Cooking up success for Americas Olympians

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 Messenger photo by Rachel Scofield
 Keara Babbert of Canal Winchester demonstrates how to cut an orange to avoid the bitter portions.  Babbert’s catering expertise earned her a paid trip to China to serve the United States Olympic Team at their training facility in Beijing.

When asked how she landed the Beijing Olympics as her first job, Keara Babbert answers, "I was in the right place at the right time."

Babbert, who recently graduated with a catering degree from Sullivan University, was selected to help Framboise Catering feed America’s Olympic athletes.

By attributing the opportunity to the "luck" of attending Sullivan the year of the games, Babbert downplays the role of her own talent. Not everyone who attended Sullivan last year will be traveling to China.

Like the athletes she will soon be serving, Babbert competed for her spot on the team. More than 100 students applied for the 22 positions.

Framboise will pay for the airfare and accommodations of the students and their three chef professors. In addition, each student will receive a salary for working 40-50 hours a week with every fifth day off.

Babbert will help serve the buffet at the training facility.

The food will be nutritious offerings in line with the athletes’ already-established diets. American companies such as Tyson and Coca-Cola will ship their products to the facility.

To ensure no athlete becomes sick, Dasani water will be pumped through the taps. Babbert said that foreign water, even in small amounts for cooking, in ice cubes, in fountain drinks, or on a toothbrush could cause illness.

The students may spend their free time attending the games or sight seeing.  

If tickets are available, Babbert said she would like to attend some of the track events. A track athlete herself, she ran the 100 meter hurdles and sprinted at Canal Winchester High School.

However Babbert preferred soccer because it was a collaborative effort. The shared responsibility also drew her to the culinary arts.

"With catering you work as a team to get something done," Babbert said.

The students received etiquette training to avoid offending their Chinese hosts.  Some of the tips included do not look a Chinese person directly in the eye, and always ask permission before taking a photograph (the government will seize your camera for unauthorized snapshots of temples).

Keara has been cooking "since she could pull herself up to the counter," said her mom, Penny, who also works as a caterer.  "She loved to experiment."

Between just graduating, planning for the trip and helping with her sister Kaylin’s July 12 wedding, Keara has had no time to job hunt, although she would like a career in nutrition.

"Who knows what (career opportunities) China will give her," Penny said.

Keara recognizes that she has been presented with an incredible opportunity, however she remains cool.

"I don’t want to get overly excited and make myself sick," Keara said.

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