With his sunny disposition and a booming voice which echoes around the hotel and his kitchen, Erich Garber has been a big personality in Jeju over the past couple of weeks. But over the past few days the 38-year-old Austrian has been swamped by the arrival of six teams on the honeymoon island.
No sooner had Garber and his team cooked breakfast for Brazil, England, Korea DPR and New Zealand on Wednesday morning and said farewell to the quartet, Peru and Costa Rica arrived at the venue. Within the following 24 hours, Honduras, Syria, Haiti and Nigeria all checked-in. So, Friday 25 August proved to be a red letter day for the chef and his team.
"Having six teams in the one hotel is very unique," Chef Garber told FIFA.com. "Each individual team has their own special requests. The doctors are quite forthright when it comes to what a team should and shouldn't eat, so therefore it is always quite challenging for us to prepare the right foods at the specific times they want it. To have six teams in one location at the same time is a real test!
"What has helped us considerably is the information we received from FIFA and the teams prior to the tournament. They suggested menus; we researched the viability of them and tried to source the ingredients. When it came to arrival of the teams, all we have to do is decide on times, find out when they want pre-match meals and discover what they want to eat the day before and the day after a game."
The well-travelled Garber, who lists the French chef Alain Ducasse among his heroes, has been working in Jeju for 18 months. Prior to his arrival in Korea Republic, he worked in his homeland, Switzerland, the US, Australia, South Africa, and China as well as having two spells on cruise ships. His last footballing assignment was during the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA™, so he had a fair idea of what to expect from each delegation.
"Of course, we knew that we couldn't use any pork products or alcohol in our cooking for the Syrian team," he said. "Brazil, it seems, like to eat beef and fried beans at every meal. Buthe common ground is lots of fruit, lots of carbohydrates, lots of bread, but what to serve, where to serve, how to serve and when to serve it can be completely different. For example, the Korea DPR team wanted to eat breakfast at 6am and eat dinner at 6pm and then you have Costa Rica, who like breakfast at 11am and dinner at midnight!
"What I have found extremely interesting is that teams like Nigeria, Syria and Honduras have been very eager to learn what Brazil and England have been eating; they've wanted to try international food and generally the response has been positive. I think that is great for the teams to experience different styles of cooking. In fact, by the end of the tournament, the Korea DPR team were eating 50 per cent Korean food and 50 per cent international cuisine!"
The Chef, who has been working 16 hour days during the tournament, was also quick to praise FIFA for their pledge to provide the best possible facilities for the stars of tomorrow.
"FIFA is working very hard to ensure that footballers are eating the right foods - and it is so important," he said. "Education is vital in this respect, as what footballers put into their bodies is absolutely vital. I have to pay credit to FIFA, because they are really taking care of the players in this respect. At events like this, they are always eager to choose the best hotels and restaurants which will prepare nutritious and healthy food to help players to perform at the highest level."
Discover Chef Garber's signature dish for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 by clicking on the link to the right.