A world of breakfast
With the Olympics and Paralympics to be held next year, it is a good time to think about breakfast offerings for the 200-plus countries attending - as not everyone may want a full English. John Porter reports
It is said to be the most important meal of the day and whatever else the millions of people holding tickets for the 2012 Olympics expect, it's a safe bet that the vast majority of them will be planning to start the day with a hearty breakfast.
While the full English is an icon of the tourist trade, caterers can widen their breakfast offer by offering visitors a taste of their homeland, or encouraging cultural exchange with the opportunity to sample global breakfast dishes.
The potential market starts with the holders of 8.8 million tickets for the Olympic Games, and another two million for the Paralympic Games. As well as 35 Olympic venues in London, there are eight more around the UK hosting events such as football, mountain biking, canoeing and sailing. In addition, there are 20 big screen live sites around the UK where spectators will be encouraged to gather and watch.
If that wasn't enough of a potential breakfast market, there will also be teams from 200-plus competing nations, some of them spending several months in Britain to acclimatise. Menu consultant Stephen Minall, of Moving Food, makes the point that while the athletes may be on carefully prescribed diets according to their discipline, "the relatives, trainers, doctors, coaches, etc will require a breakfast similar to their homeland."
Along with religious and ethnic concerns, which may require secure kitchens and fully traceable suppliers, there are numerous cultural preferences, right down to the morning cuppa. "For example, in Russia and Scandinavia they like coffee made with robusta beans, not arabica, while Asians prefer green teas."
Minall warns: "Hotels that have blocked rooms for certain national Olympic teams have barely begun to understand the complexity of catering for them." In some cases, specialist suppliers may have to be found or speciality chefs recruited, and separate food preparation areas needed.
However, for caterers who haven't contracted to provide specialist menus, the main challenge is coming up with a breakfast offer diverse enough to have a wide appeal, while still generating a profit.
The five rings on the Olympic symbol represent the five major regions of the world: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. While there are clearly huge differences in national cuisines, there are also many common themes when it comes to breakfast.
Europe and Africa
Starting closest to home, many UK and overseas tourists will plan to enjoy the classic cooked breakfast. BPEX food service trade manager Tony Goodger says: "Assured bacon and sausages, as part of a plated full English or served in buns or sandwiches, offer customers both flexibility and a range of price points. For establishments in areas of high footfall, the benefits of serving breakfast - both sit-down and on-the-go sandwich options - are there for the taking."
The Ship in Wandsworth, south London, will be testing the waters with a Rugby World Cup breakfast menu this November, served during televised matches. Manager Oisin Rogers says: "We'll be monitoring how well that goes, to decide on our plans for the Olympics. I suspect the rugby will attract some big guys, so we'll be offering a full English breakfast, with an emphasis on locally sourced produce such as sausages and bacon, which I think will also have a strong appeal to Olympic tourists. We'll also have lighter breakfast dishes such as smoked salmon and speciality breads."
Moving into a wider European offer, the classic French continental breakfast clearly has an appeal, while products such as rye breads, cheeses and smoked meats will appeal to German and Scandinavian tastes. Moving south through Europe and into North Africa, produce such as olives, figs, honey and almonds work well as part of breakfast buffets
Once you hit South Africa, the classic cooked breakfast comes back into its own. Ted Docherty, a native of South Africa who runs the Tailor Made Steaks pub-restaurant chain, says: "We were a British colony for many years, so the breakfast influence is there. We love our protein, so as well as sausages you might have a piece of steak. There's a South African cooking pot called a skottel, a bit like a wok, which we cook meat in for breakfast. There will be lots of fresh fruit in season, and juices. We also eat rusks, which are a cross between bread and biscuits - we dip them in our coffee."
Asia and Oceania
While it may only be one ring on the flag, Asia clearly represents a wide range of cuisines. Fish and rice for breakfast feature not just in Japanese diets, but in many cultures across the region.
Visitors to China sometimes bemoan the regularity with which flour and water dumplings are served up for breakfast. However, these are the perfect carriers for a wide range of savoury and sweet fillings such as meat, vegetables and fruit, which can make an interesting breakfast offer.
Oceania also represents a wide range of cultural influences, from those who will enjoy Asian-inspired ideas, to Australians and New Zealanders who will undoubtedly appreciate the British influence. Ideas for suitable breakfast dishes also include tropical juices such as kiwi and passion fruit, or twists such as coconut milk pancakes.
The true spiritual home of the big breakfast, though, is the Americas. The Latin influence of South America is captured in dishes such as huevos rancheros, fried eggs served on tortillas with a spicy tomato or chilli sauce, but the widest range of breakfast dishes comes from the USA.
Consultant chef Ben Bartlett, captain of the British BBQ team, has had many opportunities to experience the US breakfast culture while competing in events such as the annual Jack Daniels Invitational BBQ competition.
Bartlett says: "The Barbecue Breakfast is the American South's version of the full English, and they'll grill any meat, especially pulled pork, as part of a hearty breakfast." This is a pork cut from the shoulder cooked on a low heat, which allows the meat to be "pulled", or easily broken into individual pieces. It is often smoked over oak or apple wood, served with barbecue sauce and accompanied with scrambled eggs and home fries.
Other popular barbecue breakfasts include steak and eggs, and for a barbecued fish breakfast, Bartlett advises: "Season your fish and baste with a mixture of lemon, butter, a touch of garlic and barbecue sauce, all mixed together and tossed on the grill."
Classic US breakfasts also includes biscuits and gravy - buttermilk American scones covered in thick white gravy made with the drippings of cooked pork sausage - and pancakes with blueberries and jam. "Nothing beats a pancake made on a hot griddle with a touch of cinnamon thrown into the batter and topped with butter and maple syrup," says Bartlett.
In one form or another, millions of people around the world start the day with a selection from meat, dairy, speciality breads, fresh fruit and juice, preserves, grains and cereals. With sustainability a key theme of the 2012 Olympic, caterers can avoid food waste and create a global Olympic breakfast menu by adapting core ingredients to a range of dishes. For example, bacon can be served with US pancakes, Asian dumplings or German rye bread.
Stephen Minall sums up: "Caterers which are part of international businesses across the five regions can call on that expertise. Of course, the one advantage we have holding the games in London is that we have such a diversity of cultures and religions - we should find a solution somewhere."
Janet Carroll, senior national account manager, Bel Foodservice UK "When visiting Europe, many guests will expect to see a Continental breakfast and with a selection of cheeses, meats and breads, operators can offer their customers a greater choice in a quick and easy way. As a breakfast staple in many parts of the world - Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America - cheese is an appropriate option for a whole spectrum of nationalities and cultures."
Elaine Higginson, managing director, United Coffee UK and Ireland "Visitors from countries with a well-established coffee culture, such as USA and Australia, will expect the highest quality coffee and may want to know the source. Flavoured coffees are a growing trend in the USA so by stocking syrups in a range of flavours caterers can add some extra value to their coffee offer."
John McKears, food service sales manager, Jus-Rol Professional "Just like morning coffee, pastries are a traditional breakfast offering and a warm, freshly baked pastry is a profit opportunity that should not be ignored. It's not just coffee shops and hotels that can benefit from the demand for indulgent breakfast treats, pubs and restaurants can also profit from introducing morning goods to menus."
Shirna Ferrers, Category marketer, Johnsons Juice Co "As much as we British love tea, it's fair to say that not every nation feels the same. Offering a healthy beverage alternative such as freshly squeezed orange juice suits those who prefer a cold, refreshing drink in the morning."
Carrying the torch
One business with a special interest in the Olympics is the Gaggle of Geese at Buckland Newton, Dorset. Run by Mark and Emily Hammick, the pub is not too far from Weymouth, where the sailing events will take place.
Emily's grandfather, Commodore Douglas Neame, brought the first Olympic Torch for the 1948 London Olympics across the English Channel. He was selected as the only serving Royal Navy Officer who had won a medal at International level - 400-yard hurdles bronze in the 1930 Commonwealth Games.
Mark Hammick says: "The torch is currently in the bar of the pub, used as a table lamp. I've nominated Emily to be a bearer of the 2012 Olympic Torch to try and keep the Olympic spirit and history in the family."
Visitors looking for an Olympic breakfast at the Gaggle of Geese can expect Hogs Pudding, the West Country variant of black pudding, and breakfast sausage and dry cured smoked back bacon from local butcher Simon Harvell, based in Iwerne Minster.
For a breakfast with a Mexican slant, Hammick suggests a soft tortilla wrap filled with pan-fried chorizo and scrambled egg, and garnished with coriander. "Use the pan used to make the scrambled egg so that it takes on the spicy paprika flavours from the oils that come out of the chorizo. "