Chef Brings Taste of Chicago to South Korea for Team USA

And the gold medal for Olympic cooking goes to…

Chicago chef Allen Tran.

Tran is responsible for feeding 100 athletes and staff on the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team in Pyeongchang, providing a taste of home for athletes as they compete abroad.

”It’s almost like planning a wedding,” he said. “But a wedding that happens every single day.”

Whipping up some of the athletes’ favorite Mexican, Italian and barbecue meals, Tran balances meals that taste good for the best-of-the-best, with the dietary needs that come with such high-level competition.

“Acrobatic skiers to cross country skiers… each of them have their own specific body types and that requires different food to support that,” he told NBC 5’s Katie Kim.

In addition to visiting local markets to hunt for some of the many ingredients his meals require, Tran and his team spent months shipping pallets of food to help turn what was once a ski rental shop into a pop-kitchen.

“If the athletes are worrying about the quality of the food or if the food is strange, or they’ve never had it before, that’s an element we want to remove,” Tran said.

The big ingredient? Hot sauce.

“There’s that Beyonce song, ‘There’s Hot Sauce in My Bag,’” Tran said. “I had plenty of hot sauce in my bag.”

Cholula and Sriracha are favorites among the team, he said.

As for Korean staples, Tran has been incorporating tofu, soy milk, local strawberries, Korean pear and other ingredients into his dishes.

And it would appear the athletes are getting a taste of Chicago while they’re in South Korea.

“Going to Pilsen, it influences what I do here and trying to do al pastor and tacos,” Tran said. “Little Italy, I’ve definitely done Italian beef before, that’s a Chicago staple. I’m trying to figure out how I can get Chicago hot dogs on the menu in a healthy way.”

Published in: Local News

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