, and where a stationary restaurant would boast enormous walk-in fridges and freezers, the pie car relies on reach-in models.
"Putting away a truck with 1,500 pounds of food can be challenging," Loory says, laughing. "We've become 'Tetris' masters."
On some days, the circus offers two or even three shows, and performers might be ducking in for a bite with 10 minutes to spare. The pie car crew runs at top speed to get everyone fed.
"We have to have something that's nourishing and that they can eat quickly," Loory says. "It's absolutely pandemonium between that first and second show."
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